Club: Dynamo Kiev
Age: 23 (23/10/89)
Previous clubs: Desna Chernihiv
International debut: September 2009,
Caps: 14 (5 goals)
Tradition plays a huge role in bringing up new stars at Dynamo Kiev. Andriy Shevchenko watched the great Oleg Blokhin play for his club in the 1980s while a ball boy and he has repeatedly said that the current national coach’s performances were an excellent example for him to follow. Now it is Shevchenko who is the role model for the club’s latest rising star.
“When I was eight I watched the beautiful goals scored by the Dynamo no7 against Barcelona and I dreamed of carrying on Sheva’s great tradition at the club,” says Yarmolenko, who these days plays alongside his hero.
“Yarmolenko is the future of Ukrainian football,” says Shevchenko. “He is one of the best of the new generation. He has a rare combination of physical strength and football intelligence.
“He has already proved the top player both for the club and the national side.”
Shakhtar Donetsk were also keen on the 16-year-old who scored Desna Chernihiv’s winner against Spartak Sumy on his debut in 2005, but Dynamo moved quickly to give their former academy player a second chance, signing him on a five-year deal. After two seasons in the reserves, he scored on his Ukraine Premier League debut in a 2-1 victory over Vorskla Poltava in May 2008, and in his first full season he scored seven goals in 28 games when used by ex-coach Valery Gazzaev as either a left-back or a winger.
“The coach wanted to use my speed and technical skills on the left, so it was a real test for me to readjust in the interest of the team,” says Yarmolenko.
Yuri Semin, who returned to coach Dynamo in December 2010, offered him even more opportunities and he scored 11 goals during the 2010-11 season.
“Yarmolenko is the most industrious and inventive player in the squad,” says Semin. “Every game, whether it is in the league or in Europe, his work rate is 20 per cent higher than anyone.”
Rubin Kazan bid nearly £8million for him in June, while Napoli were ready to add £2m more, but Dynamo president Ihor Surkis would not sell, saying: “Yarmolenko is our greatest hope and we believe he will help us win the Premier League this season”.
Yarmolenko’s goal after 15 seconds against Uruguay in September was the country’s fastest at international level and he is now a squad regular. “When he puts his game together he is unstoppable,” says Blokhin.
By Oleg Zadernovsky
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of World Soccer.