Yarmolenko must stay cool in Euro 2016 heat

Kiev (AFP) – Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko is one of a host of players hoping to use Euro 2016 to get a ticket out of his crisis-hit country to England’s Premier League but he may have to calm his temper.

Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City are among clubs linked to a 32 million euro bid to sign the 26-year-old playmaker. 

Everton failed to sign Yarmolenko — who has 13 goals in 23 games for Dynamo Kiev — after negotiations unravelled last year. They may try again.

But the Ukrainian flagship club’s president, Igor Surkis, has said he would only consider an offer for Yarmolenko from a “top club”.

“My position is that we should not let Yarmolenko go to clubs like Everton and Stoke City,” Surkis told Ukrainian television, adding that transfer negotiations would begin after the European Championship finals.

He has also turned down big money offers from China.

“We are playing in the Champions League and Stoke City is fighting for survival.”

If he signs with a big foreign club, Yarmolenko would join Sevilla’s Yevhen Konoplyanka leading Ukraine’s foreign legion.

Yarmolenko helped Dynamo reach the Champions League’s round of 16 this year for the first time in more than 15 years. 

Since joining the national team in 2009, Yarmolenko has earned 57 caps and scored 23 goals, trailing only retired striker Andriy Shevchenko in the national team’s goalscoring rankings.

– Fiery temper –

Yarmolenko started with Ukraine’s FC Desna Chernihiv in 2006 after spending one year as a junior with Dynamo Kiev where he struggled with the training regimen.

But Dynamo kept an eye on the forward, offering him a five-year contract in December 2016 after solid appearances with Chernihiv.

Early in his career Yarmolenko was compared to Shevchenko, who had an illustrious career with Dyname Kiev, Milan and Chelsea and won the 2004 Ballon d’Or. 

Yarmolenko’s international career has occasionally delivered striking moments, including a cross that led to a headed goal by Shevchenko in Ukraine’s 2-1 win against Sweden at Euro 2012.

Yarmolenko will have to cool his fiery temper to ensure success on the international stage after a mass brawl against Shakhtar Donetsk on May 1 soured relations with Ukraine teammate Taras Stepanenko. 

During the scuffle, Yarmolenko kicked Stepanenko after the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder celebrated a goal during his team’s 3-0 win against Dynamo. 

Yarmolenko was suspended for three matches and fined 50,000-hryvnia ($2,000) over the incident. 

Stepanenko told Ukrainian television his “friendship is over” with Yarmolenko but would try to forget the incident for the sake of the national team. 

“The incident was intentional and he could have broken my knee,” Stepanenko said. “On the field, we are a team and I give it my all. But off the field, I’m not required to associate and have friendly relations with a given person.”

Ukraine manager Mykhalylo Fomenko has the uneasy task of ensuring rows involving Yarmolenko do not seep into the team’s play. 

Fomenko’s squad failed to reach the 2014 World Cup finals as fighting raged between pro-Russian separatists and government troops in east Ukraine.

Ukraine also struggled in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, finishing third in their group.

The team beat Slovenia 3-1 in a playoff to qualify for the tournament, breaking its losing streak in the qualifying play-offs.

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