Johnny Nic welcomes Mykhaylo Mudryk to the Premier League. Here’s hoping Chelsea don’t misuse him, and he repays the Blues by making them less dull to watch.
Here’s ‘What’s So Great About…’ Chelsea’s biggest January signing…
Who’s this then?
Mykhaylo Petrovych Mudryk is a 22-year-old, 5’9” Ukrainian winger, born in Krasnograd who has just signed a eight-and-a-half-year contract with Chelsea for an initial fee of £62 million, rising to £89 million in add-ons. Wow, that’s a lot of wonga.
He got his start in the academies of Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, before moving to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016, making his debut two years later. However, he was sent out on loan to Arsenal Kyiv and Desna Chernihiv for 10 and 11 games respectively before returning to really get his career started at the start of this season.
So far this season he’s played 18 games for Shaktar, including six in the Champions League, has scored 10 and made eight assists in those 18 games.
He won the Ukrainian Premier League in 2019–20 and the Ukrainian Super Cup in 2021. On top of that he was voted Ukrainian Footballer of the Year for 2022 and was Shakhtar Donetsk Player of the Year 2021 and 2022. He also made his debut for Ukraine this year, turning out eight times.
All of which explains why he was on so many big club radars when, due to the bloody war, all contracts were suspended. Bayer Leverkusen thought they had a £20million deal for him last year, and Brentford thought they had bagged him for £30million at the end of the summer by which time, Everton and Newcastle were also on their hind legs sniffing the Mudryk air.
Arsenal were in pole position to sign him but even though the lad had already started posting pictures of him watching Arsenal on social media, Chelsea stepped in at the last minute to snaffle him via a rather complex series of meetings and manoeuvres.
Questions have been asked about how Chelsea can afford to keep spending so much money, but the transfer fee will be put on the books across the length of the astonishingly long eight-and-a-half-year contract, so you’re looking at around £10million per year, effectively. His wages of £97,000 per week are also lower than typical for the Blues as they try to shave their wage bill down. It’s also good business because if he turns out to be rubbish, a lot more clubs can afford £97,000 than if he was on £150k, and that’ll make selling him easier.
So although Chelsea are going through one of their financially incontinent phases, this isn’t the most bonkers or irresponsible deal they could’ve made. It made the lad the most expensive Ukrainian ever and the most expensive deal ever to happen in Ukraine.
Why The Love?
In 2021 Shakhtar head coach Roberto De Zerbi – now the Brighton manager, of course – said he thought Mudryk was one of the best young players, saying: “If I don’t bring him to a high level, I will consider it a personal defeat”. And given his performance at Brighton to date, this is a man who knows a good player when he sees one.
There’s no doubt he has been one of Europe’s best prospects for 18 months in that he offers the potential for goals but also for assists. And as he’s now played and scored in the Champions League in a 4-1 win over RB Leipzig back in September and he’s trodden the boards at international level, so has some experience of playing at the highest echelons.
Operating mostly down the left he’s a strong, very fast runner, though not especially tall and looks built out of steel and hardcore. He’s got the sort of close ball control that allows him to dribble past defenders or simply out run them. It isn’t hard to imagine him burning down the left at Stamford Bridge, some might think that it’d be useful if they had a proper centre forward he could feed, but that isn’t an insurmountable problem.
His pace has been measured at 36.6kmh which isn’t as fast as Usain Bolt, or even a fully-functioning Kyle Walker, but is still some shade of greased lightning. The only game I’ve seen him play was against Celtic and he seemed to conduct his football at a very high speed indeed and seemed to enjoy it that way. That does raise one concern. I could see him fitting in with a side like Leeds which plays chaotic, intense football which involves throwing everything at the game and seeing what sticks. But Chelsea are decidedly less fast and less intense. Maybe Mudryk can inject some urgency into their play and make them less stodgy and, frankly, boring. He is ideally suited to playing fast counter attacking football and if Chelsea elect not to play that kind of football, they will not be getting the best out of the Ukrainian.
Three great moments
His strong running really impresses here…
Plenty of reasons here for Chelsea fans to be excited…
An interesting comparison…
He’s a young player and has only made 77 appearances, which isn’t many for a 22-year-old. He’s scored 12 goals and 19 assists but there’s no doubt that bringing in a player of limited experience is a bit of a gamble. He’s clearly got a lot of promise but did Chelsea really need another winger? Maybe they have plans to play him through the middle where they lack quality and depth.
He looks much younger than his 22 years, a devout Christian, being thrown into the greedy, ego-fuelled, cesspit that is the Premier League with all its attendant leeches and two-faced no-goods, will certainly be a challenge. Though not more of a challenge than having to play football in a war zone, obviously.
It will be fascinating where and when Potter will use him and who he’ll leave out in order to do so. Clearly, he hasn’t had much if any input in the decision to buy the player, but there are not many managers who wouldn’t fancy working with a bright young talent like Mudryk.
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