Transfer Talk: Why Mykolenko could be Vital to Rafa's Toffees
Having a Liverpool association does not go down well with Everton fans — just ask Rafa Benitez — but Vitaliy Mykolenko will be welcomed regardless.
The Ukrainian left-back, 22, is expected to join the Toffees from Dynamo Kyiv for around £20million during the January transfer window.
He has been on the radar of English clubs since 2017 when Liverpool scouted the defender ahead of a potential move.
And with Benitez's squad ravaged by coronavirus and injuries ahead of Brighton's visit to Goodison Park on Sunday, we look at what the Toffees faithful can expect from their potential new recruit.
Sticky situation for Toffees star
Left-back would not have been a position Everton were expecting to need to strengthen. In fact, the other flank had been a more pressing concern.
But Lucas Digne’s high-profile falling out with Benitez has forced the club's hand.
The French international, 28, was dropped from the squad for the 2-1 win over Arsenal on December 6 and has not been involved since — despite a lack of senior options leaving the Toffees light on the bench.
Addressing Digne’s exclusion, Benitez said: "Normally when you have conversations with players they are private conversations and you have to keep them private.
"The only thing I can say is he’s been training and we have to decide tomorrow if he’s available or not."
A loan move to Chelsea — who are without Ben Chilwell for the rest of the season — looks set to bring a swift conclusion to this saga but it now leaves Everton light at left-back.
Big shoes to fill
The addition of Mykolenko is a statement of intent from Everton and Benitez.
So long as Benitez remains in charge, it seems there will not be a way back for Digne at Goodison.
But replacing one of last season's most dangerous Premier League left-backs will not be easy.
The former Barcelona defender ranked joint third for expected assists per 90 minutes last term (0.19) and second for assists (0.23).
On top of that, Digne was seventh for chances created (1.54) and led the way for big chances created with 0.37.
Mykolenko possesses a similar skill set to the man he is set to replace.
Quick and agile, he is always keen to bomb on and support the winger on the overlap. When he gets forward, Mykolenko is a reliable and accurate crosser.
In the Ukrainian Premier League this term, he has recorded three assists and boasts a crossing success of 30%.
He is also strong defensively.
For Ukraine, he has played at centre-back in a back three and it was there where he began his career.
Nowadays, Mykolenko features more regularly at left-back or left wing-back.
Must do better
However, there are areas for improvement, which is to be expected for someone who has only ever played in the Ukrainian top flight domestically.
Lapses in concentration are not unheard of while his decision-making also needs to improve.
While on international duty in March, Mykolenko carelessly conceded a penalty trying to play the ball out against Finland.
He took too long and ended up fouling Teemu Pukki in the 88th minute, earning himself a red card and the Finns a point with the striker converting from 12 yards.
Example to others
Dynamo boss Mircea Lucescu is already preparing for life without Mykolenko and is pleased to see the young defender get a chance in a major European league.
He said: "Mykolenko is going to Everton. He will be the first big transfer out of Dynamo since [Andriy] Yarmolenko.
"He's a young player and he should be an example to others. It's very important to allow players to fulfil their potential and give them chances to fulfil them."
Mykolenko is in line to replace a firm favourite at Goodison in Digne. But if he succeeds, Toffees supporters will take great delight in reminding Liverpool of what they could have had.