Valeriy Lobanovskiy, historic Ukrainian defender and coach, had some superstitions. One of them was not having a number 13 on the team. He was also the last person to get on the bus and avoided stepping on gaps in the ground or, on the lawn, touching the lines with his foot. And, according to a UEFA article, it ended the “cocktail” of eccentricities with the belief that a team needed at least one red-haired player to succeed – and the idea eventually rubbed off on the Ukrainian fans.
Dynamo Kiev have had a number of redheads since Lobanovskiy’s days and the last one was Viktor Tsygankov. If the mystique rubs off on Girona fans, it won’t be long before they believe they need a redhead to succeed.
Tsygankov arrived at the Spanish club in January and, in seven games, has three goals and three assists – scored twice this Saturday, in the draw (2-2) against Rayo Vallecano.
Born in Israel, Tsygankov came to Ukraine when he was very young and was defined by Mircea Lucescu, a historic European football coach, as “one of the most talented players” that passed through his hands” – and this said by a man who has a coaching career spanning over 40 years.
At 25, he is one of the best Ukrainian players today, but he shows off that talent in modest Girona. Why? It’s not a self-explanatory story.
Five million and future millions
Tsygankov’s contract with Dinamo ended in June 2023, so in the winter market there were two options: return to Ukraine and renew with the club or have a club reach an agreement with the Ukrainians to, in exchange for anything, take the player right away.
The “anything” was an amount of five million euros and 50% of the value of a future sale – a very nice deal for Dynamo, given that Tsygankov was a practically lost player.
The club president himself even publicly rebelled against the player’s agents, after Tsygankov refused the renewal proposals presented to him by the Kiev emblem.
But why choose Girona? Tsygankov had already been living in Spain for a few months, with all the training conditions to stay in shape, and his agent, Pere Guardiola, wanted to get him a Spanish club.
The problem is that in the January market, few clubs wanted to get ahead under the conditions that Dinamo demanded, namely FC Porto, which came to be associated with the player, but the three million a year that Tsygankov asked for were cooled to Porto’s attempts.
Another suggested hypothesis was Guardiola, brother of the Manchester City coach, wanting to put a star in the Girona influence network, which could later open the doors of City. And Tsygankov seems to be too many players for too few clubs at the moment.
Tsygankov “à Robben”
Whether for his precocious talent or his hair color, Tsygankov attracted attention early on in the Ukrainian capital club’s lineup.
He was a starter since he was 19, standing out in the creation of offensive football – he can play on the wings or behind the striker – but not only that. In the last four seasons, he has always scored more than 15 goals, with his signature movement, moving from the right to the middle, using the talent of his left foot.
Still with Dinamo, he even provoked a joke in Brazil. In 2021, when Dinamo faced Benfica in the Champions League, Tsygankov missed a blatant goal-scoring opportunity. At the time, he would give Dinamo 1-0 and put qualification at risk. As it failed, the “incarnates” ended up winning and eliminating Barcelona.
Moral of the story: Jorge Jesus stayed at the club, when it was thought that a European elimination would give him an early exit. In the Brazilian press, it was even written that Tsygankov became the number one enemy of Flamengo fans, thirsty to have Jorge Jesus out of a job – “that Tsygankov does not even think about spending Carnival in Rio”, ironized the columnist Juca Kfouri.
The Ukrainian preferred to spend the last Carnival in Catalonia, but even that didn’t speed up his adaptation. Quique Carcel, sporting director of Girona, even said that Tsygankov’s adaptation was being hampered by the language, because the player does not speak Spanish and needed time to understand the coach’s instructions.
Now, the problem seems to be outdated, not least because the language of this winger is easy to understand: ball on the left foot and movement from the right to the inside. Girona just has to let go… until City come and get him.