Mircea Lucescu: For me, there was, is and will be only one priority – Shakhtar
The Pitmen’s head coach has answered journalists’ questions during the first open training session in 2016.
- Mister, how do you see 2016 for Shakhtar?
- It will be a difficult year. But we have always overcome difficulties with dignity, competing in the league, the Cup, the Super Cup, the Champions League. Although, we could have achieved more than we have at the moment. Let’s not forget how we lost the Cup final: by and large, the victory was in our hands, we gifted the trophy to the opponents. Then, four players left: Luiz Adriano, Douglas Costa, Ilsinho and Fernando. We did not make any signings, but deployed our young players in training sessions and games; they surely still need time and patience to perform on the highest level at Shakhtar. As for the quality of the game, we looked good in the Champions League too, but, unfortunately, not in terms of the results we had in the group stage. We looked good in the last game in Paris. We played with the giants of European football, and it was evident that the individual errors had to do with the psychology of our players. Certainly our current situation had an effect. More than 100 flights per year is a lot. We spent more time being in the aircrafts and on the road than having a rest. We can talk about the difficulties based on today’s evening: we are training in the dark. Naturally, this is not the level of Shakhtar. Our own training base, of course, gives us confidence. But now we do not have it... That said, I can assess the past year positively. A good year. The players deserve praise for it. They fight on equal terms with all the opponents, finishing the autumn part of the championship in the first place. Of particular note, our away 3-0 win over Dynamo. We look forward to the matches in 2016 with great hope. We want to play in the Europa League in the best possible way, we will fight for the league title until the end. Everyone wants to win the championship! At the same time, it would be desirable to continue deploying young players. Kovalenko has already become the first team player, Matvienko is not far off either. We keep track of all the young players that have been with us throughout the preparatory period: Korobenko, Zubkov, Boyarchuk are talented players, and they will go with us to the training camp. We are also following our players at Zorya. At the end of the championship, it will be possible to assess their level and decide whether they are ready to play for Shakhtar or not. Shakhtar, in any case, in spite of all the problems, cannot fall below that level, which we have risen to in recent years. We know how to develop youth and follow them. If you look at European football, all the top coaches pay attention only to the top players who cost crazy sums of money. These are big financial costs. We have a different philosophy – we develop our players. When a player has grown and wants to play for one of the best clubs in Europe, it is necessary to let him go, while he still attracts interest. In its current state, the Ukrainian league is not the same league, which easily attract good players. So I repeat: The biggest challenge for the Federation, coaches of all teams, and other experts is to find an option to strengthen the national championship. This is also supposed to be done by the press and television. The championship level is falling. We must do everything possible for it not to fall, with doing our best for it to rise as quickly as possible to the level, which it was at before. I would like to note it as the most important thing that must be done in the new year in the Ukrainian football. I have been working at Shakhtar for 12 years and is very strongly related to Ukrainian football. So I can give my opinion on any issue. I would like to note that I started talking about the need to change the format of the championship as long as half a year ago! But only now some actions regarding this issue can be seen. We need to do something for its level not to hit rock bottom! Now let’s talk about the the team. Now only Ukrainians and Arabidze are training here in Kyiv. All the rest – the Brazilians and Ferreyra – will join us in the US. They have already started preparations for all the players to be in approximately equal conditions when all of them gather together. A few words about the programme for the training camp: on 17 January, we play with Fluminese and on January 20 - with Corinthians. There is also a game with a professional US team and the Swedish one, plus friendlies. 30 players will go for the training camp. Everyone needs match practice.
- How important is it for the Pitmen to visit the United States?
- I have already said in the past, when we were in Brazil, in a situation in which we find ourselves, it is necessary to maintain our brand on the highest level everywhere, on all continents. We started with Brazil – there are a lot of Brazilians in our team. A positive point: all the stadiums in which we played were packed to capacity. Therefore, the current tour will begin with two games with the Brazilian teams – but this time in the United States. This country is developing very fast in terms of football. There's a great interest in our trip. Today, in America, the league games see packed stadiums – there is a great interest in football. One shouldn’t be surprised if Shakhtar play somewhere in China or maybe in Asia. All the top teams do so - I think that Shakhtar can be called a top European club. Yes, all that is not easy, it is not so easy to get to the place where the training camp will be held. But we have decided that the promotion of the image at the international level is more important.
- What positions at Shakhtar are you planning to strengthen?
- I have already talked about it. We will only look at the players of our Academy - we will work with them so that they rise to the level of Shakhtar for us not to be affected by the absence or departure of any other players.
- Mister, what can you say about Teixeira's future at Shakhtar?
- Teixeira and I are talked a lot in the press now. They are spreading rumours about us allegedly leaving Shakhtar. At the moment, Alex is Shakhtar’s player. We'll see in the summer, now there’s no point talking about it. This year, he needs to play so that he grows even more, despite the fact that Alex’s level is very high even today. In this case he will be even more in demand.
- Are you not ready to let him go now?
- At the moment there are no official proposals. So it makes no sense to talk about it. This is what the press is spreading, mainly English one. If there is an offer that will satisfy both the player and the club, I will fully support his move. I want to see my players perform in the best, top teams in Europe. This means that both my assistants and I have not been working in vain for so many years! We signed players, who were 17-19, and brought them to the level of the top clubs. I wonder how many coaches in Europe are working based on such a scheme? This is, of course, very difficult. We need to develop and bring these players to a high level and at the same time we have to achieve results. Plus, we should develop their style of play that the fans will like. It is not so easy as it seems.
- Mister, there is a lot of information in the press about you supposedly agreeing to take over at Trabzonspor. Do you see your future with Shakhtar?
- I want to explain to you very clearly: I have never promised anything to anyone, I have not talked to anyone! I have a contract with Shakhtar, which expires in May, and in May I will decide what I will do next. For me, there was, is and will be only one priority – Shakhtar! I have had many good moments with Shakhtar - and it will never be forgotten.