One constant in FC Shakhtar Donetsk's transformation into a domestic and European force in the last decade has been the presence of Răzvan Raţ.
Signed in July 2003 from FC Rapid București in his native Romania, the left-back is the Pitmen's longest-serving player. During his ten years in the Donbass region, Shakhtar have developed into one of eastern Europe's most eminent clubs, winning six of their seven Ukrainian Premier League titles and becoming the first side to lift a major European trophy – the 2009 UEFA Cup – since the country's independence.
"We are a team who have brought a very positive image to Donetsk, and to Ukraine in general," the 31-year-old told UEFA.com. "We have also developed a positive image for ourselves. Certainly, it is very important that the name Shakhtar is in the foreground when people talk about football."
That UEFA Champions League football has become a near-permanent fixture in Donetsk has helped in this regard – this campaign is the seventh in the last ten seasons in which Shakhtar have competed in the group stage – but only once before have they reached the last eight.
To change that, Mircea Lucescu's men must score in Germany on Tuesday when they take on Borussia Dortmund in their round of 16 second leg, having drawn 2-2 at home last month. Should they advance, then the 86-cap Romanian international believes a trip to Wembley in May is not out of the question.
"Every game in the Champions League gives you experience and confidence in your own ability, particularly when you win," said Raţ, who featured in the quarter-final loss to FC Barcelona in 2010/11. "Shakhtar have reached a certain level now, where we can play on an equal footing with the great European teams, and we have a real chance to progress towards the final."
A London date in three months' time would certainly be a special way for one of Shakhtar's most loyal servants to end his tenth term in the club's distinctive orange and black colours.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.