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07-Nov-2020, 04:05 pm

'Perfect for Barcelona' - Why did Guardiola signing Chygrynskiy flop at Camp Nou?

Chygrynskiy Pep Guardiola Barcelona GFX

Barcelona signed Dmytro Chygrynskiy for €25 million (£22m/$29m) in 2009. He was sold back to Shakhtar Donetsk the following year after playing just 851 minutes for the Catalan club.

Recruited the same summer as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Chygrynskiy's arrival at Camp Nou may have been overshadowed by that of the Swedish superstar but the Ukrainian looked an ideal defender for then-coach Pep Guardiola.

Boasting a towering presence in the box but supreme confidence on the ball, Chygrynskiy was expected to provide Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Rafael Marquez with stiff competition for a starting spot at the heart of the Barca backline.

The Catalans needed little convincing of his qualities either.

Chygrynskiy had made his Champions League debut against Barca in 2005, when he was still only a teenager, and caught the attention of Guardiola after impressing in Shakhtar's shock 3-2 win over the Blaugrana in the group stage of the 2008-09 Champions League.

Indeed, he was snapped up just a few months later, thus becoming the first Ukrainian to ever represent the Catalan club.

The centre-back got off to a solid start, playing his part in a hard-fought 2-0 win over Getafe on his Liga debut.

"I want to thank my team-mates and coaches because they gave me confidence, which is very important for a player – I am very pleased," Chygrynskiy told reporters after the match.

"Everyone speaks Spanish and I expect that I will be able to learn it. It is difficult now, but it is a question of time. For now, Pique and Yaya Toure speak to me in English, but I want to learn Spanish."

Aside from the language barrier,Chygrynskiy also struggled with the same nagging knee problem that had forced him to pull out of Ukraine's squad for the 2006 World Cup.

Consequently, he quickly began to struggle after a reasonably solid start to his Barca career and he had a night for forget in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey last-16 clash with Sevilla in January 2010, giving away the decisive penalty in a 2-1 defeat on home soil.

The fans began to turn onChygrynskiy, but Guardiola continued to back him.

"Dima is a fantastic player and the more he gets whistled, the more support we will give him, because he has many years ahead of him here," the Barca boss said at the time.

"It will take him more than others to settle inbecause of where he has come from and the price we paid, but if anyone is responsible, it's me– not him."

Chygrynskiy, though, was beginning to struggle mentally, as he found himself consigned to the bench on a weekly basis.

"When I signed for BarcaI didn't think I was going to play without any problems immediately, but nor did I know it was going to be so hard," he told the Associated Press .

"Here, there's more pressure from people and from the media, and the style of play is also very different to Ukraine. Desire is one thing; reality is another."

After his horror show against Sevilla,Chygrynskiy only made four further appearances before Barca decided in the summer of 2010 they were willing to accept a €10m (£9m/$11.8m) loss on a player who was still desperate to prove his worth.

"I did not want to leave. But I had to leave, becauseBarcelonahad debts and they wanted to bring down their wages. Shakhtar wanted to buy me back for €15m (£13.5m/$17.8m) andBarcelonadecided this was a good solution,"Chygrynskiy said in 2015.

"I wanted to stay andJosep Guardiolasaid he was counting on me. I was sorry, but I do not regret anything. It was a great experience."

Returning to Shakthar,Chygrynskiy was arguably never the same again as he failed to reclaim his regular starting berth before departing for Dnipro in 2015.

After a disappointing 18 months, the defender then signed for AEK Athens and has since carved out a solid if unspectacular career in Greece – a world away from the grandeur of Camp Nou.

As a long-haired central defender, Chygrynskiy was compared to Puyol when he first joined Barca and he was clearly weighed down by the pressure of trying to live up to a legend, which was unfortunate.

As Puyol himself later admitted, Chygrynskiy should have proven a sensational signing.

"Barca is a difficult team to play for, particularly at centre-back," the World Cup winner said onthe Take the Ball, Pass the Ball documentary. "If you make a couple of early mistakes, the fans get on your back and the pressure really builds.

"But Chygrynskiy’s qualities were perfect for Barca."

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