Alessandro Florenzi certainly slept badly after the elimination of Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City in the semi-final of the Champions League. Author of a calamitous performance, the Italian right-back must have had a hell of a headache when he saw two Kevin De Bruyne tumble down his hall and make calls behind his back. Because yes the Belgian and his unofficial double Oleksandr Zinchenko hurt the Parisian rearguard very much. Credited with a 6.5, the native of Radomychl showed Pep Guardiola that he was right to let him start instead of Joao Cancelo.
“Very efficient on his left lane, he multiplied the races both offensively and defensively. It was he who started perfectly in depth on the opening of the Citizens’ score (11th). In his duel with Di Maria, he largely dominated. It was he who came out without trembling a strike from Neymar (54th). Very nice service “ we wrote to qualify his service. On his way to a third coronation in four years in the Premier League and finalist of the 2020/2021 Champions League, the Ukrainian has not always had a straight course.
A departure under the Ukraine at war
A child of Polesia, a region in northern Ukraine bordering Belarus, Oleksandr Zinchenko was born in Radomychl, a town just under 150 kilometers from the infamous Chernobyl site. Passed to Monolit Illichivsk during his training, he will then join the Academy of Shakhtar Donetsk. A reference in Ukraine in which he will shine. Even obtaining the captaincy with the U-19 team, the attacking midfielder will reach the round of 16 against Arsenal (defeat 3-1). However, while everything seemed to be going well, trouble arrived in the summer of 2014. Following the Donbass War which broke out, football found itself affected in the country. Donetsk particularly affected, because in a conflict zone, will suffer the consequences.
Even today, the Shakhtar plays in Kharkiv to evolve in much safer conditions. However, Oleksandr Zinchenko is a collateral victim of the political situation and will experience long months of inactivity. “It was a difficult situation, because at that time I had a contract with Shakhtar Donetsk, but it was very dangerous in Ukraine. That’s why my parents moved. I came to train every day by myself in the streets of Moscow » he explained to Guardian in February 2018. However, the young Ukrainian talent does not lose hope and tries to bounce back in Russia: then my manager found me Rubin Kazan. So I went for the preseason with them to Italy. Everything was going well and after the preseason I was in Kazan and they told me I had to wait a bit and then we can sign a contract. At that point, I still had a year and a half on my contract at Shakhtar.
Всё было ради этого, друзья.
Март 2016, будущий финалист ЛЧ-2020/21 играет в “Уфе” и читает рэп в программе “Культ Тура”. Холст, маслоpic.twitter.com/kPWnfRLknL
– Metaratings (@LigaTV) May 4, 2021
Spending four months without playing and facing the long wait to sign for Rubin Kazan, he lost patience: “So I moved and a few days later Ufa called my manager and gave me a contract straight away. I signed the contract and went to the pre-season with them. To be honest, I was very happy then, as I hadn’t played for a year and a half. In Shakhtar, the situation was very difficult for me. I had two years left on my contract and they told me I had to continue with them. ” Engaging on February 13, 2015 with Ufa, he will resume the pleasure of playing in Russia. Gradually regaining the field and playing time during his first steps in Ufa, Oleksandr Zinchenko will start the following season. He will then assert his versatility by playing attacking midfielder, right midfielder, left midfielder, central midfielder and even left side, a position he occupies today at Manchester City.
A tiptoe finish at Manchester City
A real Swiss army knife, he will discover the Ukrainian selection. Scoring on May 29, 2016 against Romania (4-3 victory), he will distinguish himself by becoming the youngest scorer in the history of the selection, overtaking a certain Andriy Shevchenko. He will then participate in Euro 2016 in France. If Ukraine disappoints with 3 losses, 0 points and a last place in the group of Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland, it gives even more exposure to Oleksandr Zinchenko. Manchester City scent the good deal and recruited him for 2 million euros. While it is one of the first purchases of the Pep Guardiola era, it will logically have to harden.
Sent to PSV Eindhoven to improve as a midfielder, he will gradually lose his place in the team and will play the end of the 2016/2017 season with the reserve. His adaptation to European football is complicated, as is often the case with Russian and Ukrainian players. Yet Oleksandr Zinchenko perseveres. Even if it means having a reduced playing time and despite the possibilities of leaving, the Ukrainian waxes the bench with Manchester City being satisfied only with appearances in the English League Cup to start, he will more and more often play as a left side. Stuck in midfield, he was repositioned to this position to fill the absences of Benjamin Mendy and face the difficulties of Fabian Delph to adapt to this position. A little light physically and a little stammering, he had quite complicated beginnings.
Between injuries and flashes
Even if the presence of Fernandinho in the workforce – whom he rubbed shoulders with at Shakhtar Donetsk and who speaks Russian – allows him to assert himself slowly, his situation does not change and Benjamin Mendy becomes titular again. At the time, he also humorously evoked the fact that he was not considered enough by the supporters: “Kevin De Bruyne. I’ve heard it all the time, trust me. Everyone calls me “Kev”. When I take the bus, the fans shout: “Kev, can I have a picture?” Then I turn around and they’re like, “Oh, it’s not Kevin.” From a distance maybe we look like twins, but, when we are together, I don’t think so. I’m more handsome than him, definitely (laughs). ” Playing little and often injured during the 2018/2019 season, he will come back stronger at the best of times.
Excellent on February 10 against Chelsea for his return, he actively participated in the 6-0 victory for his people. Even becoming the holder of Pep Guardiola he will have an importance in the title of champion of England acquired narrowly in front of Liverpool. If the adventure of Oleksandr Zinchenko seemed launched at that time, injuries will slow him down in mid-flight. Fairly fragile, the Ukrainian suffered 17 injuries and missed 60 matches due to physical problems. Only making 25 appearances last season, he’s doing better this time around with 28 appearances. Above all, he made a place for himself despite the competition since three full-backs play a lot in Manchester City: Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Having another competitor than Benjamin Mendy, the 24-year-old has been able to raise his level. Much more rigorous defensively. He is very attentive to the demands of Pep Guardiola.
A big self-sacrifice
Asked by the Russian media Sport-Express, the wife of the player Vlada Shcheglova had highlighted the studious side of Oleksandr Zinchenko: “He’s taking notes on Guardiola. He takes notes on tactical changes, phases of training or novelties. He writes it all down and shares it with me. We have a big notebook at home, a big binder where he writes everything down. “ Leaving nothing to chance and working a lot, Oleksandr Zinchenko has won over the years the confidence of Pep Guardiola.
Happy to be able to count on him, Pep Guardiola did not fail to promote him last January: “For our construction, he is fundamental, he understands the game perfectly. He knows how to play football and make decisions. He’s playing at a good level, his consistency with the ball in particular is what we need from him and always tactically, even defensively he’s so smart, so smart. He pays a lot of attention, he doesn’t make mistakes on what he needs to do to help center-backs and others. “ more and more stable in Manchester City, he can win a magnificent treble League Cup, Premier League, Champions League. In addition, he will play Euro 2020 this summer with Ukraine. Perhaps the best way to make the point that he is more than just a cog in the machine concocted by Pep Guardiola.