On Saturday night, England (containing three current Chelsea players) will take on a well organised Ukrainian side managed by a man whose time at Chelsea contained bad timing, injuries and a few underwhelming years , that man is Andriy Shevchenko.
The Transfer From The Rossoneri to West London
Chelsea purchased Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan for a fee around £30m-£40m on July 1st 2006 after the Ukranian talisman endured a dream-like 7 year stint at the Rossoneri. Just two years before in 2004, he had won the Balon d’Or however his longevity was a big concern surrounding our record transfer signing. At age 29 Shevchenko was entering the twilight period of his career and his ability to compete in the best league in the world was questioned heavily and many pondered the idea that he was too late in his career to adapt to the ways of the Premier League.
Mourinho was quoted as saying “Andriy has always been my first choice for Chelsea since I arrived”. The special one’s words were not believed by some Chelsea supporters as they felt Roman Abramovich had forced Mourinho to put up and shut up regarding the record signing of his 29-year-old close pal. Mourinho would dispute these claims heavily and I presume we’ll never know Mourinho’s true views on the matter.
As for Shevchenko, he was quoted as saying “I am here for the challenge and the excitement of playing in the Premier League”. Shevchenko seemed optimistic about his spell at Stamford Bridge but everyone soon come to the realisation that his dream move to England was not what he had thought it would pan out to be.
Season 1 : 2006/07
Shevchenko’s first season at Chelsea started well with 2 goals in his first 3 matches, including his first goal for the Blues in a losing effort in the Community Shield against Liverpool. However, a 2 month goalless stint in all competitions would downplay his promising start and set the tone for his goal scoring form throughout the 2006/07 campaign.
19th March 2007 was one of Shevchenko’s finest moments in a Chelsea shirt when he scored a beautiful screamer with his weaker left foot against Spurs.
Drogba and Shevchenko were often utilised up top together but the partnership didn’t really work out in favour for Shevchenko. Didier would go on to record 33 goals and 11 assists in all competitions. Shevchenko’s inability to play with Drogba up front raised concerns as at AC Milan he had featured in double striker formations regularly. Most noticeably he played in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Hernan Crespo in the infamous Champions League final against Liverpool. Crespo and Drogba are obviously different players, however this raised eyebrows about his fitness and his place in the starting eleven.
Shevchenko and Timo Werner’s first seasons for Chelsea are quite similar in the fact that their goal scoring threat decreased but their assist total stayed at a high level. In total, Andriy Shevchenko played 51 matches in his opening season, scoring 14 and assisting 10. The Ukrainian excelled in the FA Cup and the League Cup where he scored 6 goals and 2 assists in 10 such matches. Shevchenko would play 3,442 minutes in all competitions which means Sheva averaged a goal every 246 minutes… To put this into perspective, his Ivorian counterpart averaged a goal every 148 minutes whilst playing 1000 minutes more.
It would be unfair not to mention the first of Shevchenko’s injuries that occurred late on in the season on the 29th April 2007. Shevchenko missed the Semi-Final 2nd leg against Liverpool and the FA Cup final against Manchester United. This added to the slice of disappointment that was Shevchenko’s first season in West London.
Season 2 : 2007/08
Shevchenko fell out of favour with Jose Mourinho and was not featured in the first five matches of the Premier League campaign. Even when he was in the squad, he rarely played a full 90 minutes and this trend would continue with the arrival of Avram Grant. Abramovich and Grant are well known to be close friends but Grant refused to play the now out of form striker. Avram Grant preferred a one man strike force and in the Premier League, Drogba wins that battle every single time.
On the 26th December 2007, Sheva had one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt in a blockbuster 4-4 game against Aston Villa. The Ukrainian scored 2 and assisted 1 in 82 minutes in a main highlight of this season. This day was a complete juxtaposition for Shevchenko as this is the day his Herniated Disc was diagnosed. The second injury in two years for Andriy and this injury would be much more serious than his first, he would miss 12 matches and 50 days of action. Many attribute Shevchenko’s demise at Chelsea to this injury and his game time would decrease even more rapidly after his return.
Shevchenko would only manage 25 matches in all competitions and would barely just reach over 1,000 minutes on the pitch. Just 8 goals and 1 assist in all competitions would sum up his disappointing second season slump in form. Highlights of his season were few and far between, especially after returning from his serious injury.
His £120,000 a week wage was extremely high for the output of goals and minutes played and after this season is where many Chelsea fans demanded he was given the boot. He would never play a full 90 minutes in the Premier League again…
Season 3 : 2008/09
Speculation surrounding a move back to AC Milan had followed Shevchenko throughout his time at Chelsea and a year-long loan move was granted on the 23rd August 2008. Sheva had already achieved legendary status at the Rossoneri but was going back to try and find his shooting boots to try and emulate his success during his infamous 7 year stint at Milan and then bring this success back to Stamford Bridge.
