'New Ronaldinho' has trick up his sleeve for Arsenal
Sunday 17 October 2010
The Brazilian enclave in Ukraine keeps getting bigger. When the naturalised Croatian Eduardo arrived from Arsenal in the summer, he became the seventh Brazil-born player at Shakhtar Donetsk. The policy of the coach, Mircea Lucescu, is simple: eastern Europeans at the back, Brazilians at the front. The effectiveness of the plan is hard to dispute: Shakhtar won the Uefa Cup in 2009 and stand five points clear at the top of their domestic table.
The latest of the Brazilian contingent Arsenal will have to watch out for on Tuesday is Douglas Costa. The 20-year-old joined Shakhtar from Gremio for £5 million in January and came with a great reputation. It took time for him to live up to that but, this season, he has missed only one game and has been a constant threat cutting in from the right in Shakhtar's 4-2-3-1 formation.
"Before I signed my contract, I phoned Ukraine and spoke to Willian and Luiz Adriano who are both from my home town of Porto Allegre," Douglas said. "They told me I should join Shakhtar because it could be one of the strongest teams in Europe."
He is relishing the decision, gushing about how he likes hanging out in the Donetsk City mall, practising his Russian and talking about his plans to take skating lessons. Then there are the fans. "People in Ukraine are very kind and friendly," he said. "For example in Brazil when we were beaten fans would be completely silent while in Ukraine they applaud our efforts even after a defeat."
Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid were also linked with a player who has been dubbed "the new Ronaldinho". It's a nickname he relishes. "I love it when the pundits say that," he said.
"Maybe it's because we started our careers at the same club, Gremio. As human beings we are more opposite than alike, but on the pitch I can also do some tricks. Ronaldinho was my idol. He's an incredible football genius. If I could produce on the pitch something like what he does I'd be the happiest man in the world."
It may be, though, that Ukraine is not the ideal environment for tricks. "The biggest difference between football in Ukraine and Brazil is that such emphasis is placed on intensive and heavy physical preparations," Douglas said. "I understand it is very important because physical power plays a huge role during the league games as Ukrainian clubs heavily rely on it. Strict tactical discipline is another difference from my time in Brazil. The coach requires the 100 per cent fulfilment of tactical duties."
He sounds bemused by that, but his form this season suggests he has heeded the lessons and he is coming to personify the Lucescu ideal of European discipline with Brazilian flair.
Arsenal v Shakhtar Donetsk is live on Sky Sports 2 from 7.30pm on Tuesday
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