Callum Seniuk –
The word legend is often in football to describe the extensive and successful careers of a footballer. Commonly overused in the modern game, the word perfectly encapsulates the career of Darijo Srna at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Born in 1982, Srna rose through the ranks of his local side, NK Neretva. Catching the eye of Hajduk Split in 1999, one of the major sides in Croatian football, Srna developed quickly and signed with the club.
Establishing himself at an early stage, Srna soon found himself playing for the senior side. Featuring in Hajduk’s success in the Croatian Cup and Prva HNL, the fullback also took part in the Croatian club’s European campaigns.
Four years after joining Hajduk Split, Srna was about to take his career to the next level when he joined Shakhtar Donetsk in 2003. There he would go on a journey that no one would have imagined.
Darijo Srna – 15 years at Shakhtar
A career spanning over 15 years, Srna played a vital role in Shakhtar Donetsk’s domination of Ukrainian football. 536 appearances, 49 goals, 26 trophies, and countless memories, the 36-year-old fullback left Croatia without looking back. Embracing what it meant to play for Shakhtar, Srna quickly developed into the legendary status he rightly earned.
The pinnacle of Shakhtar Donetsk’s modern history came in 2009 when the Miners faced Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup Final at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. A game which saw an all Brazilian scoresheet, Shakhtar sought to lift their first European trophy in the club’s history. The first half saw the Ukrainian and German both looked to make the most of their opportunities, resulting in Luiz Adriano and Naldo scoring for their respective sides.
Ninety minutes wasn’t enough to decide who would lift the silverware. As extra time ensued, the Miners dug deep. Not giving up, Shakhtar didn’t need long to take the advantage. Seven minutes into extra time, Srna received the ball on the wing. What came next would change Shakhtar Donetsk forever.
As he received the ball, Srna drove the ball forward towards the edge of Bremen’s box. Seeing one orange shirt in the box, the Croatian cross the ball into the box, hoping to pick out one of his teammates. Thankfully for Shakhtar and Srna, the ball found Jadson who would slot the ball into the back of it. That was it; the Miners were on the path to becoming UEFA Cup champions. Holding out again Bremen’s attack, the whistle finally blew. Shakhtar Donetsk were champions.
The man of the match performance and crucial assist in extra time saw Darijo Srna write his name into the history books. From here forward, he was a Shakhtar icon.
Srna – Legend, icon, idol and hero
Nine years since the jubilation in Istanbul, Srna sees his career come to an end at Shakhtar Donetsk. Becoming the Miners’ most capped player over his fifteen years at the club, Srna will forever be remembered for his dedication and commitment to the club, no matter the circumstances.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine saw Shakhtar Donetsk go into exile, leaving their home behind. Despite the hardships surrounding the club and the city in which they represent, Srna remained committed to the club.“Shakhtar was my home. I did not feel that after so many years I could simply walk out and leave them in this situation. I am not really that kind of person.”
During his extensive career at Shakhtar, the Croatian had opportunities to take his services further afield to clubs such as Chelsea and Bayern München. Despite the interest from Europe’s best teams, Srna remained committed to the club that he fell in love with. Deciding with his heart, the fullback leaves behind a club which will always remember his dedication and loyalty.
Perhaps the only black mark on his career is his doping ban that effectively ended his time at Shakhtar. But even with the doping ban, Srna will always be remembered as an icon among Shakhtar fans.
Legend, icon, idol and hero are all words that can be associated with the Darijo Srna’s career at Shakhtar Donetsk. It’s often hard to put into words what the Croatian means to Shakhtar and their fans, he will always be regarded as the legend that brought the club to where it is today. Synonymous with Shakhtar Donetsk, the Miners did something they have never done before in their history; retiring the number 33. “It will forever belong to Darijo Srna.”
Hvala, Darijo and good luck in Italy.
Callum Seniuk is a History graduate from the United Kingdom who is an avid watcher of the Bundesliga. Losing his passion for the Premier League, Callum quickly found himself developing his love for the Bundesliga and German football. Channelling his Ukrainian heritage, Callum also follows and keeps track of Ukrainian Football. Follow Callum on Twitter @CallumSeniuk