Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko are easily the two best Ukrainian players of the current generation – but both remain in their homeland with Dnipro and Dynamo Kyiv, astonishingly. Both are easily good enough for any top European league, but for some reason have remained in Ukraine until at least this summer.
For the die-hard football fans out there, Yarmolenko will be well known, as is Konoplyanka – but after Thursday’s demolition of Everton, the former has sprung to the attention of many a Liverpool fan, who want him based on that performance. For those who know little about the man dubbed “The New Shevchenko”, he has been at Kyiv basically his entire senior career – in all competitions 88 goals in around 240 games from the left wing, and 18 in 45 for the national team, whom without him struggle.
Konoplyanka on the other hand was subject of moves from the likes of Roma, Liverpool and Tottenham, only for the Dnipro chairman to deliberately delay sending paperwork so it fell through (Allegedly), therefore he can leave for free this summer. He has scored 8 in 45 for Ukraine and considerably less for his team too (42 in 195), however he is more of a creator than scorer. Yarmolenko is both.
Both players are now 25, so it’s not exactly like they are kids breaking onto the scene. The longer they leave it, the less likely they are to get a move. Both are in the prime of their careers, and at least one will be moving to Europe this summer (Kono) and after Thursday’s performance I would be very surprised if Yarmolenko does not follow suit. Chelsea are allegedly interested, but with the way the likes of De Bruyne and Schurrle were treated, I can’t see him moving there. Italy or Germany would be a good first move, like Shevchenko – a move to England could well ruin both of them with the massive pressure to perform from the off – a few moves there that would pan out well is at teams who they would be given time to settle, those not really challenging for the league. Tottenham would be a good fit, and I would say Newcastle but both would be after a hefty wage, which Mike Ashley is reluctant to pay.
Dortmund or Wolfsburg would also be good for both – the likes of Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa and many others have made themselves in Germany. Either Milan side could well be tempted by both, the mooted fee for Yarmolenko in the region of £20m, whereas Konoplyanka would be free, with a signing on bonus likely to be in the millions.
Ukraine also have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2016 – top 2 from each group go through, while one best 3rd place and the other 8 3rd’s play off for the final 4 spots, with it being a 24 team competition. Ukraine face Spain, Slovakia, Belarus, Luxembourg and Macedonia – and sit 3rd at the moment with 9 points, level with Spain, and 3 behind Slovakia, so there is no doubt they will get top 3 – and I would say given the likely quality of any 3rd place team, they have a 75% chance of getting to France 2016, where these two could shine.
Irrespective of International honours, both of these are fantastic young players, who should have a glittering career in Europe ahead of them. Choose the right club – and they just might. Choose badly, and they may well end up with a few too many splinters in their backsides. I fear Konoplyanka will follow the money, however Yarmolenko seems to have his head on his shoulders a little more firmly.
Both top prospects, whom I look forward to seeing in Europe very soon – hopefully…