On 4 July 2016, Manchester City signed Oleksandr Zinchenko from Russian club Ufa for less than £2 million. Excitement surrounded the transfer. The Ukrainian was known for his versatility, as he can play on either wing, in central midfield or as a full back. With a strong ability on the ball and his style of play, things looked promising for the young footballer.
His move to the English Premier League did not go as planned, however. Unable to secure a place in City’s senior team, the Ukrainian was sent on loan to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven for the 2016/17 season.
Unfortunately, he struggled in the Netherlands, making only 12 appearances for the senior team. By the end of his loan, Zinchenko stated he felt unwelcomed by Eindhoven. He was relieved his loan had ended and hoped he would revive his career in Manchester.
During this period, City also failed to impress during the 2016/17 season. Manager Pep Guardiola then utilized the Summer 2017 Transfer Window as an opportunity to rebuild his squad. As City’s transfer activity progressed, Zinchenko feared he would not feature again, and a potential loan move to Italian side S.S.C. Napoli emerged. For whatever reason, however, the deal collapsed and Zinchenko remained with City for the 2017/18 EPL season.
The failed move meant Zinchenko would have to fight for his place. Determined to make an impact, he developed a “first in, last out” mentality during training sessions. This caught the attention of his manager and his hard work paid off.
His versatility played a large role in his ability to break into the first team. Although a midfielder by trade, his ability to play as a full back gave him an opportunity to slot in as left back following the unexpected injury to Benjamin Mendy early in the season. Although Fabian Delph was preferred, Zinchenko’s youthful energy and style of play helped him earn a place in City’s team throughout the course of the season.
The Ukrainian would make 14 appearances in City’s record-breaking season, and he played an important role in helping the Blues win the EFL Cup and EPL title. He is also infamously remembered for knocking over the EPL trophy during City’s title celebration.
Following these successes, the Ukrainian was determined to remain in Manchester. During the Summer 2018 Transfer Window English clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers had enquired about the player. Zinchenko, however, rejected these offers.
The Ukrainian chose to remain at City, believing he would continue these successes during the upcoming 2018/19 season. Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned. The return of a healthy Mendy and Delph have seen Zinchenko fall out of favour with the first team. Over the course of the 2018/19 season, he has only made two appearances in all competitions.
It seemed that fate would provide a unique opportunity, however. Manchester City were paired with Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. Would he feature against his old club?
In anticipation of this match, Zinchenko continued to train heavily with the first team. He earned two starts and impressed in the matches against Brighton & Hove Albion and Oxford United. These performances led him to believe that he would feature in the UEFA Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. This excited the young player. Zinchenko started the first part of his football career with the Ukrainian giants and he was anticipating seeing some familiar faces on his return.
City then arrived to Ukraine for their UEFA Champions League match against Shakhtar. Zinchenko was given media responsibilities, as he attended the pre-match conference with Guardiola. The Ukrainian briefly discussed his time with Shakhtar’s youth academy and gave a cheeky response when asked if he would celebrate should he score against his former club.
In anticipation of the match, Zinchenko purchased 27 tickets for his friends and family to attend the UEFA Champions League fixture. The young Ukrainian felt he would make an appearance in front of his family and friends and wanted them to be present during his performance. Unfortunately, this opportunity never came. Following his press conference with Guardiola, Zinchenko’s name was omitted from the matchday squad.
After the match, Guardiola was questioned during the post-match conference about Zinchenko’s omission. The Catalan stated it was a “very difficult decision” to omit him from the squad sheet. He had apologized but reassured Zinchenko that he is still young and has plenty of opportunities ahead of him.
Whilst it is unknown what is occurring behind the scenes, it is likely the snub has affected Zinchenko and has further added to questions surrounding his future at City. Earlier reports claimed he is open to a move outside of the EPL as early as January 2019. Should he decide to leave, this event will likely play a factor in his decision.
Will the Ukrainian remain in Manchester? Based on current developments, it seems his time may be up.