By Igor Nitsak
The owner of Shakhtar Donetsk has assured the safety of six players who refused to return to Ukraine as conflict rages around the club’s home city but warned they would be in breach of their contracts should they opt to stay away.
Shakhtar president Rynat Akhmetov confirmed that Brazilians Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa and Ismaily, and Argentine striker Facundo Ferreira refused to travel from France to Ukraine following a friendly against Lyon on Saturday.
The players’ action came two days after 298 people aboard a Malaysian Airlines flight died when their plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine.
“This is true, six players did not come back with the team but they have certain contractual obligations and should they refuse to return, they will be the ones to suffer,” Akhmetov said on the club’s official website.
“There is nothing to be afraid of and we are ready to guarantee their safety.”
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu blamed agents for misleading the players and taking advantage of the volatile situation in the country in an attempt to have their contracts annulled.
“I detect the ‘hand’ of agents in this,” Lucescu told Segodnya newspaper.
“Kia (Joorabchian) took our best players like Teixeira, Douglas Costa and Fred and he wanted to do the same with Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison but they refused.
“His goal is to make them free agents and earn some money but this is not right, he is trying to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free.
“Facundo Ferreira has a different agent but he did the same thing. We have to ask FIFA and UEFA for help.”
Shakhtar are scheduled to open the new season with a Super Cup encounter against rivals Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.
When the regular season kicks off, the Donetsk-based team are likely to play their home games in the neighbouring city of Kharkiv until the conflict between the army and pro-Russian rebels in the region is resolved.