Mark Temncycky –
On July 16, Italian club Atalanta Bergamasca Calcío announced they had acquired Ukrainian central midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi from Genk for €13.7 million.
Having finished in third during the 2018/19 Serie A season, Atalanta qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. As a result, the Italians have taken several measures to bolster their squad prior to the start of their 2019/20 Champions League campaign. But who is the young Ukrainian?
Originally hailing from Shakhtar Donetsk, Ruslan Malinovskyi was sent on loan to Genk for two years. During the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, the Ukrainian made 33 league appearances and scored five goals. His footballing ability impressed the Belgians, and in May 2017 Genk made the decision to permanently sign the Ukrainian to a four year deal.
While competing in Belgium, Ruslan Malinovskyi made 93 appearances and scored 23 goals in all competitions over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. Moreover, he played an instrumental part in helping Genk win the Belgian Jupiler Pro League in the 2018/19 season, where they finished seven points higher than second-placed Club Brugge. The result also saw Genk qualify automatically to the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage.
Ruslan Malinovskyi – A successful spell in Belgium
Overall, the Ukrainian had a very successful spell in Belgium as he established himself as a regular starter for Genk.
Outside of club football, Malonivskyi impressed during the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Competing alongside the Ukrainian men’s national team in League B, Group 1, the central midfielder was deemed to be a breakout player during this mini competition. During this period, he scored his first goal for the Zbirna in an international friendly against Italy. Several days later, his thunderous shot against the Czech Republic saw his native Ukraine win the group and gain promotion to the UEFA Nations League’s prestigious League A.
More recently, the Ukrainian impressed in a series of Euro 2020 qualification matches, most notably in the matches against Portugal and Serbia, where the Zbirna earned four points from a possible six. Finally, he has become a regular starter for the national team, where he played every minute of Ukraine’s four Euro 2020 qualification matches. He also provided three assists in Ukraine’s last two matches, both of which the Zbirna won.
Through these strong performances, news of the young Ukrainian began to spread. Malinovskyi demonstrated he was able to compete in the Ukrainian Premier Liha and Belgian Jupiler Pro League, and now was the time for a new challenge.
Next step in Italy
The acquisition of Malinovskyi to Atalanta means he will have an opportunity to try and prove himself in another, although more difficult European league. Moreover, Malinovskyi will have an opportunity to compete in world football’s most prestigious club competition, where he could face the greats such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern München.
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Finally, by playing at a more competitive level, his potential improvement would serve as a huge benefit to the Ukrainian national team. For several years, the majority of Ukraine’s national team squads were comprised of players who solely competed in the Ukrainian Premier Liha. Under current manager Andriy Shevchenko, however, a significant portion play football outside of Ukraine, thus providing an additional boost of talent and skill to the national team.
Overall, given Malinovskyi’s hard work ethic and defensive abilities as a central midfielder, as well as his powerful left-footed shot, it seems this will be a good fit for the young Ukrainian. It will be challenging, as he will have to gain the trust of his new manager and his teammates, but should he continue to provide the same level effort as he had at his previous clubs, the Italians may have something truly special in store.
Mark Temnycky is an accredited AIPS journalist who reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTemnycky