Updates from Wednesday, July 23
BBC Sport on Twitter reports on Shakhtar's new training and matchday locations:
Updates from Tuesday, July 22
CEO of FC Shakhtar Sergei Palkin commented on his players decision to go to the Ukraine via the club's website:
I would like to stress straightaway that the issue of players’ safety is the main priority of our club. Shakhtar will base itself, train and play only in those cities where the team safety is guaranteed. Naturally, no one is going to take the players to the places where combat activity is underway or there’s at least a small hint at the insecure stay. Once happened the case with our players, who decided not to return to the territory of Ukraine, citing fears for their lives and health, we have consulted with UEFA and received the relevant documents.
One of the six Shakhtar players the club has confirmed failed to return to Donetsk following a recent preseason friendly in France, Dentinho, explained the players' decision to avoid the region, per ESPN FC:
'We made our decision exclusively with our families before meeting with the group of Brazilians,' he said. 'We want to clarify that we don't have any issues with the club. We have always turned up to play in previous seasons, within the dates required, and with strict respect to what the managers have put together.
'But this time, given the conflict within the country, we are afraid and don't want to put the lives of our families, nor our own, at risk.'
He added: 'I want to play but cannot allow the people I love to be placed in danger. I hope the club can find the best solution.
'We have read that the embassies of the United States, England, Switzerland and Brazil have recommended that people do not travel to the region. Would you send your child there at this time?'
Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin revealed the club has spoken to UEFA regarding the current situation. The advice is for the players to return for duty as soon as possible, per Shakhtar's official website:
I would like to stress straightaway that the issue of players’ safety is the main priority of our club. Shakhtar will base itself, train and play only in those cities where the team safety is guaranteed. Naturally, no one is going to take the players to the places where combat activity is underway or there’s at least a small hint at the insecure stay.
UEFA recommends our players who left the team to return as soon as possible. We will forward, of course, the copies of these documents to the players and their agents.
Updates from Monday, July 21
Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu explained the reasons behind the players' absence from his perspective in a recent interview with Segodnya newspaper, via the club's official website:
It is not the players’ desire, it’s their agents’ work. A few hours before the kickoff of the match against Lyonnais, Kia showed up (Iran-born British agent Kia Zhoorabkhyan. - Ed.). And after the game, at two in the morning, he took our players away. The very talented ones: Teixeira, Douglas, Fred. The rest are not so important. He wanted to do the same to Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison. But they refused. His goal is to make the players free agents, just to make money. This is wrong. This is his alibi. He wants to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free. But they have contracts. Ferreyra has another agent. But he also expects to capitalise on the situation. Although I said: 'We will train and play in Kharkiv. We will return to Donetsk when things get better there.'
The turmoil in Ukraine is apparently starting to have its effect on the sporting world. Several sources are reporting six South American players of top football club Shakhtar Donetsk have refused to return to the country after a pre-season friendly in France.
Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixeira, Facundo Ferreyra and a sixth unnamed player missed their flight back to the Eastern European country, according to Canal+ (h/t to the Daily Mirror's Aaron Flanagan).
BeIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri wasn't surprised by the news, and he thinks these six could be the first in a long line of players looking for a way out of Ukraine:
The Donetsk region is one of the more unstable areas in the country, and the players' unwillingness to return can be attributed to recent outbursts of violence.
The five named players are all strong contributors for a Shakhtar team that has dominated the Ukrainian league in recent years, and unsurprisingly, plenty of pundits started wondering about the repercussions of these players refusing to return to Ukraine.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Johnson singled out Costa, amid strong interest from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco:
Top playmaker Bernard wasn't mentioned, but he would arguably be the most wanted player Shakhtar currently employ, and fans immediately let their imaginations run wild:
That several players are reportedly no longer willing to travel back to the region is devastating for Shakhtar, especially this close to the start of the new season. The club has been steadily building for years, and European glory was the next logical step after five consecutive league titles.
Foreign teams will likely start looking into purchasing these six players immediately, and with Shakhtar practically forced into a sale, the transfer fees will surely be far lower than the club would have wanted.
More players could potentially follow the example of the six, and with little time remaining before the start of the 2014-15 season, the club's window to replace their departing stars would be minimal. The current conflict won't help Shakhtar, as Donetsk can hardly profile itself as an attractive transfer destination.
Issues with work permits will limit the ability of English teams to get involved in the Costa or Teixeira sweepstakes, with the French Ligue 1 the most likely destination for several of these players.