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Shakhtar Donetsk owner Rinat Akhmetov has threatened to fine a host of players who have failed to return to Ukraine amid fear for their safety due to the ongoing conflict in the capital.
Brazilians Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Ismaily plus Argentinian striker Facundo Ferreyra have refused to return to the club and have instead stayed in France, where the club played Lyon in a friendly on Saturday.
Akhmetov released a statement on the club’s website warning the players that they will suffer if they don’t return and could potentially owe the club millions.
“It is true, six team players have not come,” said Akhmetov.
“I don’t rule out that these players will return to the team quickly and some of them tomorrow. Players have contracts that they have to abide by.
“If they do not come, I think, they will be the first to suffer. Each of them has a minimum release clause, which is tens of millions of euros.
“If someone wants to reduce this amount by a million, then such a decision is our right. There won’t be a clearance sale.
“Hopefully, the mind and heart will prevail over misunderstanding, and the players will not follow temptation and fear.”
Later on in the statement, the owner admitted that the club will not take any risks with the players’ safety.
He added: “There is nothing to fear. We are ready to provide security. We will not take risks and in any case we won’t bring players to dangerous places.”
But with the new season starting this Saturday, Shakhtar don’t have a stadium to play in with the Ukrainian Football Federation yet to decide a suitable location for the club to play their home games.
The Donbass Arena is in the centre of Donestk, currently held by pro-Russian fighters.
“We want to play in Donetsk very much, but, unfortunately, at the moment we cannot do it,” said Akhmetov.
“We will play where we will be allowed to: we would like to do it in Kharkiv. The decision regarding the championship is taken by the Ukrainian Football Federation. Through our game, we will call for peace and try to bring joy to our fans.”
Yesterday, separatist leader Sergei Kavtaradze said Ukrainian government forces were trying to break into Donetsk and fighting was under way near the city’s railway station.
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