Oleksandr Zinchenko was already on his feet from the bench when Pep Guardiola’s side fell behind, urging the crowd and players to rally. He replaced Fernandinho at halftime and helped Chelsea overcome a 2-0 deficit to win their fourth Premier League title in five years.
Zinchenko’s £32m move to Arsenal is a fitting ending for a boy who refused to lose. The Ukrainian gave everything he had to the team, whether he was in or out.
Zinchenko is a talented footballer. Guardiola wouldn’t have kept him around for so long if he didn’t think he had world-class ability on the ball and the intelligence to adapt to a new position in left-back and slip into midfield — as he did against PSG last season.
Dogged determination will define the 25-year-six old’s years at Etihad. In 2018 City accepted a bid for him from Wolves, but he refused to leave. He considered staying even if Marc Cucurella was hired this year.
Zinchenko is the only player in Guardiola’s time at the club to earn a regular starting spot after a loan spell. Leaving Manchester is usually fatal for a player’s career. Zinchenko won four Premier League titles and started a Champions League final ahead of Joao Cancelo despite Guardiola’s close attention to Phil Foden and Cole Palmer.
Zinchenko barely played at PSV during the 2016/17 season and was deemed expendable in the following transfer window. Instead of quitting, the youngster worked hard in training.
Each season he had to prove himself, and he did, culminating in the finale against Aston Villa. City will replace Zinchenko in the transfer window, but it will take someone special to repeat his achievements at the Etihad.