Player Profile: Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev)
In 1991, Ukraine was one of the first Soviet states to become an independent country in its own right and it was the Dynamo Kiev Class of 98 who put the forgotten state on the footballing map once again.
Blessed with a feared strike force consisting of Serhiy Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko, Dynamo Kiev reached the Champions League semi-finals in 1999 after they defeated Spanish giants, Real Madrid 3-1 the previous round. However, it was the season prior that made Europe sit up and take notice as they defeated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate under the guidance of legendary player and coach, Valeriy Lobanovskyi.
Shevchenko, with a record of 16 goals in just 24 Champions League appearances, earned a big-money move to AC Milan and prospered whilst his partner-in-crime, Rebrov, moved to Tottenham Hotspur where he crashed and burned as he failed to adjust to life outside of Kiev. Since those heady days of the late 90s, Dynamo Kiev eventually fell into the shadows of their Donbass rivals, Shakhtar Donetsk, who have since carried the Ukrainian torch, both in the domestic game and Europe, throughout the noughties.
However. despite Shakhtar Donetsk’s dominance, it is the Dynamo Kiev and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk wingers, Andriy Yarmolenko and Yehven Konoplyanka, who are seen as the next big things to come out of the Ukraine. And it is Yarmolenko who is the man we cover in this particular scout report.
Growing up, Andriy Yarmolenko, who was actually born in St Petersburg, Russia, joined his hometown club, Desna Chernihiv in 1999. It was not long before Dynamo Kiev saw Yarmolenko’s talent on a scouting trip and took him to the capital in 2003. A combination of homesickness and the inability to meet the more physical demands that met him at Kiev’s renowned youth academy, meant Yarmolenko would return to Desna after a year to continue his progression up the footballing ladder.
In 2005, Andriy Yarmolenko was rewarded for his hard work and was promoted to Desna’s first team aged just 16 where he would go on to score four goals in just eight appearances from central midfield. Whilst Yarmolenko’s rise through the Desna ranks was impressive, Dynamo Kiev had also been keeping tabs on his progression and offered Yarmolenko a second chance to return to the capital which he duly took signing a 5-year contract in December 2006. Yarmolenko was placed into the reserve team where he would score four goals in 15 games and the following season, six goals in 22 appearances from his position just off the main striker.
Despite having only made 37 appearances for Dynamo Kiev’s reserves, the local journalists had seen enough of Andriy Yarmolenko to draw comparisons with a certain Andriy Shevchenko and labeled him the ‘new Sheva’ – which placed enormous pressure on his young shoulders as he was promoted to Dynamo Kiev’s first team in the 2008-2009 season by coach, Yozhef Sabo.
However, what surprised nearly all who had waited with baited breath for Yarmolenko’s breakthrough season in the top flight was the coach’s decision to place the attack-minded Yarmolenko at left-back. It was quite an extraordinary move which was the catalyst for Sabo’s sacking three months into the season. Sabo’s successor, Yuri Semin who took the reigns in December 2007, quickly restored parity for his own sake rather than Yarmolenko’s as he moved him further up the pitch into a more favourable left-wing role where he would go on to make ten appearances in his first season in the top flight.