Man City must make difficult Oleksandr Zinchenko transfer decision to avoid Chelsea reputation – Alex Brotherton

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Anyone who watched Ukraine’s recent matches against Scotland and Wales will have taken note of the brilliant performances of a certain midfielder.

In the end Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko could not guide his nation – devastated by the horrors of war – to the World Cup finals, a play-off final defeat to Wales ending the dream. But it was not for the want of trying; Ukraine performed well in both games, especially Zinchenko.

The 25-year-old was superb in Ukraine’s midfield, the level of his passing, movement and execution a mark above that of anyone in the blue of Scotland or the red of Wales. He orchestrated Ukraine’s attacks from a left-sided attacking midfield role, breaking the lines with incisive passes and dropping deep to win the ball and build attacks.

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Simply put, Zinchenko put in the kind of performances in the number eight position that you would expect to see from the likes of Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne. That is exactly why he should leave City this summer, and why the club should not stand in his way.

Of course, City should not actively look to sell Zinchenko; he is one of City’s most technically gifted players, is positionally flexible and possesses an exemplary attitude. There are few players in world football who would fight as hard to make a transfer to City work as he has.

Bought for just £ 1.7m in 2016 and immediately loaned out, City tried to offload Zinchenko in 2018. He refused, determined to show he belonged at the top level. Even when it became clear that he would rarely play in his preferred midfield role – either centrally or on the wing – he filled in at left-back without complaint and impressed so much that he started the 2021 Champions League final.

To bring in a player – a human being – like that in today’s market would cost City a sizeable amount, so why on earth would they sell him? Amid interest from the likes of Arsenal and West Ham, City are hoping to hold contract talks with the Ukrainian soon, so long as he is happy to stay.

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But take the sky blue-tinted glasses off for a moment, and it becomes clear that City cannot maintain a clear conscience if they persuade Zinchenko to stay. Of course the good of the team comes before any player, but it is clear that Zinchenko is utterly wasted at left-back.



Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko celebrates with fans

Yes, he is a great option on the left of defense, remarkably so given his upbringing as an attacker. But he can offer so much more than his current role at City allows.

To keep Zinchenko at City would feel similar to what Chelsea have been doing for years – hording attacking talent and not giving them enough game time to properly develop and reach their full potential.

Zinchenko is a rarity among professional footballers; someone with immense technical agility with the work-rate and down-to-earth attitude to match. He would walk into the midfield of pretty much any elite European club, never mind most Premier league sides, but unfortunately for him he plays for City.

Even though De Bruyne and Gundogan are now the ‘wrong side’ of 30 and with Bernardo Silva’s future constantly up in the air, it’s hard to see Zinchenko gaining many minutes in City’s midfield in the short term. When you add the prospect of Phil Foden dropping back into a number eight role – the expected plan for his development – the odds become even slimmer.

At its heart, football is about the enjoyment of players and fans alike. For both Zinchenko and his admirers to be happy, he must continue his career in attacking midfield, even if that means he has to leave City.

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