Meet Alex Teixeira: Shakhtar's latest brilliant Brazilian who could save Chelsea
The 25-year-old forward has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge in January. Marcus Alves introduces the prolific goal-getter who's tearing things up in Ukraine...
“Keep calm and meet the King,” read the words that accompany the image published by Shakhtar Donetsk’s official Twitter account after every Alex Teixeira goal. He’s probably stuck another away since you started reading this piece; the Brazilian forward has been simply unstoppable this season, with a stunning return of 26 goals in 26 matches putting him in contention for the European Golden Shoe award. What's more, he's not even an out-and-out striker.
Forget about Douglas Costa: Teixeira is now the main man at Shakhtar, finally establishing himself as a star after leaving Vasco da Gama five years ago. He will now look to follow the path of his former team-mate Philippe Coutinho, who also started his career in the Rio de Janeiro side’s youth ranks before becoming a key player for one of the world's biggest clubs.
The only difference with his compatriot is that Merseyside doesn't look like being Teixeira's next destination, with Chelsea reportedly leading the race for his signature. The talented 25-year-old could be the answer to the Premier League champions’ awful form this season.
On the move
At the end of October, the Blues’ then-boss Jose Mourinho was invited by Shakhtar’s CEO Sergei Palkin to watch Ukraine’s Euro 2016 qualification match with Spain, which led to rumours that the Portuguese was on the lookout for potential January acquisitions. Teixeira didn't play in that game – he is eligible to obtain Ukrainian citizenship but remains uncapped by both his home and adopted nations – but his displays for his club will certainly have caught the eye of many managers across the continent.
He could have left in the summer, but coach Mircea Lucescu persuaded him to stay put after Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano’s exits to Bayern Munich and Milan respectively. Costa has become one of the Bundesliga’s most exciting and effective performers since joining Bayern, something that will no doubt have been noticed by Teixeira, who is likely to be champing at the bit for his chance in one of Europe’s major leagues.
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Shakhtar announced his signing in December 2009, but it took him longer than expected to make the breakthrough. Once he did, though, the Brazilian proved difficult to stop: Teixeira was named player of the season by the club's fans in 2014/15 ahead of Costa, Adriano and Taison, and has got even better this term. According to his representatives, the fact that he hasn’t earned a senior international cap yet is down solely to his low-profile behaviour.
Himself to himself
Teixeira is indeed different to the countrymen that he has shared the Shakhtar dressing room with; he’s never used the media to complain about his lack of chances with Brazil, the working conditions after the war in Donetsk or his relationship with his manager or team-mates.
Recently, though, he made it clear to the Brazilian press that he wants a transfer. “When Douglas [Costa] and Luiz [Adriano] left last season, the Mister [Lucescu] asked me to stay,” Teixeira admitted. “I obeyed and stayed. But they are aware of my desire to leave now. I think they will make it easier as it’ll also be positive for the team. The president [Rinat Akhmetov] told me the only reason he didn’t let me go before was those two other transfers.
“I read a lot comments [on social media] and I feel there’s some discrimination against the Ukrainian league – it’s not a competition seen that often around Brazil and Europe. The Champions League games are the only ones broadcast. When someone mentions that you’ve already scored 16 goals, they immediately say: ‘Even a blind person would do the same in Ukraine.’
“It’s not like this. Anyone who watches the games knows that there are difficult ones and that the level is not that easy. I want to take advantage of this moment, keep scoring goals and then I know that the time will come for Dunga to look at me.”
While Teixiera has been brilliant domestically, he’s also impressed in the Champions League, netting three times in six matches, including a brace in the 4-3 defeat to Real Madrid. In the most prolific season of his career, he’s demonstrated an ability to play in a number of different positions: up front as the sole striker, behind the centre-forward or even out on the right wing.
Some still question his potential, but Teixeira has overcome doubts before. When Shakhtar bought him as a 19-year-old in 2010, many were unsure whether the youngster from Rio could adapt to the climate. The French-Algerian agent Franck Henouda – the man responsible for many of the deals that have brought dozens of Brazilians to the Ukranian giants – has made no secret of the fact that he prefers to target players from the southern regions of Brazil as they tend to find the move easier.
That wasn't enough to prevent the transfer, however. Teixeira was also linked with Manchester United and Chelsea as a teenager, but ultimately ended up at Shakhtar. His dreams of moving to London could be fulfilled soon, though, with reports suggesting that Chelsea are willing to part with £30m to secure his signature.
The player wants the move to Stamford Bridge, having admitted playing in the Premier League (“the best championship in the world”) is a personal “dream”.
“What I've heard and what my agent has said is that Chelsea, Juventus and PSG have made offers, but Chelsea and Juventus have gone further in the negotiations,” Teixiera declared a month ago. “All three are big clubs. Wherever I'll end up, I'll be happy.
“I'm happy to have received this offer from Chelsea, one of Europe's big clubs, but it's my agent who's taking care of this.”
The King could be about to begin a new dynasty in the Premier League.
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Marcus Alves is a freelance journalist based in Lisbon and has written for FourFourTwo since 2012. He can also be found at BBC Sport, the Telegraph, Kicker and Yahoo. A former ESPN reporter, he covered 12 games in 15 days during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but can barely remember any of them. He blames cachaça for that.
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