FOR a modern professional footballer, Mykhailo Mudryk is strikingly small in stature and build at 1.70m tall.
His demeanor rarely exudes a confidence or sporting arrogance that one would expect from someone who cost Chelsea £88million six months ago.
His face is boyish and flawless. His voice is soft and thoughtful.
And to top it off, his first interaction with the English media – in the bowels of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field Stadium – lasted about 90 seconds.
But in this brief exchange there are the faintest signs that the 22-year-old is not a shy violet. He is sovereign, blunt and powerful, coupled with an admirable calm.
One can’t help but be impressed, not only because of the terrible situation in his native Ukraine, but also because many people seem to have already written him off.
Arsenal were his club of choice but Mudryk ended up at Stamford Bridge on a move in January that promised much but failed to deliver right away.
On his away debut in Liverpool on 21 January, he demonstrated exceptional speed and skill, just without the crucial finishing touches.
Mudryk finished the season with 17 appearances, one assist and zero goals.
Another Chelsea-funded mega-flop? Not if Mudryk has anything to say about it.
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Like any foreign importer, Mudryk has spent much of his time in the gym since arriving in England, preparing for the physical activity that awaits him next season. It is certainly not the finished article.
But when asked about the expectations that haunt him, he said: “People always expect so much from someone, but it’s his problem because he expects something.”
“It’s not my full potential. It’s only 20 percent.”
A bold claim which should get Chelsea fans excited for the coming season as he has at best provided a glimpse of what he can really do in the Premier League.
Illness and fatigue could not be helped, factors that kept him on the bench for several games under ex-coach Graham Potter before Frank Lampard took over on an interim basis.
By that point it was too late to save Chelsea’s sinking seasonal ship.
And yet, with Mauricio Pochettino now at the helm, there’s a feeling that Mudryk has a new role at this Blues side and is ready to transfer it to the Prem next month after scoring his first goal in Chelsea colors in pre-season against Brighton.
Mudryk was watched by former Shakhtar Donetsk manager Roberto De Zerbi, who now plays for the Seagulls and still feels like a proud father at sports days.
De Zerbi said: “I’m very happy for him. He’s a great player and has great, great potential and I’m always happy when my former players are performing well or have something special.”
Poch added: “It’s important for Mudryk to score. Attacking players need to score and gain confidence.
“We know the area we have to work in, we will focus, it will take time.
“We have to believe in the process and trust it in order to come into the first Premier League game in the best possible condition.”
Pochettino has urged Todd Boehly to find first-team quality in him in time for the new season, ideally to accompany them on their tour of the States, such as Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.
And yet the answer to many of the agent’s problems is found right under his nose, first through centre-back Levi Colwill and now through Mudryk.
The pressure should no longer be solely on the Ukrainian, who looks determined and focused to show the Premier League the ‘real’ Mudryk this time around, not a cheater.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting. Asked about the short time at Chelsea, Mudryk murmured: “Study time.”
When asked to elaborate on that answer and ask what exactly he learned, Mudryk simply said, “Patience.”
Mudryk continues to surprise us all and will certainly let football do the talking for the foreseeable future.
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