Exclusive: Why Mykhailo Modric joined Chelsea and not Arsenal – by Shakhtar CEO
Chelsea boiled Mykhailo Modric from under the noses Premier League Leaders and opponents of London, Arsenal during the Weekend.
in €100m (£88.7m, $108.2m)The deal is a record for a Ukrainian player and for Shakhtar Donetsk, who sold it.
The 22-year-old winger was shown on the pitch in the first half during Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace On Sunday, after signing a seven-and-a-half-year contract.
Here, says Shakhtar CEO Sergey Balkin the athleteAdam Crafton:
- How Arsenal contacted the player ‘in October or November’ last year – a month before they formalized their interest with Shakhtar
- The two London clubs offered the same amount for Modric, but the add-ons included in Chelsea’s offer were more “achievable and realistic”.
- Why Shakhtar suspected the sale might be pushed back to the summer until Chelsea’s interest crystallized last week
- How Chelsea’s new owners are overseeing a project to ‘build one of the best clubs in the world’
- Chelsea’s co-owner, Bagdad Eghbali, suggested a future friendly against Shakhtar in Donetsk.
Adam Crafton: A lot of Premier League fans are thrilled with this transfer. It looked like Modric was going to Arsenal, but then, within 24 hours, he joined Chelsea. When did you realize Chelsea would be the destination?
Sergey Balkin: I realized two days ago (Saturday) when Chelsea arrived here – co-owner Bagdad Eghbali and (manager of talent and global transfers) Paul Winstanley. They came to Antalya in Turkey (where Shakhtar were in a training camp during the winter break of their domestic season). Before Chelsea arrived, I didn’t know they were so close, because I connected with Arsenal the same way I did with Chelsea. I can even tell you more: I’ve played Arsenal more times than Chelsea. Therefore, before this last meeting, Arsenal was as close, or a little closer, to this deal than Chelsea.
How often have you met Arsenal?
If you do not count the phone conversations, it was three times.
From our conversations with sources close to the deal, the impression I had was that Arsenal were confident you would find a compromise with them, and we saw the player himself on social media watching Arsenal matches. What changed things in your opinion? Is it Chelsea’s willingness to travel to Turkey and meet the number?
From my point of view, (that) is why everyone is talking about Arsenal. That’s because Arsenal contacted the player almost a month and a half before they contacted us. Can you imagine, for example, that (Arsenal coach) Mikel Arteta (Ukrainian Arsenal player) Oleksandr Zinchenko And the sporting director (Edu) calling you, for Arsenal to call you almost every day, every two days, every three days? You may or may not want this step but you follow this type of reception and contacts. If I talk about Chelsea, they called me at the end of December and asked if they could call Modric because they were interested in him and wanted to talk to him. I said: No problem, you can call him. The first time they called was in late December or early January. Communicate with the player and player’s agent and fulfill the financial conditions. So, why were so many people around him under the impression that Modric was going to Arsenal? That’s because Arsenal called him and then Modric started watching some Arsenal matches. But negotiations are negotiations. When you don’t close everything, when you don’t (close) the last point, you can’t finish the deal. So it was just an outward visual impression that Modric was close to Arsenal.
Is Mykhailo Mudryk – Chelsea’s prospective new striker – really worth the hype?
Were any other clubs close to a deal?
There have been some contacts, but not serious. So it was just two teams.
Have you asked Arsenal if it would be appropriate for them to contact the player before speaking to the club? Usually, clubs file a complaint when this happens.
When I met Arsenal and they mentioned that they had already spoken to the player and reached out to him, to be honest, I knew in advance that they had started contacting him. I said, “Well, you start calling him but first of all you have to shut it down with us”. But okay, we have what we’ve got.
So you did not file a formal complaint to FIFA?
We have not filed a formal complaint. They did what they did.
Our understanding is that in the final performances from the two clubs the overall numbers were basically the same but the difference was the speed of the payout. Is this correct?
In general, it was the same. Not nearly the same – it was the same number. Fixed part, variable part, rewards. But if you look inside the hard part and the bonuses, it was very different.
in which way?
Different times (schedule) payments, different types of bonuses. Yes, we can talk about rewards, but those rewards have to be somehow achievable and realistic, let’s say. So, in this case, Chelsea were more serious and fair on some points. When we met Chelsea, we stayed together. For you to understand the context, that was about nine or 10 hours. They invited the player and explained the whole project to us. We realized, yeah, if you look now, Chelsea have some kinds of problems but that’s normal because they have a transitional period from one owner to another. Concept. They want to change a lot. So when they explain the whole story to you and you look for the next two, three, four, five years, you see they have a serious project. I think they will build one of the best clubs in the world because I tell you they are very serious in all directions: the science of the sport, the pitch side, the business side, in everything. To us, they seemed very ambitious.
Our information is that the Chelsea deal includes add-ons if they win the Premier League or Champions League. Is that accurate?
yes. It has these kinds of rewards.
