Everton completed the signing of Ukrainian international full-back Vitalii Mykolenko on a four-and-a-half-year deal on 1 January 2022.
The angular left-sider made his debut one week to the day after joining, starting and finishing a topsy-turvy 3-2 FA Cup third-round win at Hull City.
It was in the season's closing two months, however, when the deeply-popular Mykolenko began to flourish.
He seized a playing chance in a Premier League game at West Ham United on 3 April, retaining his starting spot following a sound display in the capital and easing from the periphery to become a fixture in Frank Lampard's team.
Mykolenko was plenty of people's man-of-the-match in a Goodison Park victory over Manchester United and delivered outstanding performances against stellar opposition in Chelsea, Leicester City and Liverpool.
Indeed, Leicester were the victims when Mykolenko swept in a stunning volley in a 2-1 win at the Foxes' King Power Stadium, the player's first goal for the Club and a strike that barely three weeks later would claim Everton's Goal-of-the Season award.
Mykolenko, who flexed between full-back and wing-back for manager Lampard, played 16 times across the league and FA Cup in his opening half season.
The 22-year-old joined the Blues from Dynamo Kyiv, 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 in 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 of 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 Kyiv.
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 Kyiv 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 to become Everton's first capture of the winter 2022 transfer window.
Contracted until: June 2026