Rinat Akhmetov: Most important championship for me will be eleventh one

Sunday, May 28, 2017



President of FC Shakhtar gave an exclusive interview to the Velykyi Futbol programme on Futbol 1 channel

- Shakhtar won the eleventh Ukrainian Cup. What’s your sensation of victory?
- The cup is in our hands, deservedly. I congratulate on this the players, coaches and all our fans.
- In the first half of the final match against Dynamo, Marlos failed to convert the spot kick, and in the second he scored the winner and cried ...
- I think that Marlos, when he failed to convert the spot kick, was very upset, but I'm even pleased that he didn’t score back then. But what a goal he scored late in the second half! How he struck, how hard he tried, how he was looking for his chance and how he executed the shot – it was still very beautiful. Therefore, my congratulations to Marlos, to Shakhtar and to all our fans on winning the league title and the Ukrainian Cup. These trophies are long-awaited by the players. Marlos cries – and the whole dressing room cry. This suggests that there are no miserable people. That’s what Paulo Fonseca succeeded in: he turned out to be a great psychologist.

- A year ago, when Shakhtar were saying goodbye to Mircea Lucescu, the fans were slightly apprehensive. No one knew if Paulo Fonseca would be a worthy substitute for Mister ... But Paulo produced an excellent result, given the 18-point lead in the league compared to Dynamo and the golden double in the very first season. Are the current Shakhtar a hundred percent Fonseca’s team or still a team of predecessors in a way?
- From the first round on, it was the team of Fonseca. He is a very strong coach, he has very good ideas, and he’s not afraid of challenges. To date, many clubs – top-level ones, world-class ones – want to see him at the helm of their teams. This is the major criterion. And in this sense, Shakhtar has also helped him. He helped Shakhtar, Shakhtar helped him. A year ago I said that I invited him, because he had very good ideas. And I believe in him.
- Shortly after the arrival, Paulo Fonseca experienced a failure – being knocked out of the Champions League qualifying round by Young Boys ...
- We had seven or eight scoring chances away. And at home, when we won 2-0, we must have won 7-0, 8-0. We didn’t win. It was an accident. When the team display some spectacular, beautiful performance, create many chances, control the ball 70 percent of the time, this should be applauded. I felt hurt and very uncomfortable. But it takes patience. After all, we don’t evaluate the actions of Fonseca and his assistants just based on one game. Therefore, since we lost, everyone was to blame.
- And why in the Europa League knockout stage did they fail to make it past Celta, according to you?
- I don’t want to talk about whatever reasons, that there were opportunities to score, we did not score, the referee awarded a spot kick in the 90th minute ... By and large, we had to advance past them.

- Will you strengthen the team before the Champions League?
- We are very well staffed. We need to see if anyone is going to leave. And if they do, then, probably, someone will come. If no one leaves us, then we will analyse it and think whether we need anyone. My stance is as follows: Shakhtar must be strong. And each transfer should make us stronger.
- If there are offers regarding the players, will you let them go or try to retain them? How much, do you think, are Taison, Marlos, Fred worth?
- It seems to me, very much. I want to say that they shouldn’t be shy and immediately put their hand in the pocket - Shakhtar needs money. Therefore, we will now sell not just for much money, but for very, very and very much money. And we know how to do that.
- Very, very and very much means that you won’t let the players go for less than 40 million? They shouldn’t even call?
- I don’t want to talk about figures. I'm saying that we have real top-quality players. And, if today the best clubs in Europe are interested in our players, we are always open. Therefore, they need to come to us, they need to negotiate it with us, not to be shy about offers, we need money – so, please, strengthen your team.
- The season is over, Paulo Fonseca actually won everything. What tasks will the coach face next season?
- To deliver some outstanding, spectacular, attacking football, which will please us, please the fans. And most importantly, to bring new trophies. It’s not only us who set tasks, but also our competitors do so. Therefore, we should prepare for the next season better than our competitors. And to be stronger not only in the domestic league, but also in Europe. And that’s the Champions League: we will play in the group stage of the tournament. The historical moment is that we are in the first pot of seeded sides, and that’s again the merit of FC Shakhtar. In general, the football club Shakhtar has a very strong team. I mean the team headed by Sergei Anatolyevich Palkin. They work very well and very effectively. And I, taking this opportunity, also want to express immense gratitude to them. We have one big close-knit family. And all the services operate to very high, quality standards.

