Former Ukrainian footballer Viktor Leonenko has challenged the idea that Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko is becoming a ‘world class’ talent.
At only 26 years old, Zinchenko has already established himself as one of Ukraine’s successful exports but has a complicated relationship with parts of the Ukrainian media.
Leonenko, speaking before the Euro 2024 qualifier against England, described the ex-Manchester City player as “a good football player but definitely not a great one.”
He further criticized Zinchenko as Ukraine’s “weak” link in defense.
The disagreement came after Andriy Shevchenko, arguably the greatest Ukrainian footballer of all time, claimed that Zinchenko was emerging as one of the world’s top left-backs under Mikel Arteta at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Responding to Shevchenko’s comments, Leonenko said, “Andriy, don’t be crazy. I understand that it is necessary to support (our players). But throwing stardom like that is only a disgrace to yourself.”
Despite some high-profile errors in recent weeks, Zinchenko’s impact both on and off the field in North London should not be undervalued. AC Milan legend Shevchenko, who appointed Zinchenko as Ukraine’s captain during his tenure as head coach, praised the player’s leadership and skills in an interview with CBS Sports. He highlighted Zinchenko’s excellent technique, confidence, and willingness to take responsibility on the field.
According to Shevchenko, Zinchenko has developed tremendously, earning his place as the captain of the Ukrainian national team and one of the best left-backs this season. Shevchenko attributed Zinchenko’s success to his passion for football, discipline, desire, and ambition.
Zinchenko will face his former team, Manchester City, in a significant match at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.