Serhiy Popov is a former Ukraine international defender. He was born in Makiyivka, in the Donetsk region and would go on to become a Shakhtar Donetsk legend.
Popov began his career like many others young players in Soviet times, by joining the local youth football school in Donetsk. His progression was impressive and as a 17 year old, he signed for Marioupol side “Novator” (now known as “Illichivets” Marioupol). He played out a full season for Novator making the full back position his own with 21 appearances in his first professional season.
As with many young footballers in Soviet times, Popov moved to an army side to complete his service, signing up to play for CSKA Kyiv for the 1990-91 season. Again he was first choice even at his young age and played in 36 games for CSKA scoring his first professional goals in the same season. With his service complete, Popov played his last season in the Soviet leagues with Nyva Vynytsia. He turned out for Nyva for half a season making 24 appearances scoring an impressive 7 goals.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union came Popov’s big opportunity with a move to Shakhtar Donetsk, where he was signed by Valeri Yaremchenko. His spell with Shakhtar was to be successful. Although Shakhtar were unable to break the dominance of Dynamo Kyiv, there were second place finishes and Popov’s first piece of gold came with the Ukrainian Cup in 1994/95. He stayed at Shakhtar for four seasons making 96 appearances with 12 goals to his name, becoming club captain in the process. During this spell at Shakhtar, he made his international debut in 1993 in a 1:1 draw against Israel. He went on to become a regular in the international set-up.
In 1996, following the death of club President Bragin, Popov left Shakhtar and made a move to Russia to join Zenit St. Petersburg. Despite being first choice at Zenit making 38 appearances, he only stayed for one season, before Yeremchenko re-signed Popov at Shakhtar. Popov signalled the ambition of Shakhtar to win the league as the reason for re-joining an he immediately regained his position and his captaincy at Shakhtar becoming one of the most important players in the side. He played his part in helping Shakhtar reach the group stages of the Uefa Champions League, lining up against his international team-mate Oleh Luzhnyi of Arsenal. He was also an important figure for the Shakhtar side that finally broke the monopoly of Dynamo Kyiv winning the Ukrainian Premier League in 2001/02.
In his second stint at Shakhtar, Popov made over 150 appearances. He added 3 more Ukrainian Cup titles to his collection and five more second place finishes to go with his single Ukrainian Premier League title. He played his final game for ‘The Miners’ in 2004 before he moved to Metalurg Zaporizhya with whom he finished his career. Over two seasons, Popov made 30 appearances before retiring from the game in 2006.
His final appearance for Ukraine came in 2003. In an international career which lasted 10 years, Popov made an impressive 54 appearances for Ukraine scoring 5 goals. His goal scoring record was impressive when considering that Ukraine won every game that Popov scored in, including the famous 3:2 victory over Russia in Kyiv.
Since retiring, Popov has gone on to be a youth coach at Shakhtar Donetsk. He also enjoyed a spell as the head coach of Shakhtar-2 Donetsk.
Serhiy Popov, Shakhtar Donetsk legend, we welcome you into the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame.
Profile by Peter Chymera, committee member of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89