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The Ukrainian centre-back made 12 La Liga appearances for Barcelona under Pep Guardiola

Much is made of playing under Pep Guardiola, and rightly so.

From Sergio Busquets to Raheem Sterling, countless players have gone to the next level thanks to the guidance of Guardiola.

But what happens when you don’t make the cut? What happens when Guardiola’s fabled style of play proves too difficult to get to grips with?

Getty – Contributor

There’s definitely a joke in there somewhere

Take The Ball, Pass The Ball is a documentary looking back on the 14 trophies Guardiola won with Barcelona between 2008 and 2012.

In the film, the usual suspects of Xavi, Gerard Pique and Thierry Henry take turns to laud Guardiola’s genius. Even Samuel Eto’o, whom Guardiola famously fell out with, speaks in fairly glowing terms about the Spaniard.

But it’s the insight of Ukrainian centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy which proves most fascinating.

Janitor or football player?

Janitor or football player?

Chygrynskiy joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in August 2009 for a fee of £20million, becoming the first Ukrainian to represent Barcelona in the process.

Guardiola had been handed a blank cheque following Barcelona’s treble-winning season of 2008/09, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Keirrison and Maxwell also arriving at the Camp Nou that summer.

Nine games into the 2009/10 La Liga campaign, and with Barcelona yet to taste domestic defeat, Chygrynskiy was handed a start against Osasuna.

Henry explained: “We played a game against Osasuna. Osasuna weren’t defending that [central] area well. The guy [midfielder] was not tucking in well.

“That day, Chygrynskiy played because he had a great left foot. He could ping the ball well with his right foot and his left foot. An amazing left foot.

Two hairstyles collide

Two hairstyles collide

“We were going to play a centre-back who was going to play across for Xavi. Whenever we were moving, Xavi was staying in that zone. That was the exit.

“But what was funny that day was Chygrynskiy twice played the ball long for Zlatan. And it was on. Zlatan nearly went 1-on-1 with the keeper.

“Pep took him off at half-time, because he didn’t respect the pattern. That’s the way he studied that team, that’s the way he asked us to play.”

A vintage year for Vapors

A vintage year for Vapors

Brutal. But Thierry’s memory is a bit hazy.

Chygrynskiy actually made it to the 51st minute, at which point he was replaced by Rafael Marquez.

But the Ukrainian’s Barcelona career never recovered and less than twelve months after arriving in Spain he re-joined Shakhtar.

It wasn’t all bad, with Chygrynskiy returning to Ukraine with a La Liga medal and Club World Cup trophy.

Time for a bit of karaoke

Time for a bit of karaoke

So what does the man in question remember of the period?

Chygrynskiy said: “I missed my chance. I was full of desire to play and sometimes it was like I just wanted to immediately show what I can do, which went against me.

“I felt this difference, that I needed to learn this language of football. How to create space. How to defend and all these like the players who were already playing.”

Xavi, ever the diplomat, added: “Some guys managed to get it in the end, like Henry and Abidal, who both struggled at the start.

“But some really talented players just didn’t make it.”

Taking a trip to Barcelona zoo to see the goats

Taking a trip to Barcelona zoo to see the goats

Club legend Carles Puyol was also sympathetic, explaining: “Barca is a difficult team to play for, particularly at centre-back.

“If you make a couple of early mistakes the fans get on your back and the pressure really builds. But Chygrynskiy’s qualities were perfect for Barca.”

The stats say something different, but who are we to argue with Carles?

Take the Ball Pass the Ball is available on DVD and Digital Download now


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