In Profile: Vitalii Mykolenko

Everton completed the signing of Ukrainian international full-back Vitalii Mykolenko on a four-and-a-half-year deal on 1 January 2022.

The 22-year-old joined the Blues from Dynamo Kiev, where he learned his trade in the youth ranks before establishing himself as a key first-team player.

Mykolenko – who is comfortable operating as a central defender or wing-back as well as his regular left-back position – made his Dynamo debut as an 18-year-old during the 2017/18 campaign.

It was the following season where he truly made his mark, however. Having previously been understudy to Croatia international left-back Josip Pivarić, Mykolenko forced his way into the Dynamo starting XI and swiftly displayed his range of qualities.

A strong, competitive defender with impressive pace and crossing ability, Mykolenko delivered a series of accomplished performances in the Ukrainian top-flight and UEFA Europa League.

His eye-catching form was rewarded with a maiden senior international cap aged 19 in November 2018, with Mykolenko playing the full 90 minutes in a friendly against Turkey.

A mature and composed display on debut saw Mykolenko retain his place for his country’s European Championship qualifier against Portugal in March 2019, where he excelled in a direct battle with superstar attacker Cristiano Ronaldo, helping Ukraine secure a 0-0 draw in Lisbon.

The return game against Portugal saw Mykolenko provide a pinpoint assist for Andriy Yarmelonko’s winning goal in a memorable 2-1 Ukraine victory in Kiev.

He was a regular throughout Ukraine’s exceptional qualifying campaign, with Andriy Shevchenko’s team winning six and drawing two of their eight group matches to finish top of their section.

He went on to start four of his country’s five Euro 2020 games as Ukraine embarked on an impressive run to the quarter-finals of the tournament, where they were eliminated by England.

By that stage in his career, Mykolenko had featured in the Champions League for the first time with Dynamo Kiev and was an instrumental figure as his team won the Ukrainian title in 2020/21. The defender played 22 of Dynamo’s 26 league matches and his growing status was underlined when he was named captain for his team’s 3-1 victory against FC Lviv in September 2020.

Mykolenko has also been part of two Ukrainian Cup-winning sides, appearing in Dynamo’s final triumphs over Vorskla Poltava in 2020 and Zorya Luhansk in 2021.

The left-back continued to play an important role for Dynamo as they made a blistering start to the 2021/22 campaign, winning 14 and drawing three of their opening 18 league matches. Mykolenko featured in 15 of those games, with Dynamo’s only defeat coming when he was sidelined with a minor injury.

He made a total of 132 senior appearances for Dynamo – scoring seven goals and providing 20 assists – before leaving his homeland in the 2022 winter transfer window to become Everton boss Rafa Benitez’s sixth signing for the Blues.