United Soviet Union or USSR gave us many gems in every field be it science, art, and football isn’t an exception. Lev Yashin, Oleg Blokhin, Igor Belanov were some of the prodigal sons of the Union. Andriy Shevchenko was probably the gem from the last generation of footballers from the Soviet Union before it’s demolition. Shevchenko famously known as ‘Shev’ won Ballon d’Or in 2004 against all the odds keeping behind the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Thiery Henry. We’ll take a look back on the legendary career of arguably the best Footballer his nation Ukraine has produced so far.
Childhood and Youth Career
Andriy Shevchenko was born on 29th September 1976 in Dvirkivshchyna, Ukrainian SSR. In 1979, his family moved to the newly built neighborhood in Kyiv – Obolon. In Kyiv, Shevchenko went to the 216th City School and in 1986 when he was of 9 years of age, was enrolled in the football section coached by Oleksandr Shpakov. But in 1988 due to the horrible accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, he along with his sport group was evacuated temporarily from the city. At an early age, he also was a competitive boxer in the LLWI Ukrainian junior league but eventually, he elected to move on to the game of football. In 1986 he joined Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv‘s youth system.
Professional Career: Birth of a legend
Andriy Shevchenko was promoted to the Dynamo Kyiv senior team in 1993 after 7 years of training with the youth squad. He made his Vyshcha Liha(Ukrainian Premier League) debut for the Kyiv outfit on 8 November 1994 in an away game against Shakhtar Donetsk when he was 18. Till 1996, Andriy Shevchenko played for both Dynamo Kyiv’s first team and their reserve side, Dynamo Kyiv-2 (which is now non-operational). He played 166 games across all competitions for the Kyiv side scoring 94 goals during that tenure.
Joining AC Milan
In 1999, Andriy Shevchenko joined Italian giants AC Milan for a then-record transfer fee of $25 million. He hit the ground running from the very beginning of his Milan career scoring 24 goals in 32 league games in his debut Serie A season. He maintained that form in the next season as well scoring the same number of goals in 34 games for the Rossoneri. In the 2002-03 season injuries hampered his game time and he only managed to score 5 goals in 24 outings for the Milan side. Despite that, he scored a crucial away goal against their cross-city rivals Inter in the UEFA Champions League semi-final to send the Rossoneri’s to the finals.
He also scored the winning penalty in the shootout in the final against Juventus in the final at Old Trafford and helped Milan to lift their 6th UEFA Champions League title and he also became the first Ukrainian to win the UEFA Champions League. He was back in form in the next season scoring 24 goals in 32 Serie A games and helped Milan to win their first Scudetto in 5 years. He also scored the winning goal in the UEFA Super Cup victory over Porto, leading to Milan’s second trophy of the season. In August 2004, he scored three goals against Lazio as Milan won the Supercoppa Italiana. Shevchenko capped off the year by winning the Ballon d’Or becoming only the third Ukrainian to achieve this accolade after Oleg Blokhin and Igor Belanov. In the same year, Shevchenko was also inducted into the FIFA 100.
His 2004-05 campaign was again hampered by a severe cheekbone injury. But he still ended up scoring 17 goals for Milan during that campaign but criticism followed when he missed a crucial penalty in the shootout against Liverpool in the famous 2005 UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul. Milan lost the final even after leading by 3 goals in the first half but Shevchenko however, finished the tournament as the highest scorer with 9 goals. On 8 February 2006, Shevchenko became Milan’s second-highest all-time goalscorer, behind Gunnar Nordahl, after netting against Treviso. He finished the season as the joint fourth-top scorer with 19 goals in 28 games. After 175 goals in 296 games, Shevchenko finally waved goodbye to the Rossoneri fans after 7 years.
Moving to Chelsea
On 28 May 2006, Andriy 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 was given the number seven shirt by Chelsea manager José Mourinho. Shevchenko made his Chelsea debut on 13 August 2006 in the FA Community Shield, scoring his side’s goal in a 2–1 loss to Liverpool. On 23 August, he scored his first Premier League goal – and his 300th in top-flight and international football – in a 2–1 loss to Middlesbrough. He scored goals sporadically throughout the season, including equalizers against Porto and Valencia in the 2006–07 Champions League and another against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup to help take his side into the semi-final. He finished with a total of 14 from 51 games. During the campaign, he netted his 57th career goal in European competitions, leaving him second behind Gerd Müller on the all-time European goalscorers list, before Filippo Inzaghi made the record his own in the 2007–08 Champions League.
Andriy Shevchenko’s 2006–07 season was cut short due to injury and a hernia operation. He missed the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool and the FA Cup final against Manchester United at the new Wembley Stadium on 19 May 2007. He did, however, start for Chelsea in the 2007 League Cup final victory over Arsenal in which he hit the bar which would have given Chelsea a 3–1 lead. Shevchenko was handed his first start of the 2007–08 season against Blackburn Rovers at home to cover for the injured Didier Drogba, but the game finished goalless. Throughout the season, Shevchenko was in and out of the starting line-up because of injuries and the appointment of Avram Grant following the departure of Mourinho. During the Christmas period, however, Andriy Shevchenko enjoyed a good run of form. He scored the first goal in Chelsea’s 2–0 win over Sunderland, and he was named man of the match in Chelsea’s 4–4 draw against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge, scoring twice including a stunning 25-yard shot into the top left-hand corner and assisting Alex to make the score 3–2 in Chelsea’s favor. Shevchenko scored his last goal in the 2007–08 season in a 1–1 draw with Bolton Wanderers. He finished the season with five league goals in 17 games. Shevchenko was also part of the Chelsea squad that lost to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final.
