Why Crystal Palace signing Taras Stepanenko would be a real coup
According to The Sun, Crystal Palace have been linked with a move for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taras Stepanenko, having failed to firm up their interest in the 30-year-old back in the summer transfer window.
The Eagles were interested in signing the Ukrainian international in the summer for a fee of around £8million. While they couldn’t quite get a deal over the line for the veteran, the South Londoners are set to go back in the market for his services, with Shakhtar Donetsk happy to part ways with their star man in January. (h/t Sun)
Stepanenko has carved out a massive reputation for himself as a fearsome tough-tackling defensive midfielder in the orange and black stripes of Shakhtar over the past ten years, having made his move to the Ukrainian giants from Metalurh Zaporizhya back in 2010.
The 30-year-old, who has been capped by Ukraine on 54 occasions at the senior international level, is held in high regard in his homeland for his trophy-laden spell at Shakhtar, having won as many as 20 major silverware, including 7 domestic league titles.
Stepanenko has made a total of 285 appearances for the Ukrainian heavyweights in all competitions, including 50 in the Champions League and the Europa League combined, and it would be fair to say that he is one of the few survivors of the modern game’s true ‘hard men’.
To put things into perspective, the fans at Selhurst Park have every reason to be excited about the club’s links with Taras Stepanenko, who is still very much in his prime at the age of 30 and would be available for a fee well withing the Eagles’ budget.
With Wilfried Zaha’s future still up in the air and Christian Benteke struggling to deliver the goals, an out-and-out centre-forward is likely to be high on Roy Hodgson’s wishlist in January.
However, the manager might look to strengthen a few other areas as well and, even though Palace are pretty well-stocked in their midfield department, someone like Stepanenko could add another dimension to their ranks.
The 30-year-old, who trained as a combat fighter as a youngster, is noted for his physical approach to the game and there is hardly anyone better than him when it comes to rattling the opposition and winning the ball back in the middle of the park with crunching challenges.
In other words, Stepanenko is a nightmare for the opposition’s creative midfielders with a penchant for going into daunting tackles in the midfield. Plus, his strength coupled with those cold and dead eyes of a sniper make him a menacing presence in front of the backline.
As well as that, the Ukrainian international has plenty of experience at the highest level in his CV to back it up at Selhurst Park and his excessively physical style of play should help him adapt seamlessly to the Premier League.
Palace have the likes of James McArthur, James McCarthy, Luka Milivojevic, Max Meyer, Victor Camarasa and Cheikhou Kouyate in their ranks but an experienced head like Stepanenko could be a wonderful addition for a number of reasons.
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McArthur, McCarthy and Milivojevic are largely ball-players and ball-carriers rather than ball-winners, while Meyer and Camarasa fall within the bracket of creative midfielders. Hence, it is easy to see that the Ukrainian could add that much-needed steel and grit to Palace’s midfield.
With that in mind, Palace should go all out in their pursuit of Taras Stepanenko in January.