New €8m signing Cristiano Lucarelli was meeting FC Shakhtar Donetsk fans for the first time today after accepting an offer he could not refuse in Ukraine.
The 31-year-old's decision to become the first Italian player in the Ukrainian Premier League caused consternation in Serie A, but the AS Livorno Calcio hero made it clear the move made perfect sense. "Believe me, they made me an offer that I could not refuse," he said. Local media suggest his three-season contract in Donetsk will net the forward €13.5m.
Lucarelli was not available for the opening game of the new season - Sunday's 1-1 draw between Shakhtar and eternal rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv - but was presented to fans for the first time today, showcasing his skills and meeting supporters at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium. Still rusty after his summer holidays, the No99 feels he needs a few weeks to return to full fitness.
On joining Shakhtar, Lucarelli explained his motives, saying: "After scoring 102 goals in Serie A, I needed a new challenge. The offer from Shakhtar came just at the right time. I didn't even look at offers from other Italian clubs as I don't want to betray Livorno fans. I could have moved to Spain, England, France or Portugal, but decided to choose Ukraine."
For many, that was a mystifying decision. However, the striker feels the club's regular campaigns in Europe - particularly in the UEFA Champions League - make them ideal employers. "As for Ukraine, many in Europe now know that it's a young, forward-looking country, where everyone loves football," he added. "You could see that at the 2006 [FIFA] World Cup in Germany."
Shakhtar pulled off a previous coup in bringing Nevio Scala to Donetsk, with the Italian coach leading them to a league and cup double in his debut season in 2002/03. Scala also had a hand in bringing Lucarelli to Ukraine. The striker consulted the coach before moving east, with Scala saying: "Move to Ukraine - you won't regret it." Fans will soon know whether he made a wise decision.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.