“His ability to play everywhere on the pitch was eye catching. His determination, competiveness, and desire to control the ball made him very visible on the pitch”
On the 29th September 1976 in Dvirkivschyna, a child was born and was given the name Andriy. Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko, footballing God and a Ukrainian legend.
His career nearly ended however, before it has started, as on 26th April 1986 the Chornobyl Nuclear disaster forced Shevchenko and his family to leave their home and evacuate to the coast to avoid the after effects of the radiation. Before he settled with football, Shevchenko was talented at many sports and in particular he had a skill for boxing, but football won through.
Dynamo Kyiv was the club that Shevchenko began his career with, but they nearly missed out on the young star as he failed a dribbling test for entrance to their specialist football school in Kyiv, however he happened to catch the eye of a Dynamo Kyiv scout while later playing in a youth tournament, and was thus signed for the club. Playing for the under-14 team in the Ian Rush Cup, he ended as top goal scorer and as a reward was handed a pair of Ian Rush’s boots by the ex-Liverpool star.
Sheva continued to progress through the ranks at Dynamo and in 1992 he made his first start for Dynamo-2. That season he was top scorer for the team with 12 goals. His good form for the second string did not go unnoticed and he was handed his first team call up by Mykhailo Fomenko. He cemented the position as his own in the Dynamo first team, creating a lethal partnership with Serhiy Rebrov. In the 1994/95 season he won his first Ukrainian League title, making 17 appearacnes for the first team and contributing with just a single goal.
Its rumoured that in 1994, Harry Redknapp of West Ham United sent over 2 youngsters for a trial, one of them being an 18 year old called Andriy Shevchenko. He stayed for the week and even scored in a reserve game against Barnet but Redknapp sent him back as Kiev were wanting over a million for him. Un-moved by his subsequent success Harry has reportedly been quoted as saying that “he didn’t look like anything special at all” and “I sent him back and told my contacts out there to get me a better player.”
Shevchenko’s fine form earned him his first call up to the senior national squad and he would make his debut in 1995, in a 4-0 defeat to Croatia in Zagreb in qualifying for EURO ’96 in England. He would score his first goal in an International friendly in 1996 against Turkey.
The following season, he was second top scorer in the league as Dynamo again won the league, Shevchenko’s second title as a young player. Dynamo won the league again in the 1996/97 season, but Shevchenko’s appearances would be limited due to injury.
It was at this time that Dynamo legend Valeriy Lobanovsky returned to coach the club. Shevchenko’s game continued to develop and he learnt a lot from the returning coach, who influenced Sheva both on and off the field.
“Lobanovsky was like a father to me.”
Shevchenko once spoke of how his game adapted under Lobanovsky and he became more of a team player. Sheva stated that his game was very selfish until he learnt the importance of working as a team. It is no secret that Shevchenko would not be where he is today without the guidance of the father of Ukrainian football.
In the 1997/98 season the lethal striking partnership of Shevchenko and Rebrov would fully take off. Rebrov was Premier League top goalscorer with 22 goals and his partner up front, Shevchenko would come second with 19 goals. Dynamo won the Ukrainian Premier League, finishing 5 points ahead of rivals Shakhtar Donetsk and they would win the Ukrainian Cup against CSKA Kyiv, with Shevchenko getting both goals in the final.
This season would be even more dramatic and notable for Dynamo and Shevchenko in the Champions League. On 5th November 1997, Valeriy Lobanovsky took his Dynamo Kyiv team to the Nou Camp where they created one of the biggest shocks in the competitions history. 9 minutes into the game, Dynamo went 1-0 up from a goal scored by Shevchenko who would score again on 32′. Just before half time Dynamo were awarded a penalty… up stepped Andriy Shevchenko to score his hat-trick and put the Ukrainian team 3-0 and looking comfortable just before half time. Dynamo would get a fourth goal in the second half, when a mistake from Barcelona gifted Serhiy Rebrov the ball, who put the ball in the back of the net to secure the win, if there was any doubt of it anyway. This game has been voted one of the greatest in the history of Dynamo and indeed was an introduction to the world, for Andriy Shevchenko.
In the qualifying campaign for the 1998 World Cup, Shevchenko had established himself as a key member of the Ukraine side. He helped them to second place in the group stage which led to a play-off against Croatia. Unfortunately, Ukraine lost 2:0 in Zagreb and could only draw 1:1 in Kyiv, despite Shevchenko’s best efforts when he scored and had a goal disallowed.