Is there a clause related to Modric winning the Ballon d’Or?
Chelsea offer does not contain the Golden Ball (item). They are achievable rewards that we feel and feel reachable. Maybe not this year but in the next two, three or four years.
No deadline then? If they win the Premier League or Champions League in 2029, will the rewards still apply?
It’s eight years, or seven and a half years. The term of the contract is eight years – seven plus one.
Did Modric tell you, “Let me leave in January”? Or would he have waited until the summer if you hadn’t let go?
We haven’t had detailed discussions with Modric. He was a professional, and he didn’t push us. He didn’t want to meet us to ask why we didn’t sell him or complain that he wasn’t sold for €50m, €60m. We just said, ‘Mikhailo, we’re in negotiations. We want to help you and we think we’ll finish it, so just relax, train properly and that’s it’. There was no pressure on his part or on the agent’s side. You probably saw his agent doing an interview to say that Modric is a pro, he’s training. Well, they respect that he belongs to Shakhtar.
Did he speak to Chelsea manager Graham Potter before joining the club?
Mykhailo spoke to him this weekend.
On Monday, Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov announced that his team will play a friendly match with Chelsea in Donetsk (when and if that region of Ukraine is no longer occupied by Russian forces). Can you clarify if this is already written in the transfer agreement?
Yes, it is written in the contract. But in fact, we didn’t even need to read it into the contract because Bagdad had talked to our president. Baghdad supports Ukraine So much because it’s American and it’s an English club, so for us that’s a positive triangle because when you say England And Ukraine, it is important that we support the war at this moment. They spoke very well and shook hands. I know because I translated. I liked the conversation very much and I think it doesn’t matter if it’s in the contract or not. It was Bagdad who suggested (Al-Siddiq), because he said he wanted to help Ukraine, help Ukrainian refugees and support the Ukrainian people. For us, this match (in Donetsk) will be a miracle (after they haven’t played in their city since 2014). We’ll have this match every weekend if we can.
Was their conversation with Akhmetov over the phone?
Yes on the phone. He never left Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
Reportedly, $25 million from the deal will go directly to aid the medical and psychological needs of servicemen who defended Mariupol in Ukraine, or families who have lost loved ones.
No, it’s our president’s money. He will donate it himself to the fund. They are organizing a fund to help the defenders of Mariupol and the families of the defenders who have lost their husbands and fathers.
From the wider reports, it appears Arsenal have made a final bid on Thursday or Friday. Did you speak to Arsenal to tell them it was all over with Chelsea?
Before Chelsea arrived in Turkey, we almost agreed with Arsenal that there was no chance of closing (the deal). When they proposed the final offer of €70m plus €30m (in add-ons), we sat down and started talking internally about how we would meet it in terms of payments and fixed part and bonus issues. We knew we weren’t going to finish this deal (with Arsenal). I told Edo that I did my best but it wasn’t possible.
Was that a relief when Chelsea came?
When Chelsea arrived, they just called and said, ‘Well, we know you’ve negotiated with Arsenal, we know you’re close to some sort of character. We want to meet.’ I said, ‘Okay, let’s meet.’ Definitely in the summer. “Maybe it will cost more in the summer,” I said. We were ready to accept different scenarios. We will not be in a hurry.
So while meeting Chelsea, did you need to keep a poker face to say Arsenal were still involved?
But this football world is very close. I know for sure that everyone knows what’s going on. On the (Arsenal) side, on the Chelsea side, these kinds of negotiations involve a lot of people. There are a lot of journalists around as well. Lots of guys who can provide some kind of information. So, everyone knows what’s going on.
It’s a record deal for a Ukrainian footballer. What does this mean for Ukraine now? To promote someone globally in the world’s biggest league, to have an ambassador carry the Ukrainian flag (which Modric wore as he greeted the crowd on Sunday) at Stamford Bridge…
For social media alone, coverage has reached nearly 60 million across those platforms. I don’t count newspapers or TV channels. Ukraine has got quite high profile coverage all over the world and for us this is a positive promotion for our country. Modryk became the ambassador of Ukraine around the world. I like very much that he went to the Premier League because it is the best league in the world, and England also supports Ukraine a lot. It’s one of the best countries for that, which is very important to us. For the whole world and for Ukraine, this is an important transition. We have context in this transfer: American owners, England, Ukraine – this triangle. Today, we are closer than ever. It’s an important point.
This time last year, Chelsea was owned by (Russian oligarch) Roman Abramovich. He faced sanctions from the British government before selling Chelsea to the new ownership. Now the club is a very different place. Is this also important?
I think yes, because if there is no new owner for Chelsea, there will be a lot of critics in relation to us, because of these kinds of contacts.
Perhaps it is impossible (to make this deal in those circumstances)?
Mudryk makes a statement of intent and shows that the Chelsea owners are fully behind Potter
(Top photo: Joupin Ghamsari/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
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