After the appointment of Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, Shevchenko didn’t enjoy much of a game-time and due to that, he was loaned back to his former club AC Milan for the 2008-09 season. But his second spell with the Rossoneri wasn’t successful because he failed to register any league goals during the whole campaign and scored only 2 goals across all competition for the Milan outfit.
Moving back to Dynamo Kyiv
On 28 August 2009, Andriy Shevchenko moved back to his former club Dynamo Kyiv signing a two-year deal and scored a penalty-goal in his first game upon returning to his former club against Metalurh Donetsk in Dynamo’s 3–1 victory on 31 August 2009. He was mostly used as a left-winger and was named left winger in the 2009 team of the season. On 16 September 2009, Andriy Shevchenko played his first Champions League match after returning to Dynamo, against Rubin Kazan.
In October 2009, he was named the best player of the Ukrainian Premier League. On 4 November 2009, he scored a goal in the game against Inter, cross-city rivals of his former club Milan, in the fourth game of the Champions League season. It was the 15th goal he had scored against Inter in his career. On 28 July 2012, Andriy Shevchenko announced that he was quitting football for politics.
Shevchenko earned his first Ukraine cap in 1995 and scored his first international goal in May 1996 in a friendly against Turkey. He played 111 times for his country and represented them at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012. During qualification for the 1998 World Cup, Shevchenko scored three times as Ukraine finished second in Group G to earn a place in the play-offs. Ukraine was knocked out 3–1 on aggregate by Croatia, the team who would go on to finish third in the finals, with Shevchenko scoring Ukraine’s goal in the home leg.
Shevchenko netted six times in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, to take his country to its first-ever major tournament. He captained the team at the finals and scored in Ukraine’s first-ever World Cup victory, a 4–0 win over Saudi Arabia. He then scored the winning goal from a penalty kick as Ukraine beat Tunisia 1–0 to qualify for the second round where, despite Shevchenko failing with their first kick, Ukraine knocked out Switzerland on penalties. Ukraine were then beaten 3–0 by eventual champions Italy at the quarter-final.
In May 2012, Shevchenko’s dream was fulfilled as he was named in the Ukrainian squad for Euro 2012. In Ukraine’s opening game, Shevchenko scored two headers to beat Sweden 2–1 in Group D. In Ukraine’s final game, against England, Marko Dević scored a “ghost goal” in the second half, with Ukraine losing 1–0 to a Wayne Rooney goal. Dević’s shot was hooked clear from behind the England goal-line by Shevchenko’s former Chelsea teammate John Terry under the eyes of the additional assistant referee standing beside the goal. The incident reopened the debate on football’s goal-line technology. Replays, however, also showed Artem Milevskiy should have been ruled offside before Dević’s shot. After this game, Shevchenko announced he would retire from international football, having been Ukraine’s youngest and oldest goalscorer and record marksman with 48 goals in 111 appearances.
From 16 February 2016 to 15 July 2016, Shevchenko served as the assistant manager of the Ukraine national team. On 15 July 2016, Shevchenko was appointed as manager of the Ukraine national team. The 39-year-old replaced Mykhaylo Fomenko, whose four-year spell ended with elimination at the group stage of Euro 2016.
He signed a two-year contract with the possibility of another two-year extension. Former Italy and Milan defender Mauro Tassotti, who was an assistant coach when Shevchenko was at Milan, joined his coaching staff, as did former Dynamo coach Raúl Riancho, and former Milan Youth System coach Andrea Maldera. On 14 October 2019, Shevchenko led Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2020 with a 2–1 home win over reigning European champions Portugal.
Life outside Football
Shevchenko has genuine interest in politics. In the late 1990s, Shevchenko and other teammates of Dynamo Kyiv publicly backed the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united). During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Shevchenko publicly endorsed candidate Viktor Yanukovych. After his retirement in June 2012, Shevchenko immediately joined Ukraine – Forward! (formerly known as Ukrainian Social Democratic Party) and took second place on the party list for October 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary. In the election, his party won 1.58% of the national votes and no constituencies and thus failed to win parliamentary representation.
Shevchenko married the American model Kristen Pazik. The couple met at a Giorgio Armani afterparty in 2002 and married on 14 July 2004 in a private ceremony on a golf course in Washington, D.C. The couple has four sons: Jordan, born on 29 October 2004, Kristian, born on 10 November 2006, Alexander, born on 1 October 2012, and Rider Gabriel, born on 6 April 2014. Shevchenko commemorated Jordan’s birth by scoring against Sampdoria the following day (Milan won 1–0). Milan owner and former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi is regarded as the godfather of Shevchenko’s first son, Jordan. The day after Kristian’s birth, Shevchenko scored in a 4–0 Chelsea victory over Watford and he and several of his teammates gathered and performed the popular “rock-the-baby” goal celebration as a tribute.
We wish Andriy Shevchenko a very happy birthday and best of luck for his future managerial endeavours with Ukraine.
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