Unravelling the enigma of football in the post-Soviet republics
Jádson walked out onto the pitch at the Donbass Arena for one last time yesterday.
The pint-sized playmaker surveyed the stadium where he scored the first goal at for Shakhtar Donetsk against Obolon Kyiv some two-and-a-half years ago, before heading back down the tunnel to have a moment to himself in the home dressing room.
After seven seasons with the club, few in this corner of eastern Ukraine will begrudge him a move to São Paulo in his native Brazil.
Inside the bowels of Shakhtar’s magnificent home it was standing-room only at Jádson’s farewell press conference and for those unable to attend, the event was streamed live on the club’s official website.
He emerged at noon to a standing ovation from fans and journalists.
Jádson was one of Mircea Lucescu’s first signings as Shakhtar manager, after buying him from Atlético Paranaense in January 2005. A superb player with a sublime touch and low centre of gravity, he honed his skills as a futsal player before making the step up to 11-a-side football at the age of 13.
The compact midfielder is an intelligent, technically gifted individual, able to spot a pass or find the back of the net himself and he has been a mainstay in a Shakhtar side that has gradually supplanted Dynamo Kyiv as Ukraine’s pre-eminent club.
In his 272 appearances Jádson scored 64 goals, as well as providing assists for countless others. He departs with five Premier League winners’ medals.
And his name shall never be forgotten in Donetsk after netting the decisive goal in the 2009 UEFA Cup final against Werder Bremen.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the first period of extra time, Darijo Srna made one of his marauding runs down the right and fed Jádson who had arrived late from a deep position; although he didn’t strike the ball cleanly, he got enough on it to beat Tim Wiese and ensure Shakhtar became the first Ukrainian side to lift a European trophy in the post-Soviet era.
That goal was shown during a 20-minute video documenting his time in Ukraine at yesterday’s packed press conference.
Only his manager was absent. Lucescu, still in a Bucharest hospital after being involved in a car accident recently, spoke with the midfielder over the telephone, leaving Shakhtar’s CEO Sergei Palkin to host the event.
He presented Jádson with a club shirt emblazoned with the number 272.
“I want to thank everyone who came here to say goodbye,” said the tearful 28-year-old.
“Today, I am leaving. I will remember the whole period spent in Donetsk. In addition to the trophies, I will take with me the fans’ love and respect towards me and my family. I am very touched. It is a very sad moment.”
He was highly-respected in the city. Assistant manager Alexandru Spiridon commented that “I have worked together with Jádson for seven years. He is part of Shakhtar, a very important part. To be honest, when Jádson said goodbye to us, my eyes were filled with tears.
“Jádson deserves the warmest and kindest words - as a footballer and as a person,” continued the Moldovan.
“But still, it is a very sad moment when the person with whom you have worked side by side with for so many years leaves. It feels like a part of you is leaving.
“I saw that the boys were experiencing the same emotions when saying goodbye to Jádson. It was hard.”
For all his, and the club’s success though, Jádson isn't really departing on a high. His recognition at international level has been some time coming, but after playing in the Copa América he made just 14 more appearances for Shakhtar since the summer.
They are second in the Premier League table too, a point behind Dynamo, albeit with a superior goal difference.
There is a sense that maybe it was the right time for him leave though. Indeed, it had been on the cards.
Shakhtar earn €3.8 million from the deal, plus take 30% of the rights to São Paulo’s 20-year-old midfielder Wellington, who is valued at €10 million, but for now Lucescu may stick with what he has got.
Even if they are involved in a three-horse race domestically, there is no Champions League football for the club to contest.
There was some good news for Shakhtar fans yesterday, however. On the day Jádson left, their tricky, left-footed, right-sided attacker Douglas Costa penned a new five-year deal. Undoubtedly the 21-year-old is a real talent, but Lucescu must be praying he now adds some consistency to his game.
Douglas Costa’s fellow Brazilians Dentinho and the distinctly un-Brazilian sounding Alan Patrick will probably be more involved in first-team affairs, but in the last few games before the winter break Henrik Mkhitaryan excelled in Jádson’s role behind the central striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
A classy player with an eye for goal, the poster boy of Armenian football is another outstanding prospect at the club. The 22-year-old has big boots to fill though, as does Jádson.
He takes the No.10 shirt at São Paulo vacated by Rivaldo, who last week made a surprise move to Angolan side Kabuscorp.
“Jadson was our team’s soul. He was always cheerful. He liked singing songs. He always created a good atmosphere within the team,” said Srna after saying goodbye to his team-mate.
“It is a pity that he is leaving for good. Jadson is a great player, one of the leaders at Shakhtar, but most importantly, he is a wonderful person and a loyal friend. The circumstances were such that he had to return to Brazil. But that's life. And I am sure that we will meet again.
“In any case, we promised each other!”
Plans are also afoot to give him his own star on the Walk of Fame that was launched last year.
He may be gone, but Jádson won’t be forgotten in Ukraine any time soon.
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