Yevhen Levchenko’s nomadic career took him from Ukraine and Russia to the Netherlands and Australia, picking up eight international caps along the way. Talking exclusively to bwin, he discusses much sought-after Dinamo Kiev winger Andrei Yarmolenko and his nation’s chances at Euro 2016 this summer.
Andrei Yarmolenko of Dinamo Kiev and Ukraine has reportedly blipping on the transfer radars of many Premier League sides this season according to the gossipmongers.
Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton have already been credited with an interest, but could be forgiven an element of trepidation given the moderate record of past big-money inductions from that particular part of the world.
Former international Yevhen Levchenko offers some insight as to why Andriy Shevchenko struggled, as well as looping in readers on one-time White Hart Lane and Anfield target Yevhen Konoplyanka’s growing disgruntlement at Sevilla and his nation’s scope for success at Euro 16.
On Andriy Yarmolenko and his link to the Premier League…
“The Premier League is a good move for any player aspiring to be great as it’s one of the best in the world. The football is very physically demanding and you have to be technically strong to compete in the league.
“Yarmolenko (above), for example, is a very smart, technical player. He’s been heavily linked with English clubs and I think it would be a very good move for him.
“Unfortunately we’ve also had some players go to the Premier League, such as Shevchenko, Voronin and Rebrov and who have had less than impressive stints in English football.
“I spoke to Andriy Shevchenko after he left Chelsea and he said that all the balls played in to him at Milan were to his feet, whereas at Stamford Bridge they were played to his chest and head, so it was too difficult to adjust to this.
“For players coming in to the Premier League, the most demanding adjustment is the physicality because in Ukraine we do run a lot but there is not as much contact.
“The league is dominated by two teams, Shakhtar and Dinamo Kyiv, and when they are so much stronger than every other team in the league, you have games where they are winning easily with very little fight or physicality.
- The Andriy Yarmolenko skills reel
“In the Premier League, this is a completely different story as almost every team is challenging you, fighting until they die, and this is the difference.”
On Yevhen Konoplyanka and his style of play…
“Yevhen Konoplyanka is part of what I call the new generation of Ukrainian players in Europe. He’s smart and has the European mentality, which is so important when you want to go abroad.
“During my early career, many players coming out of Ukraine were stuck in a Soviet mentality and were unable to change their mind-sets for European football.
“You will never grow if you stay in the Ukrainian leagues and I think Konoplyanka is definitely more suited to European football as he’s quick, technical and is very good at communicating with other players.
“I spoke to him recently and at the moment he’s satisfied in Spain but he’s not satisfied with the amount of playing time he’s receiving – he’s not playing every game.
“Of course it takes some time to adjust to the Spanish league because it’s one of the best in the world but I understand that he wants to play more.”
On Ukraine ahead of the Euros…
“First and foremost, it’s an incredible honour to play for your country and as a player, receiving the recognition to be selected amongst the best players in your nation is an amazing achievement.
“I think Ukrainian players nowadays understand this honour much more than 20 years ago, where players weren’t as fussed if they played or not.
“For us this summer, the most crucial game will be against Poland. I think every Ukraine supporter will know that we’re not as good as Germany as they have very few weaknesses.
“I think we can beat Northern Ireland, who in my opinion play very similarly to Wales, but I’m concerned about the change in tactics that Michael O’Neill can employ during the game against us.
“I feel we’re very rigid in the way we play and set up and I’m afraid that if teams change their style against us, that we won’t be able to adjust. If we beat Northern Ireland, the crucial game will be against Poland, which will be a 50/50 game.
On Ukraine’s key players this summer…
“It’s difficult to point at just one player, but Konoplyanka is our best and most important. He plays for a strong European team whereas Yarmolenko and our other players are either playing in Ukraine or for lesser European teams.
“Another key player for us is defender Yevhen Khacheridi because as a team we don’t concede a lot of goals, so he’ll be very important for us.
Khacheridi closes down Sergio Aguero in this season’s Champions League.
“Our Captain Ruslan Rotan will also be an important figure for us in the midfield and although he’s 34 now, he’s still vital both on the pitch and off it.”
Ukraine’s veteran skipper Ruslan Rotan.
On his prediction for Ukraine…
I think we can get out the group stages and if we beat Poland and finish second that would be a good achievement. Then once you get out the group it’s very difficult to call.
Ukraine are 9/20 to qualify for the second round from Group C pool that also includes Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland.
Key player: Yevhen Konoplyanka
Prediction: Knockout rounds