Just a year ago, he raised eyebrows after rejecting a £16m deadline day move to Wolves – opting instead to fight for his place at Manchester City. Now, Zinchenko has proven his versatility and quality in abundance with Pep Guardiola’s faith in the Ukrainian sealed.
They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. So after news broke yesterday that Oleksandr Zinchenko is close to signing a new five-year contract extension at Eastlands, well! For context: this is the same player who last season was expected to depart for pastures new, flourish elsewhere and become another casualty of Manchester City’s ruthless winning machine.
Signed from Russia side FC Ufa for a measly £1m in the summer of 2016, he joined Eredivisie giants PSV on a season-long loan that year. Since returning in 17/18, he only made 14 appearances that season and a multitude of European clubs were monitoring his situation. Rightly so, given the 22-year-old’s versatility to play a range of different positions: central midfield, on the flanks and more recently, left-back under Pep Guardiola’s guidance.
He didn’t just stay to fight for his place this past season. Instead, injuries and his own versatility presented an opportunity which he took with both hands – featuring regularly while proving a key cog in Pep’s system as they enjoyed a record-breaking campaign.
His stats in England’s top-flight alone are impressive but given the Ukrainian’s calm persona, often go unnoticed. Unbeaten in 22 league games to date, his PL stats for the 18/19 season are:
– 64% tackle success, 34 completed tackles
– 30 interceptions, 16 clearances
– 12 key passes, three assists and 91.5% completion rate in 1,153 total minutes
The same can be said for other competitions too, something he’ll look to continue improving upon with more experience under his belt. It’s easy to forget, after all, that left-back is not his natural nor preferred position.
Now, he’s reaping those rewards. With twelve months and an optional one-year extension on his existing contract, the new deal is likely to reflect a change in squad status.
No longer a prospect nor rotational player, Zinchenko has asserted himself as their first-choice left-back and that presents a problem for £50m man Benjamin Mendy, who has been injured far too regularly to rely upon over the past two seasons.
What’s next for champions City?
Leicester’s Ben Chilwell has been heavily linked with a lucrative move to Manchester in recent months. Although their interest in the Englishman remains, Zinchenko’s versatility means that it’s no longer a priority going into the summer months – with right-back believed to be more of a pressing concern instead.
Fabian Delph and Danilo are potentially set to depart for pastures new this window, as both want more first-team football and Pep cannot guarantee them that. Zinchenko and this imminent contract extension though, is proof that if you are persistent and confident in your abilities, you will shine once given a chance to show your worth.