In the 1998/99 season, Sheva yet again helped Dynamo win the league title in Ukraine, finishing as top scorer, with 18 goals. His form in the league, cup and also Champions League, in which Dynamo beat the likes of Real Madrid to reach the semi-finals, led to interest in the talented Ukrainian. In the summer of 1999 Italian giants AC Milan paid a then record fee of €25 Million for Shevchenko. Sheva signed off for Dynamo in the 3-0 win in the Ukrainian Cup final against Karpaty Lviv, he scored 2 of the 3 goals including a memorable solo goal, often named one of his best goals. He won the domestic league title with Dynamo in each of his five seasons with the club.
He made his league debut for the Italian giants on 28 August 1999 in a 2–2 draw with Lecce. Sheva had no troubles adapting to the Italian league and in his debut season, he finished top goalscorer in the league with 24 goals, pippin Fiorentina’s Gabriel Batistuta to the accolaide. In winning the award, he joined the elite group of Michel Platini, John Charles, Gunnar Nordahl, Istvan Nyers, and Férénc Hirzer as foreigners to win the award. He would also help AC qualify for the Champions League in his first season and led them on a good cup run.
In the same season, Shevchenko played in The Game of the Century II for the Ukrainian National team. He would become a Ukrainian legend by scoring a late equaliser for Ukraine. A huge error from Russia ‘keeper, Filimonov ensured that Ukraine left the Luzhniki with a point, helping Ukraine reach the play-offs while ensuring Russia went no further in the competition. However, the dream of reaching a major international tournament could not become reality for Sheva once more, as Ukraine lost in the play-offs, this time against Slovenia.
He took his goal scoring form into the following 2000/01 season scoring yet another 24 goals, unfortunately this time being beaten to the top scorer award by Hernan Crespo. AC Milan finished top of their group in the Champions League with Shevchenko scoring a few goals in the process. Milan eventually went out of the competition in the second group stage, finishing 3rd out of 4 teams. Milan finished a disappointing 6th in the league, but would qualify for the following seasons UEFA Cup. The 2001/02 season was disappointing for Shevchenko in terms of goal scoring, he netted 14 times throughout the season in Serie A including 2 against arch rivals Internazionale Milan. He would add some more goals to his tally in the UEFA cup, helping Milan reach the Semi-Finals where they lost on aggregate to Borussia Dortmund. Milan finished 4th in the league this season, going into the Champions league in the third qualifying round for the following season.
For Ukraine he would again suffer agony in the play-offs for the 3rd successive campaign. Finishing 2nd behind neighbours Poland, Ukraine went on to face European powerhouse Germany in the play-offs. After a promising 1:1 draw in Kyiv, the tie was effectively over after 15 minutes in Germany as it was already 3:0. The game finished 4:1, but Shevchenko continued his record of scoring in the each play-off Ukraine had been in.
The 2002/03 season was a memorable one as Shevchenko would achieve one of his lifelong ambitions, one he shared with his old mentor Valeriy Lobanovsky in winning the Champions League. Milan finished top of their group, ahead of Deportivo La Coruna, Lens and Bayern Munich. Shevchenko would only get one goal in the group stage, coming in a shock 2-1 reverse away at RC Lens. They stormed through the second group stage which included Spanish giants Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Lokomotiv Moscow. In the knockout stages AC came up against Ajax Amsterdam, eventually winning 3-2 over two legs before heading into the semi-final, against arch rivals Inter Milan.
On the 7th May 2003, the two Milan giants stood up against each other for the first of two games. In an enthralling encounter, with chances for both sides the game finished 0:0 meaning the tie was finely poised ahead of the second leg. A week later the sides met again, with this time Inter being the ‘home’ team. A quiet start to the game went on to last the whole half but as the first half wore on with no clear scoring chances, and just a couple of tame shots from Rui Costa, the sides seemed set to go in all square at the break. But during injury time, Shevchenko, whose place in the Milan starting lineup had been under threat, picked up a pass from Clarence Seedorf just inside the Inter area and somehow found a way past Iván Cordoba before lifting the ball over Francesco Toldo to break the deadlock. AC Milan had the away goal they needed. Inter did manage to find an equaliser in the second half but, despite a flurry of late corners and the presence of Toldo lurking in the Milan area, Inter were unable to find a second goal – ensuring their bitter rivals marched on to Manchester to meet Juventus, who had beaten Real Madrid.
On 28th May, 2003 AC Milan faced off against fellow Italians Juventus in the Champions League Final at Old Trafford. In a cagey and tense affair without many chances the game finished 0:0 and headed to extra time. The extra 30 minutes were something of a dull affair, with both teams seemingly happy to take their chance with the lottery of a penalty shoot out rather then risk making a fatal mistake. Juventus won the toss and decided to go first. Juve missed 3 of their 5 penalties, while AC had missed 2 out of 4 so far. There was one penalty to take, a penalty to win the game if scored, a penalty to be taken by Andriy Shevchenko. He stepped up, knowing exactly where he was putting it. He began his run up, and struck the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net, sending Buffon the wrong way. Milan were Champions League winners and Andriy Shevchenko had scored the decisive goal!
