Mircea Lucescu: I feel proud when players reach European level

Shakhtar’s head coach has reflected on the training camp, with also talking about replacement for Alex Teixeira.

- Mister, did you really have an agreement with Alex, which implied that he would not leave Shakhtar until the summer? Did Teixeira’s departure come as a surprise to you?
- After negotiations with Liverpool I asked Alex to stay at Shakhtar till the end of the season to help us win the championship. I stressed how important it was to leave the club on a positive note. At that time, there was only one offer regarding Teixeira – from Liverpool. So we decided to wait until the end of the season. But then the Chinese club started the negotiations. Jiangsu Suning made an offer that neither Shakhtar, nor the player could refuse. It was a record sum. From a financial point of view, this transfer will help Alex Teixeira provide for his family for generations to come! After all, football is not just about ambitions, motivation, it's also business. The players have very short sports life. Therefore, they should think about the future. But I think Alex will not stay for long in China. Two or three years, not more. Teixeira is still young. The Chinese know that if Alex demonstrates a good game, they will return the transfer fee spent in case of his move to a European club at the age of 28-29, where he will be able to perform at a high level for 5 years. Let’s take for example such great clubs as Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City – the core of these teams consists of the players who are over 30. So when Alex got an offer from China, I told him to take this opportunity, show a good game and then return to Europe. As an example, Willian, who joined the European club a year later.

- One of the key players moves to another club. Is it a pain, a problem or a reason for pride for a coach?
- I've never objected to Alex changing the club. Even at the beginning of the winter training camp I said that we would not keep the players if an offer suiting both the club and the player arrived. Regarding his transfer fee, if you remember, after the match against PSG in Paris, I emphasized: Alex’s transfer price is 40 million euros, but it may rise to 50. As a result, that’s exactly what has happened! I am a respected coach, and I think my words about the transfer fee were considered as real and adequate price of Teixeira. It was impossible to get a bigger sum, given the current level of the Ukrainian championship. Yes, Alex's performance was incredible. Today I do not see who else in our domestic championship can bring as much money as Teixeira did. I am very happy for him. I want him to continue to show a good game and hopefully he will be called up by the Brazil national team. I am sure Dunga will closely follow the footballers, who are playing in China. Moreover, very good Brazilian coaches – Scolari and Luxemburgo – are working there. For my part I am very proud when these players grow in Shakhtar. In comparison with the other teams we are the world champions in this regard! Last year, when we were in Brazil, Real Madrid bought Lucas Silva from Corinthians for 15 million. And then what happened? He was given 2-3 opportunities, after which Real Madrid’s patience came to an end and Lucas was sent to Marseille. The French wanted to send him to Anderlecht, but the player did not want it. As a result, there was a big scandal. Lucas Silva is very talented and very young. But no one wants to wait until he becomes an experienced player. For 19-20-year-old players it is hard to play for the team, who are expected to win every match. I think the Brazilians, who have signed contracts with Shakhtar in the beginning of their careers and who are now playing for top European sides, are very lucky. Because it was only them who have managed to succeed at the highest level. I do not see anything like this in other clubs, when the value of young players increases, so that they become serious players at the age of 24-25 and move to big teams. I can confidently say that it is Shakhtar who have helped them reach this level! All of the above applies not only to Brazilians, but also, for example, Chygrynskyy, Tymoschuk. So in terms of players’ development, our football club is unique in Europe. I am always very proud when the players reach a high level as a result of our work, work in difficult conditions. After all, our goal is not only to develop players, but also achieve results. Plus, we have to show spectacular football and at the same time bring our players to a level which would attract the interest from top European clubs. All these factors allow players to grow and develop professionally.

- Who is currently the main candidate to replace Teixeira?
- Every time a player leaves us, I have players who can take his place. In this case, it is Viktor Kovalenko. He has been with the first team for one year and a half; I have been preparing him for this position. And now he is ready to play for the first team. Yes, Viktor is not Brazilian, but I am sure that we will be able to bring him to a very high level.

- Alex was the vice-captain. Who will perform this role now?
- Taison will become the vice-captain to perform the role Teixeira did. I have already told the team about this: I just got on the bus and announced it. Players began to applaud, because the team love him! I hope Taison will help the team just like Alex did throughout the period following the departure of Adriano.

