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By ESPN Staff
Jul 23, 2014

Shakhtar to relocate, stars still AWOL

Six of Shakhtar Donetsk's best players have refused to return to Ukraine after playing a friendly against Lyon in France.

Mircea Lucescu has confirmed that Shakhtar Donetsk will be based in Kiev and play home games in Lviv as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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However, the coach is uncertain whether that will lead to the club's AWOL players agreeing to return.

Donetsk is currently controlled by pro-Russian rebels, with the Ukrainian army attempting to regain control of the city, and six players -- Alex Teixeira, Fred, Dentinho, Douglas Costa, Facundo Ferreyra and Ismaily -- opted to stay in Geneva after a recent friendly against Lyon, citing security concerns.

Lucescu told the Segodnya newspaper that agent Kia Joorabchian had persuaded the players not to return as he wants to free them from their contracts "just to make money," but he subsequently said he expected Fred, Dentinho and Ismaily to return.

However, Dentinho -- along with Teixeira and Costa -- insisted that there were no plans to return. The trio told the Globo newspaper in their native Brazil that they were seeking answers from the club about where they would be based and that the safety of their families was their primary concern.

"We are afraid and don't want to put the lives of our families, nor our own, at risk," Dentinho said.

Lucescu told the media, in quotes reported on the club's official website, that he did not know when Shakhtar would be able to return to their own Donbass Arena but that temporary arrangements are now in place to ensure the players' safety.

"We will play all of our home games at the Arena Lviv [for now]," he said after his side's 2-0 Ukrainian Supercup victory over Dinamo Kiev at the stadium on Tuesday night. "We got the OK to play in this city.

"We'll train and reside in Kiev, and Arena Lviv will be our home arena. The team liked the city and the atmosphere here was great. Usually, when we play against Karpaty [Lviv], we come here on the match day's eve and see only the hotel and the stadium. We've stayed here for three days this time and saw the beauty of this city. We've decided to hold our Champions League games in Lviv as well."

Dinamo Kiev, Karpaty Lviv and Shakhtar Donetsk fans attended a 'March of Unity' in Lviv ahead of the Supercup, calling for the union of the country and shouting slogans against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lviv, in western Ukraine, is some 600 miles from the eastern city of Donetsk while Kiev is around 350 miles away, but Lucescu is uncertain whether that will convince the players to return.

Wellington Nem, who has been recovering from injury, and Brazil international Bernard, who is still on holiday after representing his country at the World Cup, were also absent from the side that claimed the Ukrainian Supercup in Lviv.

"We had eight players missing in our team -- the six who did not return, plus Wellington and Bernard," Lucescu said. "This is too much, to be honest. It's not yet known who will return and who won't."

Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin told his club's official website he was hopeful that the players can be convinced to represent the club again.

"Now we have the period of persuading them that it's OK in Ukraine, they can play here, reside and live a normal life," he said. "This is the main task for today, because many people are scared. In the future, I hope, everything will improve and get back on track. If not, there are other mechanisms to be involved."

Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov had earlier told the R-Sport news agency that the players would not be allowed to leave in cut-price deals.

"Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros," he said. "If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won't be clearance sale!"

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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