GIRONA “Yes, I signed him when I was eighteen.” The speaker is Jordi Gratacós, who talks to ARA about the landing of Artem Dovbyk in Montilivi. Gratacós knows him well, in Dovbyk. The coach from Banyol, who gathers a long experience around the world, was the sporting director of Dnipro between 2012 and 2015. At that time, Dovbyk was already scoring goals. Now, at the age of twenty-six, he will do them at Girona, because he is the one chosen to replace Castellanos at the point of attack. According to some sources, it will cost around seven million euros, but the Girona club will only keep 50% of its rights.
“He played in Cherkasy and excelled there. I didn’t need to be told about it, he attracted attention. The team didn’t have much level, but he already had the physique he has now. He was very developed, he was very corpulent for the his age and that allowed him to make the difference,” explains Gratacós, whose influence in Ukraine has been key to the country’s training successes in recent championships, such as the U-20 World Cup won in 2019. His past in the academies of Barça allowed him to sow his own style in Eastern Europe which years later, with footballers like Mudryk, Lunin and Dovbyk, is reaping its fruits.
Gratacós remembers the talks he had with Dovbyk, who first had to earn his place in the second team, surrounded by young footballers who did not hide. They were all looking for the same thing: to stand out. “Dnipro, unlike Shakhtar or Dinamo Kyiv, which bet on Brazilians, Africans or Argentines, tries to capture the best talent in the country. It was marked as one of my goals when I arrived in Ukraine.” Dovbyk was. “He is a rather reserved and shy boy, but hardworking, noble and honest and with an immense sense of goalscoring. He already had training, although there were many aspects that had not been explained to him: how to take advantage of spaces, how to fake opponents to create – them, things like that. We met often and talked about it, he likes to learn,” adds the banyolí.
They were not easy years, for Dnipro, which accumulated diamonds in the planter, but which dragged some economic problems that sent it to Segona. Dobvyk, voted best youngster in the League, had to leave and Gratacós was no longer at the club. The lack of money was so serious that the institution went bankrupt. Dnipro-1, founded in 2015, took over the entire infrastructure. In Ukraine it is difficult to distinguish some clubs, because Dnipro is a very popular name in sports. It refers to the Dnieper River, which crosses the country. With promotion to Primera, this new Dnipro-1 brought back Dovbyk, who was in Denmark, to Midtjylland. Last year he scored 29 goals in 39 games and a couple of days ago he scored a goal in the preliminary Champions League, in which the Ukrainian team was eliminated by Panathinaikos.
“S’assembla a Haaland”
But what characteristics does the future striker of Girona have? “He can play up front, as a reference, or be more versatile and position himself as a second striker. He has many profiles at the same time, which is why he is such a coveted piece. In spaces and in driving he is quick and defines well, and in small spaces as well. His execution would stand out. He needs few contacts to score: one, or control and finish. So many qualities make him very attractive on an international scale,” sums up Gratacós, who compares him to Manchester City star Erling Haaland. Saving distances, of course. “He looks like him. Because of his explosiveness and power, he’s hard to stop. He can play faces, he puts his body well. He’s technically good and it’s difficult to bring him down.”
The bar is high, because Castellanos has left Montilivi scoring 14 goals. And in the shadow is Cristhian Stuani, the top goalscorer in Girona’s history, who this pre-season, despite his seniority, continues with his sense of smell intact. “First he will have to go through a process of adaptation, he will know a new culture and live with different traditions”, emphasizes the coach from Banyol, who recommends “not to put pressure on him to mark differences from the first moment, because not everything is so fluid”.
At this point it is inevitable to think of Viktor Tsygankov, his partner in adventures in the national team and with whom he will match in the white-and-red forward. “I was surprised, he had an incredible ease to demonstrate his game.” In just half a season at Montilivi, Tsygankov has become undisputed. “Hopefully the same thing will happen, but we don’t know. You can’t compare them, no two people are the same. It’s obviously a very good positive conditioning, but it will have to go little by little. What we know is that Dovbyk is a very good bet for Girona,” concludes Gratacós.
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