Arsenal are set to make Mykola Matviyenko the most expensive Ukrainian player since Roman Abramovich lured Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea after being linked with a £26.5 million ($34.7 million) move for the Shakhtar Donetsk star.
Chelsea sent shockwaves through the Premier League by breaking their transfer record to sign Shevchenko for £30 million ($39.3 million) from AC Milan in the early stages of Roman Abramovich’s reign, but Arsenal will come close to eclipsing the top fee for a Ukrainian player, which has stood for almost 14 years, if they succeed with a move for Matviyenko.
Gunners coach Mikel Arteta is believed to have recommended Matviyenko to Manchester City last summer, when he was assistant to Pep Guardiola, with whom he encountered the 23-year-old defender twice as City took on Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Arsenal have made an opening bid involving a £4.5 million ($5.9 million) initial loan fee covering the rest of the season, before paying £22 million ($28.8 million) to complete the transfer at the end of the campaign, according to TEAM1.
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Matviyenko has been with Shakhtar since 2015, making his debut as a teenager. Eighteen of his 23 appearances for the club have come this season, including his Champions League debut as Luis Castro’s side finished third in their group to ensure a Europa League place.
Arsenal have conceded 34 goals in 24 league games this season and have kept only two clean sheets in seven matches under Arteta.
Left-back Matviyenko could be seen as a more reliable option than Kieran Tierney, who arrived for £25 million ($32.8 million) from Celtic last summer but has been restricted to just five Premier League appearances through injuries.
Arteta will hope Matviyenko can replicate the promise of international teammate Oleksandr Zinchenko, who signed a new five-year contract at City before the start of this season, having joined from Russian Premier League club Ufa for around £1.7 million ($2.2 million) in 2016.
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Matviyenko has shown his versatility for Shakhtar and Ukraine, often playing at center-back for the national team.
Speaking before Shakhtar played City in October, he said: “I just need a couple of training sessions and then I am ready to play in any position.”
Shevchenko, who admitted he joined Chelsea in 2006 because of owner Abramovich’s “persistence”, scored only nine goals in 48 Premier League appearances and was not named in the club’s Champions League squad before leaving for Dynamo Kiev in 2009.
Ex-Dynamo coach Jozhef Kabo told Sport.ua it was “too early” for Matviyenko to play in the Premier League.
“If the transfer does not happen, I do not think the interest in him will disappear,” added the former Ukraine manager.
“Of our players in Europe, Andriy Shevchenko clearly managed to prove himself. But he also faced difficulties when he moved from Serie A.
“In such a strong championship as the Premier League, you need to go absolutely ready for competition.
“It’s very heavy, energy consuming and dominated by a tough game that not all athletes are prepared for.
“Matviyenko needs to gain experience and improve his conditioning.
“He has just recently become a major player in Shakhtar’s defense and the national team. He still has a lot to learn.”
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