Shakhtar Donetsk stars to return

Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin has said he expects all of the club's AWOL players to return in the near future.

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Shakhtar recently saw six members of their squad -- Brazilian players Douglas Costa, Fred, Dentinho, Alex Teixiera and Ismaily, as well as Argentine forward Facundo Ferreyra -- refuse to return to Ukraine, citing concerns over the conflict in the country, but the club has since confirmed it is temporarily relocating away from the Donetsk area until the political situation stabilises.

Fred has already returned to the club, and Ferreyra followed soon afterwards, issuing an apology on the club's official website.

"My family was very worried about me and persuaded me not to go to Ukraine," Ferreyra said. "They thought it was very dangerous, so I decided not to go back, but on the second day I regretted it. My fears were dispelled by a conversation with the club's CEO, Sergei Palkin. He calmed me down and assured me that we would all be safe.

"I really regret that I did not come immediately. I apologise to the fans, teammates and coach."

Palkin later told the ITAR-TASS news agency that Ismaily was also due back imminently, and said Costa, Dentinho and Teixiera -- who had earlier told Globo they feared for their safety -- had also agreed to return.

Palkin said: "They were afraid for their lives, but now they understand the situation and have decided to come back."

He added that the players would not be punished as the club appreciated the reasoning behind their initial refusal to report for duty.

Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu has told the club's official magazine that he wanted to see his players show character amid the current crisis.

"I hope that our players will approach this issue very reasonably and responsibly and realise that at such a difficult moment they should have the most positive attitude and help others survive the difficulties," he said. "It's very easy to say, 'I'm scared, I do not want to stay here anymore, so I am leaving.'

"In this case, they leave the locals to their own devices, and I do not want it. Yes, it's a lot harder to stay, but we must continue to create a positive atmosphere for the fans and all those who found themselves in a difficult situation. We must make our contribution, be optimistic, be real sportsmen. Because people work in various conditions! And to those who love us, we must give something in return, so I try to reach their hearts, so that they react by their feelings."

Meanwhile, Shakhtar midfielder Fernando's agent has told calciomercato.com the Brazilian could join Serie A side Fiorentina.

Fernando joined the Ukrainian side on a five-year contract from Gremio last year, but agent Jorge Machado said a move to Fiorentina was a "possibility," adding: "Let's see what happens in the coming days."