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Srna: We will become even stronger

Monday, June 12, 2017



Shakhtar captain summarised results of the season in his interview to shakhtar.com

- Darijo, the team are on vacation, while you're in Kyiv now. Why?
- I spent four days with my wife in Italy, we were taking a rest on our own, without children. We returned to Ukraine, as our daughter is going to school soon. Now, the schedule differs from the one we had before – we have to adjust ourselves to children. And still it's a great pleasure to spend time with family in a nice atmosphere and with a good humour. Especially following the season, in which we won the gold medals of the championship and the Ukrainian Cup. I'm sure I'll have a good rest.

- Do you also encourage your daughter to get a gold medal at school?
- We very much hope so!

- Shakhtar regained the title of the top Ukrainian team. According to the data from InStat company, you became the most useful player of the league to leave behind your teammates Marlos and Fred...
- It is a great honour and of great importance for every football player. I am glad that at this age I can demonstrate good statistics that benefits both the team and myself. I'm an open and objective person, so I can see when I'm doing well, and when something does not work out. I constantly analyse my own games - good and especially poor ones. So I will always strive to be useful to Shakhtar, since this is my work.

- Another landmark moment: last season you became the first Shakhtar player, which crossed the milestone of 500 appearances. Presently you have 526 ones ...
- I believe in destiny. I got ahead of the legendary Mikhailo Sokolovskyi and came out on top by the number of apps in the encounter versus Braga. In addition, it was the coach of this team who became Shakhar’s coach!

- How did you react to the first change of the head coach for a long time?
- You know, it was hard to part with Mister after 12 years and all the trophies that we had claimed with him ... Mircea Lucescu will always be Shakhtar legend. He is a strong and competent mentor. He helped me a lot in football and in life, and I will always be grateful to him. The same is true for the other players who had worked with him. However, it was time to renew the team, and the president decided to invite a young, ambitious mentor who had showed himself well in Braga. Of course, starting something new is difficult, but every coach brings something to the team, which is always interesting. Under the management of Paulo Fonseca, we began to play in a different way both offensively and defensively. At first, it was not easy, because we adapted to the new style. It takes time to get used to changes, but Shakhtar did not have that time! We need victories. So following the matches against Young Boys, we seemed to wake up: we started to succeed in everything, and the team looked better match by match.

- How would you assess the European Cups campaign 2016/17?
- Great season! Even the loss to Young Boys turned out to be a great victory for us. If not for that match, we might have produced different performance. But in this situation, we knew that there was no room for error bad and results any longer. The Europa League campaign passed perfectly: we won all the fixtures to become the best team of the group stage. We produced a good performance in the first leg against Celta, we also operated quite well in the reverse game, but the unfair penalty affected the outcome. In general, I consider this season very successful.

- Shakhtar spent the domestic league season in one breath. Can you pick out the league’s crucial meetings? 
- I would name the fixtures versus Karpaty (3-2), Dynamo in December (4-3) and  Olimpik (4-0). The clash in Lviv is the first to mention. That away game against Karpaty changed everything! We fell behind 0-2, but showed character, scored three goals, gained the upper hand and received a very important psychological impetus. I remember how we celebrated the third ball - it was something incredible! Paulo Fonseca never speaks a word in the dressing room after the final whistle. Neither after victories, nor after defeats ... Never ever! But following the encounter against Karpaty, he said: I cannot say nothing. You guys are great! Thank you for the character you have showed. Today I have seen that we can beat any opponents. After that, Shakhtar went up. We demonstrated good football and achieved excellent results.

- Last season, the Orange-and-Blacks met with Dynamo six times. Aren’t you fed up with this confrontation? Do you have enough emotions for all these fixtures?
- They are all emotional, each of them is a battle. This is Shakhtar vs Dynamo! There were many fans in the stands in Kharkiv and Kyiv. I would note a pleasant atmosphere: this year there were no scandals between the players, and this is a big plus. The sports conflict should be exclusively on the pitch and only in a good, football sense. In this regard, the season was very good.

- Was it difficult to watch the last meeting with Dynamo from the stands?
- Of course, it is not easy; however, we have not 11, but 22-24 players who are ready to display a high-level performance in each match. And I am pleased that every player of ours is a regular one. It is significant that they were highly competitive with the opponents that night. It turned out a very good game. All the guys emerged on the field and showed that they corresponded to the level of Shakhtar.

- In autumn, the Orange-and-Blacks held their debut home match in Kharkiv: nearly 40 thousand fans came to watch el Clasico vs Dynamo. What impressions did the atmosphere in the stands leave?
- First of all, I want once again to say a big thank you to Lviv for two wonderful years. We lifted the Ukrainian Cup and the Super Cup there, played in the Europa League semi-finals... For the first time in its history, we brought the Champions League to Lviv, and we always had good support across European competitions. Unfortunately, not so many spectators attended the league matches: we did not have enough emotions, and it was hard to prepare psychologically. Therefore, the club decided to move to Kharkiv. We have more fans of ours there, and every game proves this: there are five, seven, fifteen thousand people in the stands. Many supporters came from Donetsk to attend the Ukrainian Cup final, there were many of my friends among them. It's nice to see the Donetsk residents again! I told them and will always repeat that they are our heroes. I promised to do everything to make them proud of the club. We just have to endure and wait for Shakhtar to return to the Donbas Arena. We were very well received in Kharkiv, and we presented the city with a worthy gift - for the first time in its history, the Champions League matches will be held here this autumn, too... I hope the fans will respect this and support us in all the European competition and league fixtures. I am confident that, together with the stands full of people, we will become even stronger.

