On 26 July, when asked about Shakhtar’s possible future transfers until the transfer window closure, Mircea Lucescu said that ‘Most likely, we won’t sign anyone. We will stick to the current squad.’ After two weeks, Shakhtar landed Atletico Mineiro’s starlet Bernard to break the Ukrainian transfer record by paying €25m.
Initially, Bernard, who was also linked with Arsenal, Tottenham and Porto, was not planning to sign any documents before his trip from Brazil to Donetsk. He was only going to see the place, club facilities and so on, but there were little doubts that he would go back to Brazil without a contract with Shakhtar, considering Shakhtar’s financial muscles, plus traditional Ukrainian hospitality. All the above factors – including the Shakhtar president’s luxurious jet that delivered Bernard to Donetsk – did the trick. Bernard struck a deal with the Donetsk side the next day after arriving in Ukraine.
When answering journalists’ questions during an open training session ahead of this week’s game with Tavriya, Shakhtar’s boss made it quite clear that despite all the buzz surrounding Bernard’s move, a first-team berth is something Brazil international and Copa Libertadores winner is yet to earn: ‘During our conversation, I explained to him that the players we have right now can win the league title and they won it last season. His presence here should help us make a step forward in the Champions League. He must understand that well. This is the reason why we have acquired Bernard.’ ‘Here, he will also compete with other team players. He will start from scratch.’ Based on the above, it’s not hard to draw parallels with the now Anji player Willian, who started delivering the goods at Shakhtar after spending around two years in Lucescu’s team following his move from Corinthians.
Bernard is a two-footed player who can operate as a right/left winger or behind a striker. His move will provide additional attacking options for Shakhtar coach who remains loyal to his favourite 4-2-3-1 formation, with a very fluid front four, which, most likely, will consist of Bernard’s compatriots. The key issue now is how quickly Bernard will bed in, especially in light of the upcoming Champions League. As for off-pitch factors influencing the process of adaptation, it should be noted that Bernard will live in Donetsk with his mother, father, sister and cousin.
Last season Shakhtar lost their three key players – Willian, Fernandinho and Mkhitaryan – but the arrivals of Taison, Nem, Fernando, Fred and Bernard in particular send clear messages of intent: the Champions League title is still on the agenda for Shakhtar, and the former Atletico Mineiro wizard may become a key part in pursuit of the cherished dream.
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