When Tetê scored with practically his first touch for Lyon in April 2022, he became the first real product of FIFAs move to allow easier access for Ukrainian-based players and coaches to move to Europe.
“Temporary rules addressing the exceptional situation deriving from the war in Ukraine” allows Ukrainian league players to effectively be loaned until June 30th, and potentially move permanently after that.
With teams from Russia likely to be banned from European competition next year as well, we could also envision a scenario where we see a mass exodus of the league’s best talent.
For Russian-based teams, FIFA created an allowance for foreign players and coaches to move if they do not sign an agreement with their clubs before March 10th. This already saw German coach Markus Gisdol leave Lokomotiv Moscow, as well as Daniel Farke leaving Krasnodar.
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Both Russia and Ukraine have previously been fairly reliable exports of talent to the upper echelons of Europe.
The likes of Fred and Fernandinho are the obvious shouts from Ukraine, but don’t forget recent exports such as Ruslan Malinovskyi or even Vitaliy Mykolenko who moved to Everton in January.
The RPL too can boast its nurturing of Willian, Aleksandr Golovin, and Leandro Paredes, before those three moved to Europe and achieved success.
With that, here is a guide to some of the other players who may end up moving to mainland Europe to become the next success stories, following the war in Ukraine.
Despite being just 18-years-old at the time, the Dynamo Kyiv defender was trusted by Andriy Shevchenko to start against England in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 for Ukraine. If that’s impressive, his 59 appearances for Kyiv and 18 already for his national team are outstanding.
Zabarnyi’s pedigree goes back to 2020 when he started training with the first team for Kyiv, and a year later he was rated by UEFA as one of the 50 most promising young performers of Europe in 2021.
At the Euros, playing as a right-sided defender in a back three, he was successful in over 70% of his ground duels (1v1 situations both in and out of possession) according to Sofascore. It’s a hint at how dominant he is at an already young age in defence.
Dynamo Kyiv CB Ilya Zabarnyi🇺🇦 (2002) vs. Barcelona (11-24-2020)
This kid has a lot of potential. It's clear that his coach depends on him to hold the defence together. Can definitely see him playing in a bigger league soon.
-Standing tackles pic.twitter.com/DavphcuG9s
— Fútbol on Royal (@FutbolOnRoyal) January 18, 2021
That’s helped by his 6ft 2 frame and recovery speed, as Zabarnyi is reminiscent of Sven Botman at Lille in how he can appear like a brick wall for opposition attackers. As a point of criticism though, like the Dutch defender, he still needs to work on their agility.
Kyiv sat second in the Ukrainian Premier League at the time of its suspension, and Zabarnyi was part of a defence that had conceded just six goals in the 15 games he started.
That’s helped by being one of the two most dominant teams in the division, but it has also pushed Zabarnyi to work on his game in possession. Even in the Champions League where Kyiv lost five games, he attempted nearly 40 passes p90, averaging the fourth-most in the squad.
With such a wealth of experience at the top level and already reportedly on Chelsea’s radar, expect to see more of the defender in a league near you soon.
Described as the darling of Russian football by some, Arsen Zakharyan has been exciting viewers of Dinamo Moscow for the past 18 months. The 18-year-old has registered 10 goals and assists from attack and propelled Sandro Schwarz’s side to second this season.
He has learned his trade at the Konoplyov football academy, an institution sponsored by Roman Abramovich’s National Academy of Football. Two years after moving to Dinamo in 2017, the young forward was playing in the U19 league aged just 16 and was fast-tracked into the first team the following season in 2020/21.
A slight looking player, around 5ft 10 in height, Zakharyan’s technical ability often appears levels beyond some of the senior opposition he plays against. He glided past players in a recent loss to CSKA Moscow with the ball pinned within his control.
Time to recall best goals of the season!
— Russian Premier Liga (@premierliga_en) December 20, 2021
Zakharyan has clearly benefited from high-level coaching as he shows he can hunt space well and find good positions within the penalty box. He’s also been asked to press high, something the Dinamo squad has excelled at.
So obviously talented is the Russian that he has already spoken directly about moves to central Europe on Russian TV. He has said he would like to play in either Spain or Germany as over there is “open football, we need to think more there.”
Schwarz has told the youngster to keep his head on the ground and when he believes he is ready, Zakharyan will be sold. That, or if an offer comes in for Dinamo Moscow that they simply cannot reject.
A name that Football Manager experts will have almost certainly encountered over the past couple of games, the Brazilian’s pedigree should be taken more seriously than just numbers on a screen.
Antonio joined Shakhtar in 2019, becoming the 28th Brazilian to don a Shakhtar shirt. He left Estoril, the Portuguese side of where he spent a year after moving from Athletico Paranaense in 2018.
Now, the 21-year-old is regarded as one of the top midfielders outside of the big five leagues. Standing at 5ft 5, it’s easy to assume Antonio is a Kante-type midfielder buzzing around making tackles and interceptions.
🔥 Tipping point! ⚽ Brilliant goal by Marcos Antonio! 😍
— FC SHAKHTAR ENGLISH (@FCShakhtar_eng) November 21, 2021
Instead, it’s harder to not make comparisons to Marco Verratti. The weight of Antonio’s passing is tremendous, and in the (extremely) small sample size of 1100 minutes across the UEL and UCL since 2019, Antonio has averaged 3.9 progressive passes p90 for Shakhtar. For context, Marco Verratti averaged 5 p90 this season, but of course with far more possession.
What’s more impressive about his passing is how, under pressure, Antonio retains the quality of his pass. These include not only long switches but incisive passes into the box.
Then there is Antonio’s dribbling. His highlights should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the quality of the lower clubs in the Ukrainian Premier League is far off even those in the Eredivisie, but it’s dazzling how the Poções-born player can operate at a seemingly different speed to his opponents.