One of the first things Shevchenko did after winning the trophy, was take it back to his homeland to the memorial statue of Valeriy Lobanovsky outside Dynamo’s stadium, to share the glory with his former mentor.
AC Milan finished 3rd in the league that season, behind rivals Inter Milan and Champions and Champions League runners up, Juventus.
The 03/04 season was to be a succesful season for Shevchenko, taking his fortune from the previous season and tansferring it into this one. Shevchenko would win the golden boot award, finishing top goalscorer in Serie A with a total of 24 goals. His goals would help AC win the title, and earn Sheva his first Scudetto in Italy. His fine form for this season had been noticed and in 2004, he was awarded one of the most prestigious prizes in football, The Ballon D’or. he thus became the third Ukrainian to win the award, following in the footbsteps of Oleh Blokhin and Ihor Belanov.
AC Milan would unfortunately not replicate their Champions League triumph of the previous season, going out in the quarter finals against Deportivo La Coruna.
In the meantime he continued to be an influential player for Ukraine, he reached the milestone of 50 international caps but Ukraine could not reach Euro 2004 and this time they did not even reach the play-offs. Ukraine finished third in the group which included Spain and group winners Greece. He did however, add 3 goals to his tally.
In the 04/05 seaosn Shevchenko would finish 6th in the goalscoring charts, getting 17 goals. His goals helped his AC Milan side finish 2nd in the league, 7 points behind winners, Juventus. AC did however manage to replicate their Champions League form of a couple of seasons ago, reaching what will be an ever memorable final. Having beaten the likes of Manchester United and Inter Milan along the way, on the 25th May 2005, AC faced Liverpool in Istanbul. The game got off to a flying start and by half time, AC were looking comfortable being 3-0 up and dominating the game. Whatever was said in the changing rooms at half time by Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez certainly geared his players up, as Liverpool came back to bring the game to 3-3. The game stayed like this until full time, where it went to extra time and penalties. Sheva had been denied a glorious chance in the second half of extra time when Jerzy Dudek pulled out a wonder double save to deny the forward. The look of Shevchenko’s face summed it up. Like in 2003, it came down to Shevchenko to take the last and deciding penalty for AC Milan in the game. Dudek stood in front of him, moving around, trying to put Sheva off, a tactic which worked, as he stepped up he hit it straight down the middle, where Dudek saved with his legs. Liverpool were champions, and Shevchenko had fallen from hero to villain.
The following season, 05/06, Milan would finish 3rd in the league, with Shevchenko getting 19 goals, and he would finish top scorer in the Champions league with 9 goals in a competition where AC would get beaten and knocked out in the Semi-Final against eventual champions, Barcelona. This would be Shevchenko’s last season in Italy, as a big money transfer came in from English club, Chelsea. It was to be a memorable summer for Sheva starting with his big money move to London. Shevchenko left Milan for Chelsea for £30.8 million topping Michael Essien’s transfer fee from the previous year and also breaking the record for a player signed by an English club. He received the number seven shirt.
He left Milan as a club legend. He is currently the second top goal scorer in the clubs history and has many friends in the Milan family. This includes club president Silvio Berlusconi, who is godfather to one of Shevchenkos children.
More significantly for Shevchenko however, he had finally helped Ukraine to qualify for an international tournament, the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Ukraine, coached by legend Oleh Blokhin navigated a group of death in the qualifying campaign which included Euro 2004 winners Greece along with Denmark, Turkey and Georgia. Shevchenko scored 6 as Ukraine finished top of the group, including a memorable double in Turkey when Ukraine won 3:0.
At the finals, Shevchenko captained Ukraine as they impressively reached the quarter finals of the competition. He scored 2 goals in the group stage, one against Saudi Arabia and a penalty against Tunisia. He did however miss a penalty in the shoot out victory against Switzerland but was powerless as Ukraine lost to Italy in the quarters.
Returning back to England for the start of the sesaon, Shevchenko made his debut for Chelsea on 13 August 2006 in the FA Community Shield, scoring his side’s goal in a 2–1 loss to Liverpool. Despite his bright start, it wasn’t a happy time in London for the Ukrainian superstar, with many of the fans and media saying it was Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner that wanted the player and not head coach Jose Mourinho. He managed 14 goals in all competitions in his first season with the club, and a following 8 the season after, a return that the Chelsea board were not happy with. With the appointment of Luiz Filipe Scolari, Shevchenko was deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea, and he was loaned out, to former club AC Milan.
