Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk are certainly setting the benchmark for clubs across Europe as they consistently find a way to churn out invaluable players, year after year. Current superstars such as Fernandinho, Willian, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have emerged out of the club in recent years, to name a few and club’s across Europe are now interested in any player that the club pursues or possesses because of their proven track record at buying raw talent and turning them into world class material.
One Shakhtar player who has caught the eye of numerous fans and pundits over the course of the last 12 months is their attacking central midfielder Viktor Kovalenko and in this segment, we profile the player.
Born on 14th February 1996 in the Ukranian city of Kherson, Kovalenko joined Shakhtar Donetsk’s academy as a 12-year-old and subsequently progressed to the first team courtesy of his eye-catching performances in the middle of the park for the club’s youth sides.
The player made his senior debut for the club against FC Vorskla Poltava on 28th February 2015 and was primarily used as a bit-part player by the club. However, the departure of Alex Teixeira to China in a big-money move last season opened up the door for the Ukranian and he has grabbed them with both his hands thus far, becoming an integral part of the side.
Style of Play and Strengths
Kovalenko is a player in the mould of the complete central midfielder as he can not only be an able presence in defence, he is equally adept at slicing open defences with his creativity and is also a constant threat to the opposition with his goal scoring prowess.
The exciting young midfielder is very tidy with his passing and incredibly creative in the middle of the park. He can dribble past opponents with his pace and skill on the ball, creates space for himself with his runs on and off the ball and has shown great composure in front of the goal for a player his age.
He has been compared to Spanish superstar Cesc Fabregas due to his uncanny habit of contributing goals from midfield for his side and while he might not be scoring as regularly as he did with the Shakhtar junior team, his abilities in front of the goal have not gone unnoticed with the footballing fraternity.
The industrious player, who has been singled out for praise by his managers in the past for his hard working approach can also prove to be a tough player to get past for the opposition as he is unafraid to fly into tackles and uses his footballing intelligence to effect interceptions and blocks and thus disrupt the rhythm of the opposition.
While the dynamic player is equally adept at playing as an attacking central midfielder, a central midfielder as well as a deep-lying central midfielder, we are led to believe that him being deployed in a deeper position will get the best out of him as he will be afforded the requisite time and space on the ball.
In addition, his physical prowess, which has been on display on numerous occasions as he has been seen brushing aside players could help him establish himself as a true destroyer, albeit with the missing creative charm to chalk out a niche for himself as a player.
While it is too early to pile on the pressure of being the biggest talent in Ukraine on the player, Kovalenko has all the right ingredients in his locker. Yet, like any other young player, he is still developing and should be afforded the time to make mistakes and learn from them to grow into the world class player that he has been touted to be.
One aspect that requires tinkering with is his defensive contribution to the sides which he plies in. While he is a ready contributor to the defence of his side, Kovalenko still needs to work on the defensive aspects of his game to become one of the top central midfielders on the continent.
With age on his side and his willingness to work hard to improve his game already well documented by various media reports, the player is already on the right track and should he fine tune these aspects of his game, he could become one of the best talents to have emerged out of Ukraine in recent years.
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The 20-year old has been linked with numerous rumours linking him away from Ukraine and given his impressive performances in the middle of the park for the club and his country’s Youth sides, we understand why clubs across Europe are lining up at Shakhtar's door to pry their next big talent away from them.
His current contract with the club runs until the end of June 2020 and while that might lead to him being valued higher by the club, it might not prove to be enough as a player of his calibre should definitely be playing in the Top 5 footballing leagues of Europe.