Italian reports last month suggested Juventus were targeting the man who has two caps for Brazil’s U23, and a midfield of Locatelli Antonio and Zakaria would form for interesting viewing.
A name Chelsea fans know well after this Zenit winger scored in their 3-3 draw in Saint Petersburg, Cláudio Luiz Rodrigues Parise Leonel may have turned 25 in January, disqualifying him from wunderkind status, but he should be monitored closely as someone who can and is still improving.
The attacker grew up as part of the Santos youth which he joined aged six years old. Twelve years later he joined up with the Corinthians’ squad, where he spent his four years there mainly on loan.
It was at Red Bull’s Brazilian outpost, Red Bull Bragantino, where the Brazilian began making waves from 2019 to 2021. After helping his side to promotion to the first tier and reaching the midpoint of 2021 with 57 goals and assists in 126 club appearances, Zenit signed Claudinho last summer for £10.8m.
He is a powerful player with a technique that was on par with his teammates and after being eased into the side, exploded against Spartak Moscow. In a famous 7-1 win last October Claudinho, starting at LW in a 3-4-3, bent a beautiful shot into the far corner.
— FC Zenit in English✨ (@fczenit_en) April 30, 2022
His statistics show a player that adapted quickly in his first season of European football. Eight goals and three assists is a solid tally, as well as his headline figure of 1.7 dribbles completed p90. Not only the most in the Zenit squad but the fifth most in the league. He is also top of the league for passes-completed-under-pressure according to Opta.
Also displaying the willingness to track back (he is third in the squad for tackles p90), Claudinho represents a fun creative player who could turn games for the right team. Brazilian website Fanaticos report that his price is set at €15 million and that he will only move to another European club.
The Colombian doesn’t stand out on the stats sheet, but Jorge Carrascal has impressed viewers of CSKA Moscow since they signed him on loan with an option to buy for £5.4m from River Plate in February 2022.
He has one goal in eight appearances from the left wing, and is averaging the most dribbles in the squad at 2.8 p90. If he sustains that in more minutes, Carrascal would rank top of the RPL for dribbles p90.
Coming through at Columbian club Millonarios and graduating to the senior team in 2014, keen Sevilla fans may remember his face after he moved to their B-side in 2016 for around €1m. Loans to Ukraine and River eventually saw Carrascal move to Marcelo Gallardo’s side in 2020.
That’s it. That’s the tweet.pic.twitter.com/pv2v9CvGU1
— Fran (@frabigol) February 26, 2022
Gallardo is one of the most respected coaches outside of European football and Carrascal has shown signs of a top player who has learned under the Argentine’s tutelage.
Against Dinamo Moscow recently Carrascal ran their right back Valera ragged, running directly at him n a way that felt reminiscent of his countryman Luis Diaz.
In such a small sample size and a career of a journeyman by such a young age, Carrascal represents the biggest gamble out of these players, but his eye-catching ability shows the potential for a large payoff.
Originally bursting onto the scene with the national team under Shevchenko aged 18, Viktor Tsygankov turned 24 in November and time is running out for him to make a move abroad.
The rightwinger’s goalscoring record is indisputable; 85 with 58 assists added in 213 Dynamo Kyiv games (although he does take penalties). That amazingly puts him 51st in Kyiv’s all-time appearance makers, a single game behind Shevchenko according to Transfermarkt.
Viktor Tsygankov- mimo wielu przepuszczonych meczów w tym sezonie wciąż walczy o koronę króla strzelców.
A tak pieczętuje tytuł mistrzowski dla Dynama. pic.twitter.com/cz3CKBZgbl
— BuckarooBanzai (@Buckarobanza) April 25, 2021
He’s also just under 3500 minutes of Champions League and Europa League football beyond qualifying stages, which for context, is 500 minutes more than former Shakhtar winger Ruslan Malinovskyi. The Atalanta forward is also four and a half years older than Tsygankov.
With all that said, why hasn’t he been signed? Despite links from Liverpool, Leicester and other European clubs, he’s never moved away from Ukraine even as teammates Vitaliy Mykolenko and Andriy Yarmolenko found homes abroad.
He failed to make a large impact at the Euros and in fairness, as FBREF says he has completed just 26% of attempted dribbles in European competition, pointing to a player perhaps a bit out of his depth.
However, with so much experience under his belt and with the situation in Ukraine, a move may happen even to a team outside of Europe’s top five leagues. The next chapter for the Israeli-born forward will be interesting.
The second defender profiled here, Dodô is also another to have spent time in Portugal. The right back went on loan to Vitoria de Guimarães all the way back in 2018/19, when he was 19-years-old.
Even in a meagre 9 appearances, Dodô showed good signs as he registered both a goal and an assist in his final two games, as well as completing over 1.9 dribbles p90 in the Primeira Liga.
— GS7🇺🇦 (@GS7_89) August 7, 2021
Fast forward to the 23-year-old’s return at Shakhtar, and the Coritiba product has played 30 games in the Champions League and Europa League, and sits just three games shy of reaching 100 appearances for Shakhtar. In that time he’s racked up 17 assists, including four this season.
Another smaller player, standing around 5ft 5, Dodo makes up for it in quick acceleration and tight ball control. Only Milan Škriniar stopped him from grabbing a quality assist in the home leg against Inter Milan earlier in the UCL.
He is a little one-footed, as even when he cuts inside he likes to revert the ball to his right foot. He also has a bit of a tendency to charge into challenges, but still, Dodô could be a useful backup at right wing-back for a side like Tottenham.
By: Alex Barker / @EuroExpert_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Chris Brunskill / Fantasista / Getty Images / Eric Alonso / Getty Images