Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk have confirmed the appointment of Vitória Guimarães coach Luís Castro on a two-year contract. The Portuguese replaces countryman Paulo Fonseca, who left Shakhtar to join Italian giants AS Roma earlier this week.
Castro leaves Vitória after just one season in charge, during which the team finished 5th in the Primeira Liga last term, but the 57-year-old’s reputation for developing young players and cultivating attacking football has led to Shakhtar offering the Portuguese his first coaching experience abroad.
“This is a special moment for me,” Castro said. “I was very happy about the invitation of Shakhtar. I had several offers in my hands to make a decision. But as soon as I received Shakhtar’s offer, I looked only towards this club..
“I can promise [the fans] that we will work hard and fully devote ourselves to our job, we will be ambitious and maintain the winners’ spirit, which will lead us to successful results. Good performance is a foundation. The players are also set to perform as best as possible because our expectations are very high.
“The management of Shakhtar provides the most comfortable conditions for everyone working in the club. And our duty is to give our best to the fans. We will do this in every training and game in order to get more competent and conquer new heights.”
A coach for over twenty years, Castro has replaced Fonseca once already, stepping in at Porto in 2014 after his predecessor’s resignation. However, filling Fonseca’s shoes in Donetsk is a far greater challenge, with the new Roma boss leaving behind a club offering glowing tributes to their outgoing manager following a highly successful three years under his watch.
“We followed Shakhtar and we know that in recent years the team have won multiple titles,” Castro said. “Paulo Fonseca did a great job here: three league titles, three Cups, a Super Cup, and advancing from the group in the Champions League. Shakhtar is a club that is used to winning and wants to continue doing so. I am very glad that I’ve got the opportunity to work here.
“I want [the football] to be high-quality, attacking, and with lots of scoring chances. We should play safely in defensive terms, but to have the scoring objective all the time. And we definitely need our fans to be happy. So that people watch our games in Europe and understand that Shakhtar are getting better and stronger each time, that they are ready to play in the international arena.
“This is not an easy task, but I know the players’ attributes and I understand that it’s always possible to get better. I am determined to continue the work that Paulo began, and I hope that everything will be really successful.”
Castro a long-term target for Shakhtar
Meanwhile, Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov revealed Castro is someone the club have been monitoring for some time. “We say welcome to Luís. I am very pleased that this specialist is with us today and that he is the manager of Shakhtar,” Akhmetov said in his statement.
“Why him? As you remember, a year ago we negotiated with Paulo to extend the contract. Had we not agreed, I would have very much liked to invite Luís Castro. My assistants, our management always closely monitor coaching ideas. They said that this specialist fits our philosophy and style of play, and that he will delight our fans with some bright, attacking, spectacular and winning performance.
“He’s got great ideas. He is a very strong specialist. We pin great hopes on him, and I am convinced that he will succeed.”
Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin added that Castro is viewed as a long-term appointment with the club’s academy in mind. “You know, we have a lot of young football players in the academy, as well as the guys who joined the team,” Palkin said. “Ukraine reached the U20 World Cup final with five or six guys from our academy playing there. We have a lot of great young players, it’s important for us that the new coach could introduce young people and work with them.
“This is consistent with our strategy. And Luís Castro today meets all the criteria that we have. Our objective is to find a manager who would stay with the club for many years, who would develop the club and make it increasingly stronger. Still, it's difficult to change a coach every season or once in two seasons. Each change of coach brings certain changes. God willing that those changes are for the better, not for the worse. Finding the coach is not easy.”
By Sean Gillen