When Andriy Shevchenko announced is desire to leave AC Milan, there was only going to be one destination- Chelsea Football Club. He signed a four year deal on the 1st of June, 2006, joining Michael Ballack and Salomon Kalou as new signings at the Bridge. The transfer fee is a club record, thought to be in the region of £30m.
Shevchenko is renowned as the best centre forward in the world, with good reason. The Ukrainian striker started his career at Dynamo Kiev, where, in five seasons, he helped them to five Ukrainian League Titles and two Ukrainian Cups, as well as playing a massive part in Kiev’s run to the Champions League Semi-Finals.
In 1990, Shevchenko took part in the “Ian Rush Cup” in Wales, for the Dynamo Kiev under-14 team. He was awarded a pair of Rush’s boots as the prize for top goalscorer. By 1993-1994 he was in the Kiev first team, scoring regularly, before scoring his first international goal in May 1996, in a friendly against Turkey. He made 20 appearances for Kiev during the 1996-1997 season, scoring 6 goals.
The next two seasons, were his finest for Dynamo Kiev. In 1997-1998 he scored a magnificent first half hattrick at the Nou Camp, helping unfancied Kiev to a 4-0 win against the Catalan giants. He scored 19 goals in 23 league matches as well as 6 goals in 10 Champions League appearances. Dynamo Kiev won the Ukrainian League, thanks to Shevchenko’s goals.
In 1998-1999, ‘Sheva’ scored 28 goals in all competitions, 18 of them in the League. His brilliant form helped Dynamo Kiev to the Champions League semi-finals, where they lost on aggregate 4-3, to Bayern München. They again won the Ukrainian League, as they did in every season that Shevchenko was at the club. Shevchenko has always credited Dynamo coach Vladimir Lobanovsky’s “laboratory” for turning him into the player he is today, instilling in him the discipline, work ethic and tactical nous that, coupled with his natural gifts, have made him one of the best goalscorers around.
Lobanovsky, who died four years ago, knew that a big club would come calling and they don’t come much bigger than AC Milan. €26m were required, before Shevchenko could make the move to Milan, in 1999.
His Serie A début was a 2-2 draw with Lecce, at the start of the 1999-2000 season. Things were to get much better for the centre forward. ‘Sheva’ scored 24 goals in 32 Serie A appearances, winning him the golden boot and in the process, becoming the first non-Italian to do so in his début season. He scored another 24 goals in 2000-2001. In March of 2000, Valeri Lobanovksy became the coach of the Ukraine National Team, with his ultimate aim being qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Shevchenko scored 10 goals in the qualifiers, before the Ukraine went down to eventual runners up, Germany in the play-off. Lobanovsky was sacked as national team coach.
In 2001-2002 Shevchenko netted ‘only’ 14 goals in 29 appearances. 2002-2003 finally saw Shevchenko win the silverware he so craved, Milan taking both the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League back to the San Siro. ‘Sheva’ was instrumental in the UEFA Champions League Final victory over arch rivals Juventus, scoring the winning penalty in the shoot out, after a 0-0 draw after 120 mins. He became the first Ukrainian born player to win the UEFA Champions League. However, Serie A was a slightly different story. Shevchenko scored just 5 goals in 24 appearances and Milan again failed to win back the Scudetto.
He was back to his goal scoring best in 2003-2004, scoring 24 goals in 32 appearances as AC Milan won the Serie A title for the first time in four years. ‘Sheva’ had won the Scudetto for the first time and it was his goals that proved vital. It was another double for Milan, with Shevchenko scoring the only goal in the UEFA Super Cup victory over the previous season’s winners of the UEFA Cup, José Mourinho’s FC Porto. In December 2004, Shevchenko was named European Footballer of the Year and was awarded the title “Hero of Ukraine” by then Ukraine President, Leonid Kuchma. It was a great way to cap off a fantastic year for ‘Sheva.’
At the start of the 2004-2005 season, Shevchenko scored a hattrick against Lazio, to win AC Milan the Italian Super Cup. He proceeded to score 17 goals in Serie A, but Milan was unable to retain their title. His 6 Champions League goals helped them to the UEFA Champions League Final, where an Hérnan Crespo double had AC Milan 3-0 up against Liverpool. They fought back to 3-3 and after a tense extra time period, in which Shevchenko was denied by an improbably brilliant stop from Jerzy Dudek, a penalty shootout would against decide the winners. Lightning however, does not strike twice, or not in the case of Andriy Shevchenko. His spot kick was saved by Dudek and Liverpool became winners of the UEFA Champions League.
In October 2005, the Ukraine finally qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. ‘Sheva’ scored 6 of the Ukraine’s 18 goals in qualifying, as they lost just one game. On the 25th November, 2005, Shevchenko scored all four goals in a win over Turkish side Fenerbahçe, becoming just the fifth player to score four goals in a UEFA Champions League game.
“Most players are truly comfortable in a single role, a few players can play two positions equally well,” Carlo Ancelotti, the Milan manager, said of Shevchenko last year. “But Sheva fits in seamlessly in so many different roles and so many different formations.” Just the way José likes it. Shevchenko, out of Milan’s last home game with injury, gave his thanks to the fans, by watching not from the comfort of the sidelines but from the Curva Sud, surrounded by Milan’s hardcore Ultras supporters.
The last word goes to the AC Milan fans, who worshipped their former number 7 like no other. “Sheva: you will always be one of us. Abramovich: you got yourself a legend. Treat him well and he will make you the happiest man alive.”
Shevchenko joins Chelsea in the hope of adding an English Premier League title and more European glory to his impressive record. His goals tally in a notoriously defensive league is phenomenal. With the fast pace of English football, plus players the caliber of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Michael Ballack and Claudé Makelélé in the same side, watch and enjoy as Andriy Shevchenko makes his mark on the English Premier League.