Roman Yaremchuk grew up as a Dynamo Kyiv academy prospect dreaming of becoming a star like Andriy Shevchenko. Now starring for Ukraine under the AC Milan legend’s tutelage, Yaremchuk has become one of the breakout stars of Euro 2020.
He scored with a brilliant headed equaliser in the opening group-stage fixture against the Netherlands, which, ultimately, wasn’t enough in an eventual 3-2 defeat. He then proceeded to finish expertly in the 2-1 win over North Macedonia to give Ukraine a chance at making the knockout stages.
In just two matches, he equalled Sheva's goalscoring record at the European Championship. West Ham's Andriy Yarmolenko has also joined him as the country's top scorer in Euros history.
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It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Hammers are reportedly keen on signing Yaremchuk from Belgian side Gent in the summer in order to solve their scoring problems.
Signing the £25 million-rated ($36m) hitman won't be easy, with Arsenal and Wolves also touted as potential suitors, and the striker's qualities ensure he is tailor-made for the Premier League.
A tall, broadly-built player, Yaremchuk is a massive presence in the penalty area. He is naturally good in the air, possesses a deft touch and likes to drift out to the wings in order to leave spaces for his team-mates to attack. More importantly, he is two-footed - making him much more unpredictable for defenders.
Out of his last 16 goals in the Belgian First Division A, Yaremchuk scored seven with his right, six with his left and another three headers.
He netted 23 times in all competitions last season for the club which developed Kevin De Bruyne and it is increasingly clear that Gent may well now sell their top asset after four years, during which time Yaremchuk has closed a cycle in rather unusual fashion.
It was Hein Vanhaezebrouck who made the decision to purchase what was then a raw Ukrainian youngster from Dynamo Kyiv back in the summer of 2017. However, the coach left his job just a couple of months later with the striker in a delicate position. He liked Vanhaezebrouck's attack-minded style, whereas his successors were more cautious.
Yaremchuk had impressed Shevchenko enough to become a starter for the national team as long as two years ago but his progress wasn't fast enough for his liking and he frequently tried to leave Gent.
Laszlo Boloni's arrival as Gent coach last August wasn’t easy for Yaremchuk either, who declared: "We can't play as underdogs". He asked to be sold - with that demand still relevant even after Boloni was fired in September - but Vanhaezebrouck sensationally returned in December to make everything work again.
"I am very happy to work with Hein. He is the right man at the right place. I will learn a lot and improve thanks to him," the striker said. That proved to be the case and now the club stand to make a massive profit on a player they initially signed for just €2m.
Yaremchuk was available so cheaply because Dynamo had little faith in their own youth prospect. He had been at their academy from the age of 11, aspiring to emulate Shevchenko and his other Chelsea role model Didier Drogba, and was prepared to gamble in order to follow his dreams.
When Bayer Leverkusen came calling at the beginning of 2016, the striker chose to stay put and fight for his place. However, he didn’t get nearly enough playing time and was loaned out to lowly Oleksandriya for the 2016-17 season.
Upon returning to the capital, he saw that the club had decided to go with Artyom Besedin as their preferred forward, and, at the age of 21 there was no reason to wait around any longer.
Dynamo’s coaches never made Yaremchuk feel comfortable - partly because his goalscoring record for youth national teams was quite poor – and he failed to find the net in 10 matches for the club. Moving to Belgium initially seemed like a step down and some pundits were quick to write his career off but it turned out to be an inspirational decision.
Shevchenko was the man who truly saw his potential and built the front line around him. He was duly rewarded during the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Yaremchuk was superb in the 5-0 win over Serbia - scoring, providing an assist and keeping opponents busy all the time. He was on target as well in the 2-1 win over Portugal as the Ukrainians finished ahead of the defending European champions in their group.
Ahead of the original tournament last summer, Ukraine could have faced a major problem as Yaremchuk suffered with injury and the year-long postponement was definitely in the striker's favour.
Fresh from his best personal season for Gent, the 25-year-old is enjoying himself mightily.
Yaremchuk was accused of being wasteful in previous seasons but he has improved his conversion rate and taken his chances confidently at the Euros so far.
Austria are next and Ukraine must get at least a draw in order to be certain of qualification for the last 16. Many of their goalscoring hopes now depend on their centre-forward.
After the tournament is over, he is ready to take a big step in his club career. Gent will get a decent return on their investment for Yaremchuk and, based on his current form, any price could prove a bargain.