With Everton having failed to sign back-up players in either full-back position during the summer 2021 transfer window while young prospect Thierry Small left without signing a professional contract and Niels Nkounkou was allowed to go out on loan for the season, a reported bust-up between Lucas Digne and manager Rafael Benitez left the team having to rely on centre-half Ben Godfrey as an emergency option in that position that December.
The situation was eased somewhat, however, by the acquisition of Vitalii Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev in a deal that was concluded seemingly with minimal fuss before Christmas and then officially announced on New Year's Day 2022.
Though the transfer fee was officially undisclosed, the 22-year-old defender is reported to have cost in the region of €21m (~£18m), the same price the Blues paid for Digne, the player whom Mykolenko looked likely to replace as the Frenchman continued to be linked with a move away.
Able to also play in central defence and as a wing-back. Mykolenko arrived having won 21 caps for Ukraine and started four of their five matches at Euro 2020, helping his country reach the quarter-finals of the competition.
“I have always dreamed of playing in the Premier League," Mykolenko said on evertonfc.com. "English football is where the game was born and I think that it will suit my game very well.
“I am 22 but I don't feel like a youngster. I have experience of playing at European level and hope I will continue to improve as a player. I like to play on the front foot and get forward when I can."
Mylenko chose the number 19 shirt last worn by James Rodriguez, who left the club for the Middle East in September 2021, and made his debut in an FA Cup Third Round win over Hull City.
Although he struggled a little initially with the pace of the Premier
League, Mykolenko would reveal himself to have been a highly astute addition as he grew into the Premier League with a string of increasingly assured performances over the second half of 2012-22. from he great love shown toward
League, Mykolenko would reveal himself to have been a highly astute addition as he grew into the Premier League with a string of increasingly assured performances over the second half of the season.
His settling-in period was made that much easier by the great love shown toward
him in an outpouring of sympathy for the destruction
wrought on his homeland by Vladimir Putin's unprovoked, full-on invasion for Ukraine just weeks after Vitalii had arrived in England.
It would culminate in the then 22-year-old being named honorary team captain for the 5th Round FA Cup tie against Boreham Wood and leading the side out draped in the Ukrainian flag and he underscored his arrival in the Premier League with a sumptuous left-foot volley in a vital win over Leicester City, his debut goal for the Toffees, that went a long way to guaranteeing top-flight football for his first full campaign.
Vitalii would be more involved in his first full season, operating as first-choice left-back ahead of loanee Ruben Vinagre until injury struck in the spring of 2023.
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* Everton deducted 10 points for PSR breachView full table