September 14, 2007 / 2:05 AM / 12 years ago

Soccer-Big spending Shakhtar eager to make splash in Europe

 DONETSK, Ukraine, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Big spending Shakhtar
Donetsk hope their investment will pay off as they begin another
assault on Europe's premier club competition.
 Shakhtar, backed by the deep pockets of Rinat Akhmetov,
Ukraine's richest man, have spent over $70 million on players in
the close season, including shelling out a record $27.4 million
for Mexican striker Nery Castillo.
 That made it the most expensive transfer in the history of
all former Soviet states.
 Another import, 19-year-old midfielder Villian, has cost $19
million, fellow Brazilian Islihno -- $13.7 million and veteran
Italy striker Cristiano Lucarelli another $11 million.
 It will be up to Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu to blend this
expensive group into a cohesive unit for yet another tilt at
European glory.
 The temperamental Romanian guided the Donetsk side to the
Ukrainian league title in his first season at the helm in 2004
and repeated the feat the following year, but so far has been
unable to transfer their form to Europe.
 Lucescu, who won the UEFA Super Cup with Turkey's
Galatasaray in 2000, is eager for similar success with Shakhtar
before moving to a top European club.
 Last season, Shakhtar came agonisingly close to making a
major impact in Europe when they led Sevilla 2-1 in the second
leg of their UEFA Cup second round tie with just seconds
remaining. But Sevilla keeper Andres Palop ran the length of the
field to score a last-gasp equaliser.
 The Spaniards then added another in extra time to win 3-2
and later went on to claim their second consecutive UEFA Cup.
 "We have all the attributes for success, a talented squad,
great training facilities, a passionate and wealthy owner,"
Lucescu said. "I hope this is Shakhtar's year."
 If Lucescu is to succeed in his dream of making Shakhtar a
major name in Europe, he must do it without his long-time
captain, tireless midfielder Anatoly Timoshchyuk, sold to
wealthy Russian club Zenit St Petersburg for $20 million.

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