At the start of last season, he was an unknown outside of Ukraine and the transfer fee was under £1 million. Now he is one of the most coveted young players in Europe. Mykhailo Mudrik is aiming for big things after the explosion.
Shakhtar Donetsk director of football Darijo Srna described the 22-year-old as “the best player in Europe” after showing his incredible speed and one-on-one ability in the Champions League group stage earlier this season. his position” after Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius Junior.
There may be some exaggeration in this statement, but Srna is not the only person who appreciates Wisdom.
His list of suitors is long, but Chelsea have edged ahead of Arsenal to sign him on an eight-and-a-half-year deal.
Shakhtar are determined to secure their high valuation of the player – “if anyone wants to buy Mudrik, they have to spend a lot of money and respect our club,” Srna added recently, but is the panic justified?
A change in attitude under De Zerby
Mudrik has long been seen as a player with huge potential in Ukraine, having started out at Metalist Kharkiv’s academy before moving to Dnipro and then Shakhtar, but it took longer than many expected for him to blossom.
Paulo Fonseca, Shakhtar’s former manager, saw his potential during his tenure and brought him into the first team, handing him his debut in 2018 at the age of 17.
Despite Mudrick’s talent, his attitude has been questionable.
“He sometimes didn’t listen to what the coach told him,” Shakhtar captain Taras Stepanenko said recently. And Fonseca expressed his concern after a friendly win over Azerbaijani team “Karabakh” in January 2019.
“Mihailo scored today, but there is still a lot to learn,” he said. “I certainly believe in his talent, but first of all, he has to realize that he still has a lot of ways to improve … he has to change his attitude on the field a little bit.”
Mudrik was loaned out to Ukrainian Premier League rivals Arsenal Kyiv just a few weeks later. Another loan spell, this time at Desna Chernihiv, after which Shakhtar will hope that more exposure at the top level will help him achieve it.
But that followed the appointment of Roberto De Zerbi, now at Brighton, in the summer of 2021, with Mudric valued at £1million. Transfermarkt, his fortunes – and indeed his attitude – began to change again at the parent club.
“Everyone knows that Mudryk has incredible talent, but not many coaches can connect with him,” Srna explained, adding that one of De Zerby’s first acts in charge of Shakhtar was to pick up the phone for the youngster on loan. .
“He told her, ‘You’re either going to be a player with me or you’re not going to be a football player,'” Srna De Zerbi added in the phone call. – From that day on, Mudrik changed everything.
De Zerbi made Mudrik a personal project.
“Not only do I have to win the league and the cup and play well in the Champions League, but I also have to train the young players,” he said. “Mudrik is one of the best young footballers in Europe. If I don’t take him to a higher level, I consider it a personal defeat.”
Mudric was one of several Shakhtar academy products thrown into the squad by De Zerby and he has relished his trust, with the winger becoming a regular starter before the 2021/22 campaign was cut short by the pandemic, later breaking into Andriy Shevchenko’s squad.
The Champions League turned heads
Doubts about Mudryk’s attitude were quickly dispelled, and his abilities soon came to the fore.
Indeed, since the breakthrough at the start of last season, he has scored nine goals and provided 13 assists in 23 Ukrainian Premier League games – despite the upheaval caused by the Russian invasion of the country and the pandemic.
The numbers are impressive, but it’s on the European stage that Mudrik has really turned heads.
He was primarily used as a substitute during Shakhtar’s group stage campaign last season, but he certainly made his mark on his first start, with his dazzling display in the 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid earning him a standing ovation from the home fans. Bernabeu when he was substituted in the second half.
It was a pivotal moment in Mudryk’s rise to prominence and he has continued to rise this season, starting all six of Shakhtar’s group games and contributing three goals and two assists.
Celtic does not remember their encounters with him fondly.
In the first of those, played in Warsaw in September, Mudrik scored Shakhtar’s equalizer with a powerful, diagonal finish, curling in on time and explosive speed to latch onto Heoriy Sudakov’s cross past Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic. .
Then, a month later, at Celtic Park, he made another crucial contribution and scored another goal, this time with a stunning solo effort from outside the box following a counter-attack to send Ange Postecoglou’s side out of the competition.
Mudrik did even better than he did in the 4-1 win over RB Leipzig two games ago, bursting in from the left of Shakhtar’s goal, beating his marker with a series of steps before finishing off a swift counter-attack himself. striker Lassina before producing another pass with a low cross for Traore.
Mudric’s key strengths were evident in those games – his pace and strength when cutting inside from the left to use his stronger right foot; its speed of passage; his clinical finishing ability – and the ability to do it on the Champions League stage – has made him attractive to a growing list of suitors that includes Arsenal.
Chelsea have expressed their interest
Chelsea’s lack of firepower has seen them secure a loan deal for Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, who was ruled out of his debut against Fulham on Thursday, but Mudric has been a rumored target since the start of the window.
Having scored just 21 goals in 18 Premier League games this season, the Blues are desperate to improve their attack.
Part of Mudric’s appeal is his ability to play on both sides. He mostly likes to operate on the left as a reverse winger, but is also happy on the right.
“I’m more comfortable playing on the line where I can show all my potential,” he said in an interview when asked about his preferred position. Times in September.
“I have more space up front and I can create more chances when I play on the line. There are more people in the middle. But, you know, the middle is also good for me.
“My inspiration is Cristiano Ronaldo because what you can do if you work hard and believe in yourself. I like how Cristiano plays. That’s how I see myself – a winger.”
In other words, he might also be uncomfortable playing center one day – “I need more time to change my position from 11 or 7 to 9, but in time it’s possible,” he added. Times – but above all, he is the player who carries the most threat from the flanks.
It remains to be seen what will happen next, but even though Mudryk was only known outside of Ukraine a year ago, it is becoming increasingly clear that he has a bright future ahead of him.