- Reporters calculated that from the day you have been at the helm of the team Shakhtar have spent 283.7 million euros on signing new players, with earning 286 million euros from player sales. Can we call it a success of the scouting department and the coaching staff?
- Yes, you can. But first and foremost it is the success of the president of our club. Rinat Akhmetov took an active part in each transfer, and his word was always decisive. At least 150 million of this amount was spent on players, who are playing now for our team: Taison, Bernard, Dentinho, Nem, Ferreyra, Stepanenko, Kryvtsov, Azevedo, Marlos. More than half of the team’s squad. We are waiting for them to reach a new level and follow the same path as their talented predecessors.

- The media has talked a lot about Luiz Adriano consulting with you on the subject of whether he should move from Milan to China? You have allegedly advised him to move. Is it true?
- Yes, I talked to him and said that if he has no chance to fight for a first-team place at Milian, if he feels that there’s no trust in him, it is reasonable to move to China. By doing so, he will be able to at least provide for his family. I treat my players as if they are my own sons. To some extent I am responsible for their fate, because I brought them when they were quite young. We discuss everything. They often ask for advice, because I have more life experience than they do. And I approach the issues regarding their future, family very carefully. Playing career is short. And they have the to act in the right manner to keep the money earned.

- At the training camp in Spain, Shakhtar faced quality opponents. With all due respect to the level of friendlies, is it possible to prepare for a game with Schalke through them, given that the Bundesliga is now in full swing?
- In Spain, we had excellent conditions for training, facing good opponents. But ideally, of course, I would like to play more quality matches with teams that are on the same professional level as we are. For example, with Russian clubs, who held their training camps in Murcia at the same time as we did. In fact, it is not easy to find quality opponents for friendly games – such opponents, through the matches with whom we could prepare at the appropriate level for the games in European competitions. Before Spain we also had a good preparation in America. Of course, one cannot compare European and American football. At the moment, American football, for which the most favourable conditions are created, suppresses soccer. But recently there have been bought the franchise, and in the coming years soccer will develop. I think that very soon football in the US will be developing fantastically, as it is now in China! This training camp has become a very good experience for our players, especially young ones. They have seen a lot of new things. Yes, they were not living in the best of conditions, we felt the difference, but it is also a certain experience. And I am pleased with their attitude. In Spain, the conditions were at the normal European level. We really enjoyed this period of preparation. Hopefully, the training camp will benefit. This year, conditions in the sports centre, where we trained, were much better than a year ago. Plus we were lucky in terms of the weather. An important point: we gave young players the opportunity to play in every game. It was a kind of championship. They felt responsible when they took to the field in the starting line-up. I am very pleased with the youth players. Hopefully in the future they will become players of the first team and help us achieve good results. Unfortunately, we have a lot of players injured. But this is only their fault: they came to the training camp unprepared, did not keep in shape while on holiday. We are waiting for them to gain condition. I'm talking about Bernard, Azevedo, Dentinho, Arabidze. Plus, Fred. In fact we lost five players, and considering Teixeira’s departure – six. As a result, the team are in a difficult situation. The players must realize their responsibility of returning to full fitness as quickly as possible.

- Fred will not be able to help the team in the near future. What is his fate for the coming six months?
- We allowed him to go home for a period of our games with Schalke. Because now he cannot help us. Fred is suspended until 27 June, but he will remain in the team. We must find a solution regarding his training process. He is young, it will be easier for him to go through this period than, for example, for a thirty-year old player.

- Many experts believe that Schalke are an unpredictable team. In your opinion, what to expect from them?
- They are having a good period now. They are playing well this year. This is a young team, who sometimes lack stability. There are very talented players – first of all, young and fast Geis, Sane, Meyer. Aggressive players with excellent technique. The two central defenders are very tall, as in Borussia Dortmund and Bayer. Their centre forward is very fast. The match will be difficult. Yes, they lost their captain, but it does not mean anything to us. During a year we have lost six Brazilians: four in the summer and two in winter, given the suspension of Fred. We respect all the players who have left – they are part of our history. But now I'm focused only on those who are in the squad and can help the team win.

- How would you assess the work done by the Academy players at the training camp? Are you satisfied with their game?
- At the moment I'm trying to accelerate the adaptation of our players from the Academy. It is important to make a process of professional development faster. It is not easy, because the young players are under great pressure. But if they want to succeed, they must accept it and follow instructions. All three players will remain with the first team and will continue the training process.
 

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