By Andy Hampson, PA
Oleksandr Zinchenko broke down in tears as he thanked Manchester City for their support after clinching his fourth Premier League title with the club.
The Ukraine international has been a key figure in City’s latest success despite the emotional turmoil he has suffered since Russia’s invasion of his homeland in February.
Zinchenko came off the bench and made a significant contribution as City came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 to pip Liverpool to the title by a single point on Sunday.
“At some point, especially in the beginning, I didn’t think too much about football because it is impossible to live with what is happening in my country,” Zinchenko told Sky Sports.
“But with all the support which I had during this period, we did it. It means everything to me.
“Honestly I want to die for these people, for all this support, because what people gave me and what they have done for me during this toughest period of my life.
“I am so appreciative and I will never forget this. Never in my life.
“It’s unforgettable emotions for me. I am so proud to be Ukrainian and I would love one day to bring this title to Ukraine, to all Ukrainian people, because they deserve it.”
Zinchenko replaced captain Fernandinho at half-time after the Brazilian had struggled in what was his final game for the club.
The veteran midfielder had again been deployed as a makeshift centre-back due to injuries and his substitution was not the farewell he might have envisaged.
Yet, come the end of the game, the 37-year-old was more than happy to be signing off by lifting the Premier League trophy and collecting a fifth winner’s medal.
He said: “You never give up and we always believed it today. To finish my nine years at City by winning my fifth Premier League title is a dream come true.
“To have won this trophy four times in five years really is amazing. Everyone knows the Premier League is the most competitive in world football, but we have shown consistency over a long period. That is testament to what City have built.
“It’s really emotional day for me. I’m so grateful for City. For sure, they’ll always be in my heart.”