Shakhtar Donetsk players go AWOL
Shakhtar Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu has hit out at agent Kia Joorabchian after six of his players refused to return to Ukraine following a friendly with Lyon.
Canal+ reported that Brazilian players Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Argentine forward Facundo Ferreyra -- as well as one more, unnamed teammate -- remained in France after Sunday's match.
Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov confirmed the news to the R-Sport agency in quotes reported on the club's official website and identified Brazilian defender Ismaily as the sixth player.
He added: "I don't rule out that these players will return to the team quickly, and some of them tomorrow. Players have contracts that they have to abide by. If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer.
"Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros. If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won't be clearance sale!"
Canal+ claimed the players have personal security concerns due to the on-going conflict in Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was only 50 kilometres from Donetsk when it came down on Thursday.
However, Akhmetov stressed that the players would be protected.
"Hopefully, the mind and heart will prevail over misunderstanding, and the players will not follow temptation and fear," he said. "Especially since there is nothing to fear. We are ready to provide security. We will not take risks and in any case we won't bring players to dangerous places.
"We want to play in Donetsk very much but, unfortunately, at the moment we cannot do it. We will play where we will be allowed to -- we would like to do it in Kharkiv. The decision regarding the championship is taken by the Ukrainian Football Federation. Through our game, we will call for peace and try to bring joy to our fans."
Lucescu, meanwhile, told the Segodnya newspaper that Joorabchian had convinced the players not to return after Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Lyon at Annecy.
"It is necessary to explain what happened," Lucescu said in quotes reported on the club's official website. "It is not the players' desire -- it's their agents' work. A few hours before the kick-off of the match against Lyon, Kia showed up, and after the game, at two in the morning, he took our players away.
"The very talented ones: Teixeira, Douglas, Fred. The rest are not so important. He wanted to do the same to Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison, but they refused. His goal is to make the players free agents, just to make money. This is wrong. This is his alibi. He wants to make use of the situation in the country and get the players for free, but they have contracts.
"Ferreyra has another agent, but he also expects to capitalise on the situation."
He added: "The situation is unpleasant, because it all happened at the last moment. After the match with Lyon, the players were giving interviews: "It's OK, we are going back, we will work.' And then, at the hotel, a different story happened. This agent is a member of the Mafia."
Asked whether he expected the players to return, he said: "We'll see. We already had an issue with Ilsinho after winning the UEFA Cup -- just the same.
"After leaving Shakhtar, he played for some amateurs in the fourth division in Brazil. Then the court in Lausanne ruled that he owed the club four million euros. Then he apologised and said that he would like to return, being a very good player now.
"This Kia is a mafioso. He will continue to do the same regarding Bernard."
In L'Equipe, Lucescu accused Joorabchian of a "kidnapping," adding: "These players are young. He's managed to convince them not to go back, explaining to them they will soon be free and able to sign with another club.
"It's a total scandal. They're important players for me. They're still in Geneva."
Metalist Kharkiv midfielder Sebastian Blanco had also announced that he would not to return to Ukraine, preferring to remain in his native Argentina.
"After the Malaysia Airlines crash, I have no intention of returning to Ukraine," the 26-year-old was quoted as telling Milenium FM by Ole. "The situation over there is currently not normal. I have decided to stay in Buenos Aires."
However, his club subsequently released a statement on their official website stating that the player was under contract and expected to return.
"FC Metalist player Sebastian Blanco did not arrive at the first training camp of the team, which began on June 23 in Kharkiv, and then on the second one, which took place from July 7 to 18 in Austria," the statement read.
"Management of the football club has informed the player about the fact that a strict compliance with the contract is expected from him. [The] Argentine's colleagues conscientiously worked on both training camps, returned to Ukraine and continue to prepare for the season start in Kharkiv.
"As you know, the start of the new season is scheduled for July 26. Also Ukrainian clubs participating in European were granted permission to hold the European cup matches on Ukrainian stadiums.
"FC Metalist again emphasises that continues to require a strict compliance with the contract. The club continues to negotiate with Sebastian Blanco."
ESPN FC's France correspondent Ian Holyman contributed to this report.