- In winter, Shevchuk and Eduardo left the squad, with Kobin, Kucher and Kanibolotskyi having left now. Nevertheless, the club’s philosophy is that they are ready to replace the players, which left, in their positions.
- I want to say a big thank you to all the guys for what they have achieved with Shakhtar. Unfortunately, this is the way of everyone. They have left today, I can leave tomorrow, as someone else might leave the day after tomorrow. None of us is eternal - this is the life of a professional football player. I always keep in touch with the guys. They are my friends, partners, with whom I went through the moments of victories and defeats, with which I rejoiced and cried. For example, I have been with Kucher 11 years at the team. This is the legend of Shakhtar and Ukraine national team. He scored many crucial goals. Leaving is not easy. When I dialled Sasha's number, I did not even know what to say ... These players input their names in the club’s history forever. We will meet with them in the future - in a year, five or ten years - and remember our good time. I want to keep up this friendship. All our years at Shakhtar will be an indicator for young guys, how to progress and become strong players. Eduardo, Shevchuk, Kucher, Kobin and Kanibolotskyi can serve as an example to them.

- Every day you train with young players. What can you say about the Academy graduates' progress?
- Boriachuk, Matviienko, Malyshev, Ordets, Kovalenko, Butko, Tankovskyi, Zubkov, other guys ... All of them are the future of Shakhtar. This proves that the club is moving in the right direction.

- Nevertheless, you became the season’s best assistant. How many assists did you have and do you remember each of them?
- If I'm not mistaken, I made 10 assists. Crosses to Facundo versus Karpaty and Stal in the dying minutes, against Oleksandriia in the 82nd minute, against Zorya on 88 minutes, a cross to Fred vs Dynamo ... However, I’m more interested in Shakhtar’s performance and the team’s victory. I believe in myself, and, in view of our style, I will always play passes in the final phase – it’s my job, as well as that of Marlos, what he did in the Ukrainian Cup final. Of course, I’m happy, but the result is always my number one concern. And we all have achieved great success this year.

- Was there the match after which you finally realized that you would not let the title slip away?
- It is one thing to believe, and it is another thing to become a champion directly. Following the game vs Zorya, huge burden of responsibility was lifted off of each of us. We were very happy, as we had been looking forward to this for a long time. Given that each match is an away game, the gold stands high.

- You always keep in touch with the president. How do you personally feel about how he has lived this season?
- Joyfully and very hard. He is pleased with Shakhtar performance. The president likes to win, but at the same time, gives the top priority to a beautiful football. You know, someone prefers three points to a good game, and our president does not demand only trophies. He demands a good game, along with which titles will come! This is his philosophy. In the face of all the players, I told him many thanks. I know what two years without the league title mean for the president. Our previous season’s triumph was a breath of fresh air for him. Of course, he is pleased. It was clear that he was looking forward to meeting with the entire team. The president has not lost his heart, helps Shakhtar, Donbas and looks ahead in a positive way. Such people are few.

- Did you have a moment when the president surprised you?
- Probably, after the match against Karpaty, which we have already recalled. We were 0-2 down, but eventually claimed a victory. The president called and said that he believed in Shakhtar so much. He always believes, but that match demonstrated him that our team have character and quality.

- The President revealed that the most important championship for him will be the eleventh one.
- He's an ambitious man, who only looks ahead. After the meeting with Zorya, the president called and asked to congratulate the team. The next morning, less than ten hours later, he calls me again and says: "We must get prepared for the next championship. We need to win! ". I stress, we grabbed the title the day before, and the president calls the next morning, congratulates again and says that we should already think about winning the next title! His words give confidence. The president always does and says what is right and thinks one step ahead.

- At the awarding ceremony, Paulo Fonseca invited Rinat Akhmetov to support the Orange-and-Balcks in the stands. Does his presence strongly motivate Shakhtar?
- This is a difficult question. I'm used to seeing the president at the Donbas Arena, in his hometown, when the full stadium enjoy football. Of course, I want him to be present at Shakhtar matches. However, the president will make a decision himself. But it will be unusual to see him at another stadium other than at the Donbas Arena.

- The fans are looking forward to the next season and start to the Champions League campaign. What are your expectations?
- First, everyone needs a good rest. Then it is important to have a high-quality preparation for the Super Cup, where we are to hold not a decisive but important encounter. Ukrainian football needs strong Shakhtar, Dynamo, Zorya, Olimpik and other clubs. We all need to raise the level of the league. We will have time until the end of August to pick up the form through the matches and show a good result. I want everyone to be healthy and focused on what awaits us. We will try to make a step forward in the Champions League for our fans. I have already said that the current Shakhtar are ready to make it. We always set goals, and I hope that we will have enough strength one hundred percent. I'm sure we will have crazy support. In Kharkiv, they are renovating the turf - and it will be super! The club does everything to make us comfortable.

- Shakhtar will be in the first pot when the draw is made. Paulo Fonseca said he would like to see Manchester United as his opponents. Do you have any preferences?
- I do not care. I played Barcelona, Real, Manchester United and so on. I would like to face Real Madrid once again, where my friends Modrić and Kovačić play, but the Madrid side are in the same pot as we are. I would like to take on the Croatian team in the Champions League some day... But it's not so crucial. I believe in Shakhtar. Of course, we are waiting for the draw, but our team are confident of being able to make a step forward.