FC Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu made history on Monday when he embarked on his 3,417th day in the job to become the club's longest-serving coach.
It represented another momentous occasion for Lucescu as he broke a 44-year-old record held by Oleg Oshenkov, who initiated Shakhtar's rise to prominence by overseeing their first major titles – back-to-back USSR Cup wins in 1961 and 1962 – during nine years at the helm.
By the time Lucescu was appointed on 16 May 2004 with 25 years of coaching experience under his belt, Shakhtar had gone on to add just six more cup trophies and a solitary league title – their championship triumph secured under the stewardship of Nevio Scala in 2002. Memories of their underwhelming past were quick to fade, however, as 'Mister' Lucescu earned legendary status by steering his team to two straight league crowns.
Now 68, Lucescu has won seven national titles and five domestic cups in addition to the 2008/09 UEFA Cup, when Shakhtar produced a technically driven defensive masterclass to edge out SV Werder Bremen 2-1 after extra time in the Istanbul showpiece. Lucescu's charges have since flirted with UEFA Champions League glory, succumbing at the quarter-final juncture to eventual winners FC Barcelona in 2010/11.
Last term, they came unstuck against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, twice surrendering the lead to draw 2-2 in Donetsk before being overwhelmed 3-0 in the second leg. It was a defeat attributed to a team in transition following the loss of key playmaker Willian in the January transfer window. Shakhtar's hand was further weakened six months later when adroit dribbler Henrikh Mkhitaryan joined Dortmund, while Manchester City FC lured defensive midfielder Fernandinho.
A new era has thus dawned for Lucescu, who sought to rebuild his empire this summer by capturing Brazilian midfielders Bernard and Fred and 21-year-old striker Wellington Nem, among others. Just how quickly these youngsters can adapt to the methods and standards that Lucescu demands is likely to determine the Pitmen's success on the domestic and European fronts this season.
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