Oleksandr Zinchenko is a 19-year-old Ukrainian who was born in Northern Ukraine in a city called Radomyshl. The youngster came up through the ranks at Shakhtar Donetsk and during the four years he understandably failed to make a breakthrough to the first team, given the large amount of talent in the senior squad. However, the youngster did represent the club in the UEFA Youth League in the 2013/2014 season and in seven appearances he managed to score once and create two goals for his team mates as Shakhtar made it to the last 16 before being defeated by Arsenal.
The youngster is a very versatile player and has been effective in a number of positions from right midfield, defensive midfield to left midfield and left back. During his time with Shakhtar, Zinchenko played in the more advanced positions and switched between left midfield to right midfield and behind the striker.
In July 2014 Zinchenko called time on his Shakhtar career and decided to move elsewhere. The youngster was without a club for a while before he was picked up by a team in neighbouring Russia, strugglers FC Ufa. The club picked Zinchenko up on a free in February 2015 and the youngster managed to make seven appearances from February to the end of the season. To no great surprise Zinchenko didn’t make much of an impact in his first season; the youngster had to adjust to new surroundings and was in and out of the Ufa squad.
The 2014/2015 season saw Ufa beat the odds and manage to survive in the Russian Premier League, yet Zinchenko’s career may have taken another path had Ufa dropped back down to the FNL. However, fortunately, he was given the chance to develop in Russia’s top flight.
Ufa had a slow start to the season and failed to win in their first four games. However, Zinchenko started to show his quality as a star in the Ufa ranks. The midfielder’s first game of the season was in week two where his side hosted Rostov. Zinchenko came off the bench and made an instant impact, showing off his great close control and his ability to draw a foul, giving his side a great position to swing in a free-kick. Despite his inexperience, Zinchenko stepped up to take the set piece and provided a fantastic delivery into the area, which found its way through the entire defence and in at the back-post for his first senior goal.
Unfortunately for Ufa Zinchenko’s equaliser wasn’t enough to earn them a point that day. The goal was one of the only highlights in the game but Zinchenko certainly impressed coming off the bench at half-time and earning a high rating amongst his team mates.
The 19-year-old continued his impressive performance into the next game as he travelled to Kuban Krasnodar, once more coming off the bench and this time turning creator. Zinchenko was able to beat two players before being forced wide, but being a skilled crosser of the ball, he was able to pick out Sylvester Igboun and the striker finished to earn Ufa a point.
Sadly, like most young players, Zinchenko’s formed dipped during August, September and most of October. This occurred after Ufa started to struggle during a tough run of games and resulted in the midfielder lacking time on the pitch. In the next eight games following the draw to Kuban, Zinchenko only played a full match only once.
Luckily for Ufa, Zinchenko’s form picked up, largely due to the departure of Igor Kolyvanov and the appointment of Evgeny Perevertailo. Under a new manager the youngster was given the minutes he craved, in the fifteen remaining games Zinchenko played the full ninety minutes on twelve occasions. The result was plain for all to see.
Zinchenko picked up three more assists in the remaining games and also scored away to Zenit St. Petersburg in one of his best performances of the season. The game against Zenit showcased his skills brilliantly, and that the youngster wasn’t shy in his play against a team as big as Zenit. Instead he showed great composure in possession, lovely control and skill in the right areas and most importantly he was unselfish. Zinchenko passed when he needed to and did the defensive work in tracking back (which should endear him to Pep Guardiola).and winning back possession a number of times with well-timed tackles.
The performance against Zenit deserved a goal and that’s exactly what Zinchenko got thirty-six minutes in as he managed to direct his diving header past Yuri Lodygin. Disappointingly the goal didn’t prove to be the winner as Zenit scored late on to deny Ufa a memorable victory.
Zinchenko won’t forgot this season that quickly, not only has he burst onto the scene in Russia and caught the eye of many European clubs (and now completed a move to The Blues), but he’s also earned himself a call up to the Ukrainian national team. At the end of May, Zinchenko came off the bench at half time in a friendly against Romania and scored four minutes later to become Ukraine’s youngest ever scorer, beating the twenty-year-old record set by Andriy Shevchenko.
The Zenit game was one of many highlights for the youngster and there are bound to be many more in the future. The 19-year-old midfielder has ended speculation about his future early on in the summer, by completing a move to Manchester City despite links with Borussia Dortmund n Germany.
The next step was always going to be a big one for Zinchenko, and not many would’ve expected a move to a club such as Manchester City. Perhaps a more realistic option would’ve been to a bigger Russian club like Zenit or CSKA Moscow, or even Dynamo Kyiv back in his homeland. Those clubs would’ve been good moves for the midfielder, but the blue side of Manchester have had their hands forced after the large amount of interest from other clubs.
With the facilities that City have built and the prospect of learning under Pep Guardiola, Zinchenko would have been a fool to turn down the opportunity. Nevertheless it will be very unlikely that Zinchenko will come in and get first team opportunities at City so realistically the Ukrainian will be sent out on loan, be it a club at the lower end of the Premier League, Championship or to a team in another league which is at a similar or higher level than the Russian Premier League.
Zinchenko has plenty of pace which he uses excellently be it to pounce on loose balls or to burst away from opponents. He possesses good close control and shows off his quick feet often when he comes up against multiple defenders. He also possesses a wonderful left foot which is shown with a range of passing and his great delivery. Defensively, Zinchenko reads the game well and picks up possession for his team by either tracking back and making a tackle or getting in the right position for when the opposition attacks break down.
Due to his age there are weaknesses but not major ones as they can easily be worked on. His right foot is one weak point; it can be used but it’s nowhere near as effective as his dominant left. The other is his strength. Zinchenko is a small player and can easily be shrugged off possession, but at nineteen he has time to develop his strength and that’s something which will come with playing in a more competitive league.
If all works out Manchester City have a gem on their hands and so do Ukraine.