Do you remember Dmytro Chygrynskiy?
This article will revisit Barça’s decision to sign him. It will look into his struggles on the field for the Blaugrana and point out the unique circumstances with which he dealt.
Such conditions, over which he had no control, are often swept underneath the rug when it comes to analysing his failure.
Dmytro Chygrynskiy first appeared on the radar of major European clubs after his performances as a member of Olexiy Mykhaylychenko's Ukrainian U-21 squad.
The side reached the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship final, only to lose 3-0 to the Netherlands.
Writing for UEFA.com, Eugene Sekundo gave a glowing assessment of Chygrynskiy:
Chygrynskiy the defensive colossus symbolises both the pragmatic and the pleasing aspects of Mykhaylychenko's side. With his long hair and socks down to his calves, this man-mountain resembles a tough centre-half from the old school. Yet his style can be easy on the eye, particularly when carrying the ball out of defence.
Looking back at that tournament, there were many "he could have been so much better" type of players: Yoann Gourcuff, Florent Sinama Pongolle, Grégory Bourillon, Thomas Kahlenberg, Raffaele Palladino, Daniël de Ridder, Nicky Hofs and Artem Milevskiy.
Fittingly, Chygrynskiy can also be added to that list.
He later won the UEFA Cup with Shakhtar Donetsk, so his C.V. was decent, but was it €25 million-decent?
Here's the pertinent question: were there any red flags from Dmytro Chygrynskiy that the Barça brain trust missed out on?
Yes, quite a few.
Why weren't they concerned by Chygrynskiy's shaky displays in the two games against Quique Flores' Valencia?
Evidently, Barcelona management didn't put much stock in Chygrynskiy giving up on his side when AC Milan won 4-1 and 3-0 against Shakhtar.
When Sevilla memorably defeated Shakhtar 3-2 in extra time, Chygrynskiy was the worst player of the game. He headed the ball straight into Enzo Maresca's path for Sevilla's first goal.
When goalkeeper Andrés Palop scored the Spanish club's dramatic 94th-minute equaliser, Chygrynskiy hadn't effectively communicated with his teammates.
Fernandinho was loosely marking Frédéric Kanouté, who was Chygrynskiy's man. No one had bothered to mark Javier Chevantón or Palop.
Speaking of Chevantón, who scored what turned out to be the winning goal, do you know which Shakhtar player lost him?
With due diligence, Joan Laporta would have either baulked at Shakhtar's insistence on a €25 million transfer fee or ditched the idea of signing Chygrynskiy entirely.
Sid Lowe at Sports Illustrated documented Dmytro Chygrynskiy's struggles for Barcelona:
He played just 851 minutes in the league and was whistled through many of them. Superficial, perhaps, but he appeared slow and ponderous, out of position, a little clumsy on the ball. Any hope he had of taking the place of Carles Puyol or Gerard Piqué was extinguished almost immediately. Few noted that he was still young—he is still only 24 now—and might yet get better. Few cared that as he himself put it, adapting to Barcelona's very specific way of playing is not easy and required time. Mostly they had given up. He just wasn't that good.
The Ukrainian made sure Barça supporters wouldn't relent in their opposition to his presence after a mistake against Sevilla.
He dragged down Diego Capel outside the box, but the winger cunningly started falling inside the box, fooling referee Alfonso Burrull into awarding a penalty.
Álvaro Negredo tucked away the spot kick before poignantly hoisting and kissing Sergio Sánchez's shirt, who was out indefinitely after heart complications.
You could blame referee Burrull for making the wrong call, but if Chygrynskiy was in position, he wouldn't have been outpaced by Capel and forced to commit the "professional foul" that ironically backfired.
Pep Guardiola came out to defend Chygrynskiy (via ESPN FC):
Dima is a fantastic player and the more he gets whistled the more support we will give him because he has many years ahead of him here. It will cost him more than others (to settle in) because of where he has come from and the price we paid but if anyone is responsible it's me not him.
That quote proves that Guardiola pushed management to sign Chygrynskiy.
There are several conditions that hindered Dmytro Chygrynskiy's career with Barcelona that often aren't discussed.
1) A few weeks into his Barça career, he suffered ligament damage.
2) He underestimated the standard expected of a Barcelona player from the supporters and the media, especially for an expensive transfer signing. He wasn't mentally tough enough to take the brunt of the criticism that went his way (from the Associated Press via sportsnet.ca):
When I signed for Barça I didn't think I was going to play without any problems immediately, but nor did I know it was going to be so hard. Here there's more pressure from people and from the media and the style of play is also very different to Ukraine. One thing is desire, another is reality.
3) He was caught in the middle of Sandro Rosell's cold war with Joan Laporta.
Chygrynskiy was never going to be given a chance to succeed, even though Pep Guardiola wanted him to stay.
Rosell knew that selling the Ukrainian wouldn't be an unpopular choice with the supporters and would also serve as another reminder of Laporta's financially unstable transfer dealings.
Comment below with your thoughts on Chygrynskiy.