Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin insists Arsenal offered the same amount as Chelsea for Mykhaylo Mudryk and it was just a “visual impression” that the Gunners were closest to his signature.
The Blues sealed a €100m deal to sign Mudryk last week in a shock to many after it was assumed that the Gunners were in pole position for the Ukraine international’s signature.
Mudryk signed an eight-and-a-half year contract at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea unveiling the winger on the pitch at half-time in their 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend.
And now Palkin, in an interview with The Athletic‘s Adam Crafton, has revealed all the details of January’s biggest transfer saga as Arsenal – who are now considering alternatives – lost out to Chelsea.
On when he realised Chelsea would be Mudryk’s destination, Palkin told The Athletic: “I realised two days ago (Saturday) when Chelsea arrived here — the co-owner Behdad Eghbali and (director of global talent and transfers) Paul Winstanley. They came to Antalya in Turkey (where Shakhtar have been at a training camp during their domestic season’s winter break).
“Before Chelsea arrived, I did not know they were close, because I communicated with Arsenal in the same way as I had with Chelsea. Even I can tell you more: I met Arsenal more times than Chelsea. Therefore, before this last meeting, Arsenal was close, or a little bit closer to this deal than Chelsea.”
On how many times he met Arsenal, Palkin said: “If you don’t count telephone conversations, it was three times.”
Arsenal were seen as favourites for Mudryk’s signature for weeks and when asked what changed, the Shakhtar chief responded: “From my point of view, (this) is why everybody talked about Arsenal. It is because Arsenal contacted the player almost one and a half months before they contacted us.
“Can you imagine, for example, to have (the Arsenal coach) Mikel Arteta, (Arsenal’s Ukrainian player) Oleksandr Zinchenko and the sporting director (Edu) calling you, to have Arsenal calling you almost every day, every two days, every three days?
“You can want or not want the move but you follow this kind of reception and contacts. If you talk about Chelsea, they called me at the end of December and asked if they can contact Mudryk because they are interested in him and want to talk with him.
“I said, ‘No problem, you can contact him’. The first time they contacted him was around the end of December or the start of January. They contacted the player and the agent of the player and they met the financial conditions.
“Therefore, why did many people around it have the impression that Mudryk was going to Arsenal? It is because Arsenal contacted him and then Mudryk started to watch some games of Arsenal. But negotiations are negotiations. When you didn’t close everything, when you did not (close) the last dot, then you cannot finish the deal. Therefore it was just an outside visual impression that Mudryk is close to Arsenal.”
Asked if Arsenal had asked for their permission to speak to Mudryk, Palkin replied: “When I met Arsenal and they mentioned they had already talked to the player and they had contacted the player, to be honest, I knew beforehand that they had started to contact him. I said, ‘OK, you start to contact him but first of all you should close it with us’. But OK, we have what we have.”
On whether they made a complaint to FIFA over Arsenal’s approach, Palkin added: “We didn’t do a formal complaint. They did what they did.”
There has been speculation that Arsenal were unwilling to meet Shakhtar’s asking price but Palkin has revealed that both offers from Chelsea and the Gunners were for the same €100m fee.
Palkin continued: “Overall, it was the same. Not approximately the same — it was the same figure. The fixed part, variable part, bonuses. But if you look inside the fixed part and bonuses, it was completely different.”
When pushed on it, Palkin revealed further details, he said: “Different time (schedule) of the payments, different kinds of bonuses. Yes, we can talk about bonuses, but these bonuses should be somehow achievable and realistic, let’s say.
“Therefore, in this case, Chelsea was much more serious and fair in some points. When we met Chelsea, we stayed all together. For you to understand the context, it was for nine or 10 hours.
“They invited the player and explained to us the whole project. We realised that, yes, if you look right now, Chelsea have some kinds of problems but it is normal because they have a transition period from one owner to another. It is understandable.
“They would like to change a lot. So when they explain to you the whole story and you look for the next two, three, four, five years, then you see they have a serious project. I believe they will build one of the best clubs in the world because I am telling you, they are very serious in all directions: sports science, the stadium side, the commercial side, on all things. For us, they looked very ambitious.”
READ MORE: Top ten €100m Premier League transfers to come after Mudryk joins Chelsea