With the start of Euro 2012 just over a week away, Goal.com International's Ukraine expert Michael Yokhin profiles the Yellow-Blues and Bayern utility man Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
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Andriy Shevchenko might be Ukraine's most famous star, but Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is Ukraine's most important and influential player by a distance.
Fans outside the country might have been a bit surprised when Tymoshchuk was voted the country's best ever footballer in a national poll, but it was actually a very natural result. Ever since joining Shakhtar Donetsk in January 1998 at the tender age of 18, 'Tymo' became the symbol of efficiency, stability and quality.
As a holding midfielder, Tymoshchuk is a natural leader, an absolute authority both on the pitch and in the dressing room. His strong physique and deft technique, superb vision and great distribution make him one of the most under-rated players in his position. Zenit St Petersburg paid more than €15 million (£12m) for his signature in January 2007, a post-Soviet record at the time.
Having won three Ukrainian championships with Shakhtar, Tymoshchuk was almost immediately made Zenit's captain by then-coach Dick Advocaat and was immensely important in taking the Gazprom-sponsored club to their maiden Russian title in his first season.
Half a year later, he lifted the Uefa Cup, a campaign which included thrashing future employers Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. It was no surprise then that the Bavarians soon made him one of their top transfer targets, and they eventually got their man in the summer of 2009.
His time at Bayern hasn't been smooth sailing, however. Problems began from the outset as the management signed Tymoshchuk before the arrival of new coach Louis van Gaal, who was not a fan of the player. His successor this season, Jupp Heynckes, did not do the Ukrainian too many favours either.
Tymoshchuk's three years at the Allianz Arena have not been as successful as they could have been, and he has also often been used out of position as a central defender, as he was in the Champions League final against Chelsea. This is undoubtedly the greatest disappointment of his career, and at 33 'Tymo' is rumoured to be tempted by a return to Shakhtar.
|"We must aim to win the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Greece did it in 2004, we should learn from them"
- Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
Despite his troubles at club level, however, Tymoshchuk continues to excel for the national team, as he has always done. With 114 appearances since 2000, he is Ukraine's all-time most-capped player, and he rarely puts a foot wrong. He even surpassed Oleg Blokhin, his current national-team coach, who played 112 times for the Soviet Union.
Blokhin's quarter-final achievement at the 2006 World Cup was arguably undeserved, given how poorly the Ukrainians played against European giants Spain and Italy, while they were very lucky to be drawn against Tunisia and Saudi Arabia to give them their historic tournament wins.
That said, Tymoshchuk was one of the few Ukrainians who did perform extremely well in Germany and received glowing reviews all round. His leadership is extremely important for Ukraine in their first European Championship adventure as well.
"We must aim to win the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Greece did it in 2004, we should learn from them," claims Tymo, while being modest about his personal status. "Every team needs several leaders, not just one".
Blokhin tends to agree, stressing that "young players should take their responsibilities", but he knows only too well that Tymoshchuk is his most reliable asset.Follow Michael Yokhin on