There has always been something endearing about Oleksandr Zinchenko. He perseveres when others give up, he won’t hear the word ‘no’.
He is light-hearted, quick-witted and — increasingly evident over the last two years — not bad at his job.
So for those who know him well, watching Zinchenko embrace his pregnant wife, television reporter Vlada, after winning man of the match as captain in Ukraine’s historic Euros win at Hampden Park will have been a seminal moment.
Oleksandr Zinchenko can't hide his delight after scoring Ukraine's opener against SwedenInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The Manchester City star led the celebrations after Ukraine defeated Sweden after extra time
He has become the darling of his country, who face England in their first-ever Euros quarter-final on Saturday. He is their best player — a man who acts as an ambassador on foreign shores. During Manchester City’s frequent trophy lifts, he is often draped in the blue and yellow national flag.
When City faced Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League game three years ago, Zinchenko — who knew he was not even making Pep Guardiola’s squad the following night — sat inside the Metalist Stadium fielding a barrage of questions from a feverish media who hung on his every word.
The majority of inquisitors also implored Guardiola to talk about their local boy done good.
He was already Ukraine’s youngest goalscorer, beating legendary current manager Andriy Shevchenko’s record. And this was all before Zinchenko had hit his stride in England.
He was barely a bit-part player at that point and City had told him he was free to leave three months earlier. Wolves had a deal in place but the youngster refused to go. He had made his feelings clear towards the end of the club’s pre-season tour of America, declaring that City was his ‘dream’ and that he was going nowhere.
There were eyebrows raised, City staff wondering why he was desperate to remain somewhere he simply would not play. Zinchenko has proved them all wrong. Since then, he has started each season as a squad player and ended it as Guardiola’s first-choice left back.
It's England up next for Ukraine after they defied the odds to reach the Euro quarter-finalsInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Mixed emotions as Zinchenko celebrates and Sweden reflect on what might have been
It came as little surprise that Zinchenko was named UEFA's Star of the Match on Tuesday night
Zinchenko became used to taking knocks from a young age. At a failed trial at an academy in Radomyshl, the other kids would not pass the ball to their smaller, slighter peer. Despite