- Rinat Leonidovych, there’s a crisis in the Ukrainian league, considerably less people attend football matches ... How long will this last, according to you? Tell us, as the president of FC Shakhtar, where will the return point start?
- Our championship is unwell. I think you remember that in the 1990s our league was also sick. But at the same time, there was our competition with Dynamo Kyiv, for which I am grateful to the Surkis brothers. Because we have such kind of competition that sometimes we quarrelled a lot, quarrelled loudly, but it was interesting, and the fans attended football matches. And in the end, by and large, we still brought our football to a qualitatively new level. Then appeared very strong Metalist headed by Yaroslavskyi and Dnipro with Ihor Kolomoiskyi at the helm, who exerted great resistance to everyone and eventually reached the Europa League final. Still, that’s a very serious result. We had a very strong league. And if we compare what we had five years ago, with what we have now - of course, our league is unwell. Both Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi and Ihor Kolomoiskyi are very ambitious people, and I think that if they have the possibility and desire, if they return to football, they, of course, will make it stronger and more competitive.
- Ukrainian football needs investment ...
- Taking this opportunity, I want to thank all the other club owners again. Once I said the phrase that football needs to be loved more than money. And look: many owners, despite the hard times and difficulties, invest in football, they do not give up. It's hard for them, but still they develop football. Without them, there would be no such football. We should be satisfied with just what we have, but to do everything to make it better. However, without enthusiasts that’s impossible. We need people who will lead football to new heights. When new people appear, new owners who love football more than money, they will want to invest, represent their city and their country in Europe, invest in their academy and the club's transfer policy – I think the fans will come and support their team. That’s really important.
- You speak with warmth of the Surkis brothers, that without them there would be no Dynamo, there would be no competition, no Shakhtar – Dynamo rivalry ... Do you maintain the relationship, do you talk to them about football?
- Yes, they congratulated me on the championship, we maintain the relations. You must understand, these are just as sick people as I am. We have been serving football for so many years ... And I think that if there was no Shakhtar, they wouldn’t face any competition, and for them this football won’t be so bright either. Currently they have some negative emotions, but they are making plans. How to make the team better next year, how to strengthen them, what players to buy ... To trust Serhii Rebrov or invite a new coach? .. Deep inside they are thinking it over, but they will make the decision with their heart, and most importantly, their decision should benefit the Ukrainian football in general, because we must get some strong competition. But I am convinced that Dynamo is in good hands.

- Rinat Leonidovych, you haven’t attended Shakhtar matches for 1,200 days now – that’s a very long period. Surely your support is needed by the team and the fans. Can we expect that, perhaps, you will reconsider your decision and come to support Shakhtar in the Champions League games at the stadium?
- If I don’t attend football games and they win, why should I go – for them to lose? It's hard for me without football, I find it tough without football. I don’t know for how many days I haven’t been there, but I know for sure that I haven’t been there for three years now, even more. It’s hard. Of course, I want to come and watch the game ... We’ll see.
- Both the Ukrainian league title and the Cup have been won, in fact, away. Still, can this tenth championship be called unique?
- Yes, it’s unique, extraordinary. Because we see all the leagues, and can we imagine that the Spanish league is underway, with Real Madrid or Barcelona playing all the games away? And to win the title in this situation is not easy. Everyone asks me the question these days: What’s the most important championship for you, the most valuable one – the first or the tenth? I thought about it and I want to say that the eleventh championship will be the most important for me. Because we have passed every championship through the heart, and every championship has its unforgettable emotions: the first, the second, the third, and the tenth. As well as the championship that we claimed playing all the games away ... I want to say that all my players and the coaching staff, the whole club – are heroes, and I want to give them a standing ovation. Immense applause to our fans. But the most important championship for me will be the eleventh one. We’ve shown that we have a champion spirit. That, despite all the hardships and difficulties, we still can claim only the gold medals in the Ukrainian league. And, despite all the hardships and difficulties, we can claim great victories in Europe. Therefore, we will follow this road. And this road is interesting, challenging, but we’ll do everything to please our fans.