Mykhailo Mudryk has seemingly come out of nowhere to become a top target for Arsenal and Chelsea this transfer window, with transfer prices discussed in the region of £80 million. The floppy-haired left-winger is exciting to watch; he possesses lightning speed and dazzling dribbling ability. Videos demonstrating Mudryk’s precise technical skills have been circulating on social media for over a year now, with his glue-like touch and mesmerising juggling going viral. Although discourse surrounding the young attacker is reaching new heights every day, he’s been impressing for far longer than just this past month. So who is he, where did he come from, and why is he being dubbed the ‘Ukrainian Neymar’?
Mudryk plies his trade for the Ukrainian Super Cup title holders: FC Shakhtar Donetsk, who boast a number of notable ex-players that have had prosperous careers in Europe such as Fernandinho, Willian, and Mkhitaryan. He joined Shakhtar’s academy in 2016, after stints at the academies of Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro. After playing in the youth teams, it didn’t take long for Mykhailo to make his professional debut – he played 21 minutes in a Ukrainian Cup match aged just 17. After loan moves to Arsenal Kyiv and Desna Chernihiv, the inexperienced player was ready to be considered for regular first team action in the 2021/22 season. That season proved to be Mudryk’s breakthrough, he netted 2 goals and made a superb 9 assists, completing 1.14 goal contributions per 90 – impressive numbers!
As previously mentioned, the Ukrainian international’s primary position is at left wing, although he can play on the opposite wing or at attacking midfield. Most of Mudryk’s goals and assists are made by harnessing his main abilities – pace, dribbling, or a combination of them both. Two primary examples of his goal-scoring can be seen in a pair of matches against Scottish champions Celtic in the Champions League. In the first bout, Mudryk makes a run from outside to in, and is found with a though ball, takes one touch to set, then smashes the ball into the roof of the net. The reverse fixture sees the pick of the bunch. The dangerman picks up the ball in the centre circle on a counter-attack, runs directly at the closest defender, jinks inside of him and two more defenders, before rifling a strike into the top left corner. Scoring goals isn’t the limit of Mudryk’s extensive skillset – he looks to set up goals too. Mudryk likes to isolate his full back by trying to beat him to the by-line before crossing, or using trickery to create a yard for a pass inside. Both of these methods yielded an assist in UCL match versus RB Leipzig.
The numbers put up by the young star in 2022-23 are incredible, with 7 goals and 6 assists in the VBet Premjer-Liha this term, topping the charts for assists and goal contributions. His more detailed stats in the Champions League make for even more impressive reading however, being in the 94th percentile for dribbles completed, 97th for non-penalty goals, 91st for goal creating actions and crosses, and finally in the 96th percentile for through balls when compared to other players in the tournament*. These efforts in the Champions League catapulted Mudryk onto the European stage, though due to Shakhtar finishing 3rd in their group, he will have to settle for Europa League football – that’s unless he makes a move to a side still in the Champions League – Chelsea perhaps!
If Mykhailo Mudryk does move this January for anything close to the reported fee, he will become the most expensive 21-year-old ever, taking the crown off a player that he’s heavily likened to: Neymar. I fear that Shakhtar will demand a fee heavily in excess of his £35.2 million valuation on transfermarkt.com, but any sizeable overpayment could put too much pressure on the shoulders of a young Mudryk and spoil his enormous potential. Although putting up impressive numbers, the sample size is very small, and the Ukrainian league is hardly the most competitive – being ranked 16th by the UEFA league coefficient. Despite this, Shakhtar’s star has shone brightly at the highest level of football, caught the eye with his exciting skills, and won many admirers in the process. It is clear that there is absolutely no cap on the ceiling of Mudryk. Hopefully he makes the right move to a club where he can reach even greater heights. He’s got a long way to go, but I think Mykhailo Mudryk has everything it takes to develop into the first Ukrainian superstar since Shevchenko – maybe he too can win a Ballon d’Or someday!
Stats from FBREF.com