“Isto here, oh oh, é um pouquinho from Brazil, iá iá” … To say that the song by maestro Ary Barroso, eternalized by the father of Bossa Nova, João Gilberto, could help define the identity of a Ukrainian football club is not crazy or an exaggeration. Shakhtar is undoubtedly 'um pouquinho' from Brazil.
The recent success story of the Donetsk team, which has become the biggest powerhouse in Ukrainian football with 13 league titles in the last 18 years, is directly connected to the lthe arrival of almost 30 Brazilian footballers since 2002. Before exploding into European giants, Willian (Chelsea and Arsenal), Douglas Costa (Juventus and Bayern), Fernandinho (City) or Fred (United) passed through there, for example. In the current staff, there are 13 cariocas. Only the Portuguese Portimonense, with 18, has more Canarinhos players in Europe.
Forward Brandão was the first, in 2002, but the green and yellow revolution at the Shakhtar started for real in 2004, with the union of a Romanian, a French and a Ukrainian millionaire.
Tycoon Rinat Akhmetov is the richest man in Ukraine and number 272 on Forbes magazine's list of greatest fortunes on the planet, with 6.700 million dollars. Passionate about football, he bought Shakhtar in the late 1990s and was determined to end the historic dominance of Dinamo Kiev. For that, in 2004 he signed the Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, who came from training Galatasaray and Besiktas. A lover of Brazilian football, the coach had even learned to speak Portuguese and convinced Ajmetov that the path to success would be very simple: “Ukrainians for defense, Brazilians for attack …”.
With the green signal from the boss, Lucescu called Franck Henouda, a Franco-Algerian businessman who found a gold mine for his businesses in Brazil. One of them was the intermediation of soccer players. It was he who had managed to get Taffarel to Galatasaray and won the trust of the Romanian coach.
With the help of Henouda's clinical eye and her influence in Brazil, Lucescu did not want to invest Ajmetov's millions in veterans or well-known names. Wanted to ride a long-term project with young Brazilian talents offering sky-high salaries, stability and a career plan as the great attraction to convince them to go to Ukraine.
With Jadson as the team's great star, Lucescu won the league title in his first two years, won the double in 2007 and, in 2009, reached the greatest achievement in the club's history, the title of UEFA Cup champion. That team that beat Mesut Özil's Werder Bremen 2-1 had five headline Brazilians, including Willian and Fernandinho.
Lucescu left in 2016 and Paulo Fonseca came and then Luís Castro, two Portuguese, for obvious reasons. The proximity between Brazil and Portugal. The club's chief scout, José Boto, is also Portuguese and a specialist in Brazilians since he did the same job at Benfica.
Seven of the 13 Brazilians on the squad are U-23s. Among them is one of the great pearls of the quarry green and yellow, the extreme Tetê. Signed at just 18 years old, the former Grêmio player is already one of the great stars of Luís Castro's team. Which also has boys like Marcos Antonio, Maycon or Dodô in their starting team, next to veterans like Marlos, Júnior Moraes, Taison or Dentinho.
Shakhtar's goal is clear. Bet on promising youngsters to shine again in Europe. An ambitious project that comes to this Champions League wanting to surprise again.