There are certain teams in European football whose entire business model appears to be based on selling the best stars to the highest bidder and redistributing the cash into a number of smart signings to repeat the cycle.
Teams such as Borussia Dortmund, Benfica, and Anderlecht spring to mind. Another is the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. They have been routinely in the Champions League over the last decade or so and at least one key player has been snatched by a bigger European team each year.
Shakhtar Donetsk have an extensive scouting network in Brazil which is why so many of these players hail from the South American nation. We are choosing the XI based on the transfer fee they were sold for, so some great players may miss out purely due to positioning. They will all get an honourable mention at the end. To squeeze some of the best names in, we’re going with a 4-2-3-1.
Jan Lastuvka (€3m)
OK, so that may be a slightly anti-climactic start, but this is the most Shakhtar have ever sold a goalkeeper for. Czech goalkeeper Jan Lastuvka was on the books in Donetsk for five seasons between 2004 and 2009 but spent time on loan at Fulham and West Ham United. He was eventually sold to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for €3m.
Right back – Dodo (€14.5m)
One of the more recent movers, Dodo only left the club in the summer of 2022 to join Serie A side Fiorentina. He has played 15 league games for La Viola so far this season without pulling up too many trees. He is in a side who are struggling to put a consistent run of form together but at 24, he still has plenty of time to make good on that €14.5m price tag.
Centre back – Dmytro Chygrynskyi (€25m)
That name might not mean a lot to some of the younger readers, but that is a lot of money and it is worth bearing in mind that the move was made in 2009. The Ukrainian defender signed for Barcelona but unfortunately, the move did not work out as he struggled to adapt and was sold back to Shakhtar for €15m a year later. He has since played in Ukraine and Greece and is still under contract with Ionikos Nikeas.
Centre-back – Yaroslav Rakitskyi (€10m)
You may have guessed by now that the headline makers for Shakhtar tended to operate further up the pitch, but Yaroslav Rakitskyi has been a very solid defender for a long time. After coming through the Shakhtar youth ranks, he was sold to Zenit St. Petersburg in 2019 for €10m. After playing in Turkey, he returned to Shakhtar in January 2023 on a free transfer.
Left-back – Eduard Sobol (€3.5m)
This lad is a good pick-up on Football Manager, for those who are that way inclined. He may have only left Shakhtar permanently in July 2021 for Club Brugge for a modest €3.5m, but he is the most expensive left-back they have sold. He is not quite a key player in Belgium but is an important part of the squad.
Central midfield – Fred (€59m)
This is where the big numbers appear. Fred is the second most expensive departure from Shakhtar and one of five Brazilians in this eleven. He signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2018 and while he has been the butt of many jokes early in his United career, he has shown himself to be a key part of the squad in the past year. His effort can certainly never be disputed.
Central midfield – Fernandinho (€40m)
Fernandinho was one of the founding fathers of Manchester City’s success under their new ownership along with Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero. He joined the Premier League side in 2013 and ended up making a staggering 383 appearances for them.
Right wing – Willian (€35m)
Another one of Shakhtar’s big Brazilian sales, Willian did not actually leave Ukraine for the Premier League initially. He was sold to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013 when the side from Dagestan were flush with cash and signing players like Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos. It was from there that he then moved on to Chelsea only a few months later. Anzhi later dissolved in 2022.
Central attacking midfield – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (€27.5m)
This one is cheating because you could put Alex Teixeira here who was more expensive, but nowhere near as good as Mkhitaryan, so we’re having the Armenian. He moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2013 which is where he really took the next step before playing for Manchester United, Arsenal, AS Roma and now Inter.
Left wing – Mykhailo Mudryk (€70m)
Here he is, the new most expensive Shakhtar sale who has displaced Fred from the top of the list. Mudryk burst onto the scene in the past year, particularly in the 2022/23 Champions League group stage as Shakhtar incredibly almost made it into the round of 16 despite the Russian invasion. After seeming destined to join Arsenal, Mudryk signed for Chelsea for a huge fee, one that will take some beating.
Striker – Luiz Adriano (€14m)
Luiz Adriano is something of an anomaly here because unlike most in the team, he played his best football with Shakhtar for many years. He played 266 times for the Ukrainian side and scored 128 goals, also grabbing 41 assists between 2007 and 2015. He then moved to AC Milan but only managed six goals in 18 months. The Brazilian has then played for Spartak Moscow, Palmeiras and Antalyaspor.
Some very impressive and expensive players didn’t make it into this team for positioning reasons. There are a lot more Brazilians too.
Unfortunately, with the Russian invasion leading to almost all of Shakhtar’s foreign stars departing, it may be some time before we see more Brazilian stars making their way to Ukraine.
That could lead to Ukrainian youngsters like Mudryk getting more space to develop though.