Had he agreed to a £16 million summer transfer, Oleksandr Zinchenko could have been facing Manchester City in Wolves colours tonight.
Then again, he thought he’d played his last game for the Blues after knocking over the Premier League trophy in May.
But Zinchenko is a determined, driven character, not one to hide after mistakes, and eager to fight to prove his worth at the Etihad – even if it is in the unfamiliar left-back position vacated by the injured Benjamin Mendy.
The Ukrainian international’s popularity, with fans and team-mates alike, means he has been afforded time and support to make his mark rather than being forced to leave.
Zinchenko, also previously linked with Fulham, Real Betis and Napoli, told Sport360 exclusively: “I felt I was happy to be fair, but the most important thing is to move on from that.
“You just have to keep going in the same way. But that’s football and sometimes you can change some things.
“To be honest you never know what’s going to happen in the future, tomorrow even. Let’s see you know.
“But I love playing for City, it’s a huge club. I want to stay, I am so happy to be part of this team, that’s it. I want to prove I can play for this team, to play my part, to show my qualities and to win trophies.”
Having arrived from Russian side FC Ufa for just £2m in 2016, Zinchenko returned to City after a loan spell at PSV Eindhoven, and played a part in their Premier League and League Cup triumphs.
City are looking to repeat that double success this season, hosting Wolves with a seven-point deficit to league leaders Liverpool, and on the back of a 9-0 win over Burton Albion that should all but secure their place in the League Cup final.
Zinchenko was on target in the semi-final first-leg rout of the League One side – just a goal shy of their 10-1 record win – with a spectacular 30-yard strike that curled into the top corner.
It was initially perceived as a cross, but the talented 22-year-old has great technique and responded with a ‘nothing but net’ basketball celebration for his first City goal.
On whether it was intended, he said with a smile: “A little bit respect for me please.
“Let’s say I wanted to shoot it, but I was a lucky a little bit too. It was special to score my first goal for City.
“We wanted the record definitely. The fans wanted us to score one more and we tried, but maybe next time.
“Of course we want to go back to Wembley and win the trophy. It was the best feeling in my life last season when we won it [against Arsenal]. I remember the time, how special it was and we all want to repeat it.
“It’s special to be involved with this club and play these games. Every single game is so important when you play. I have said before that when you play at this stadium it is a special feeling, our fans are incredible.
“You have to fight every single day, every single training session, every single game, there’s only this way to be in this team. If you want to relax just for one moment it’s over because we have a lot of quality payers here who want to play and that’s the challenge.”
There is also a spirit and unity that helps complement this City squad’s desire for more honours.
Retaining the league remains a key target and Zinchenko – hoping to start tonight for a third successive game – has a fond, and funny, memory of last season’s glory.
During the title celebrations, he bumped the trophy off its display stand to much mirth worldwide.
“I was unlucky,” he laughs about the incident. “We were singing something about Yaya Toure and I didn’t see the trophy. When it dropped I was thinking ‘oh my God I’m not going to play for City anymore’.
“Of course I’m proud of myself what I’ve achieved here and I’m still learning, still getting better. I want to be part of this club for a long time if possible.
“This is a special team, every one here is a superstar and they have so much quality.
“You learn from them every single day, on the pitch and outside the pitch. We are one team, like a family. That’s the most important thing.”