Shevchenko’s second spell at AC was considered to very unsuccessful, as he failed to score any league goals and only scored two goals in 26 appearances, starting only nine of those games. At the end of the season, Milan confirmed that Shevchenko would be returning to Chelsea for the final year of his four-year contract.
Coupled with his disappointing domestic form, Ukraine could not return to international competition and had a disappointing campaign for Euro 2008 not even reaching the play-offs. Drawn in a group with European giants Italy and France, they finished fourth behind the Scottish too. Shevchenko finished joint second top goalscorer in the group with 5 goals.
Shevchenko returned to Chelsea but on 28 August 2009, Shevchenko signed a two-year deal at former club Dynamo Kyiv.
On his return to Kyiv, Shevchenko was appointed club captain. On 16 September 2009, Shevchenko played his first Champions League match after returning to Dynamo, against Rubin Kazan, in Dynamo’s first game of the 2009–10 season. In October 2009, he was named the best player of the Ukrainian Premier League. He couldn’t unfortunately influence the Dynamo side enough and they finished second in the league to rivals Shakhtar Donetsk. Dynamo finished bottom of their group in the champions league, with their only win coming over Russian side Rubin Kazan, and their other 2 points against Inter and Rubin.
On the international front, he lead Ukraine into the World Cup 2010 qualifiers. They faced a tough group which included Croatia and England. More agony followed and for the fourth time in his career after finishing second in the group, Shevchenko and Ukraine lost in the play-offs to Greece, 1-0 over two legs. This time, Shevchenko could not score ending his sequence for Ukraine.
On 8th October 2010, in a friendly game against Canada, Shevchenko became the first Ukrainian footballer to reach 100 caps. 3 days later, fellow countryman and team mate Anatoliy Tymoschuk added his name to that list, becoming the second Ukrainian player to reach 100 caps.
The following season Dynamo once again succumbed to finishing second in the league again, with Shakhtar Donetsk picking up first place. Dynamo had got through to the Champions League qualifying play-offs but unfortunately could not beat Ajax to get through to the group stages. Dynamo dropped into the Europa League where they would go on a run to the Quarter-finals, getting beaten by eventual runners up Braga. Shevchenko would net himself and the club 5 goals in the process.
In the 2011/12 season, he helped Dynamo finish second in the league once again and for the third time in his second stint at the club, he lost out to Shakhtar and Mircea Lucescu’s team of Brazilians. Shevchenko managed to add a further 6 goals to his tally throughout the season. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help the Ukrainian giants escape the group stages of the Europa league, and they finished 3rd in the group in a disappointing season.
Before hanging up his boots, Andriy Shevchenko enjoy one more tournament in the spotlight and memorably scored Ukraine’s two goals in their opening game of Euro2012 at the NSC Olympiyskyi stadium in Kyiv against Sweden. Despite his influence Sheva could not lead Ukraine to victory against France and due to injury could only start on the bench in the defeat to England. This was to be the final time Shevchenko would appear in the professional footballing arena. He was however linked with and indeed offered the post of Ukraine manager following Oleh Blokhin’s decision to take up the reigns at Dynamo Kyiv, but due to his inexperience turned the role down. It was eventually taken by Mykhaylo Fomenko. He continues to be linked to the post and is expected to be offered the role again when Fomenko’s reign comes to an end.
It has however, been a sensational career for Shevchenko, he is in the top-5 all time scorers in UEFA club competition. He is Ukraine’s all time international leading goal scorer, even scoring more goals than Oleh Blokhin did with the Soviet Union. He is also a leading member of the Oleh Blokhin club, approaching 400 goals. He has scored more goals in the Milan derby (14) than any other player. 6 times he has won the Ukrainian Player of the Year award adding to his Ballon D’Or.
In the October 2012 Ukrainian Parliamentary elections he was second on the list for the Ukraine Forward party. It was rumoured he would join forces with Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR party but he opted not to. The party failed to muster enough votes to gain any seats and Shevchenko has since said he will not be returning to politics.
He is also continuing his sporting prowess in other fields as a youngster he was a talented boxer and now he is a top golfer. It became a hobby for him at Milan and he was often accused of being more focused on golf than football during his time at Chelsea. In 2011, he finished second in the Ukrainian National Golf championships. He has stated that he wants to represent Ukraine in Golf at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko, we welcome you to the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame!
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Profile by Andriy Luczka, member of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Andriy on twitter – @luczka