This loan move was a disaster from the word go as AC Milan quickly realised his pace and striking prowess was no more and he was just not adequate enough at a high level anymore. Shevchenko would play 3 full matches but apart from that he was used off the bench. For a man who had scored 127 goals in 208 league games in his previous tenure at the club, it was an even bigger shock than being left on the bench at Chelsea. His lack of playing time only decreased his chances of finding goal scoring form or regaining a bit of pace.
Shevchenko’s shortage of minutes was portrayed in his statistics from the 2008/09 season, just about mustering 2 goals and 4 assists in 26 matches. He featured in 18 Serie A matches for the Rossoneri, scoring 0 goals and assisting 1. His confidence was shot from the last two seasons and his once world class finishing was nowhere to be found.
Season 4 : 2009/10
Andriy Shevchenko arrived back at Stamford Bridge after a torrid loan spell at the San Siro on the 30th June 2009. Ancelotti was now Chelsea manager and he quickly made it apparent that Shevchenko would not be in his plans for the upcoming season. At 32-years-old, Shevchenko’s departure was announced surprisingly by Ancelotti himself in a press conference on the 28th August 2009. Carlo could not promise Shevchenko regular first team football and he was allowed to leave.
Just before Sheva’s departure was announced he played his last minutes in a Chelsea shirt in a 4 minute cameo against Sunderland in a 3-1 win on the 19th August. This short cameo perfectly echoes his quick and unfortunate time at Chelsea.
Despite claiming he wanted to stay at Chelsea throughout June, Shevchenko would join his boyhood club Dynamo Kyiv on a free transfer a day after Ancelotti announced his departure.
He would find form in the Ukrainian top flight, scoring 7 and assisting 8 in 21 appearances for Dynamo Kyiv. Sheva would continue with the side until after the 2011/12 season where he retired at the age of 35 to pursue a politics career. I’m not sure if the politics career of Shevchenko went very far but I do know that he became Ukraine national team Assistant Manager in February of 2016 and was promoted to actual Manager of the national team in July of that same year.
Why Did Shevchenko’s Dream Move To The Premier League Not Work Out As Expected?
There are many reasons as to why Shevchenko didn’t live up to his early promise in England. When he signed for Chelsea he was 29, this age is relatively fantastic for most of the top strikers in Europe. Strikers nearing that age today are Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku and they are nearing the peak of their powers in some of the top leagues in Europe. His age really shouldn’t have been a problem with this move but every player is different in terms of their prime and peak and Sheva definitely peaked in 2004.
Serie A and Premier League are very different in terms of defensive structure and patterns of play, where Serie A is more notorious for their defensively superior teams than that of Premier League sides. This would leave Chelsea fans to presume Shevchenko would be banging in the goals in England but this was not the case. Maybe the physicality took a toll on the Ukrainian and his age limited the time he had to adapt to the ways of the Premier League. Many strikers have failed to adapt to the defensive patterns and physical play style of English central defenders and this definitely effected the goal scoring prowess of Shevchenko.
The playing time Shevchenko got in his early 30’s really signified the ending of his career. The 2007/08 and 2008/09 campaigns must have negatively affected his confidence drastically. Coming off the bench is not an easy thing for many strikers and Shevchenko was the kind of striker that needed to ease into the game. Playing constant minutes is essential for most players let alone a striker and Shevchenko just could not achieve the playing time needed to excel.
Mourinho had a factor in Shevchenko’s demise at Chelsea. Mourinho played Shevchenko the most of any Chelsea manager and Jose said that “He (Shevchenko) was like a prince in Milan and at Chelsea our philosophy was different, we had no princes. Everybody needs to work like everybody else and everybody needs to prove he deserves to play”. This suggests that Shevchenko’s attitude was poor towards training and earning a right to play week in and week out. Sheva may have thought because of his Balon d’Or he had earned a pedigree to start in the Premier League and Mourinho being Mourinho did not feel the same.
Shevchenko’s injuries tarnished his playing time and contributed to his poor stint at Chelsea. Sheva claimed he had two serious operations and a serious back injury (Herniated Disc) during his time in England. Back injuries can ruin running patterns and mobility overall which is essential for a goal scorer to succeed. Psychologically it could have affected his willingness to challenge for headers which is essential for a Premier League striker. His pace decreased rapidly seemingly as soon as he stepped onto the Stamford Bridge grass and the constant injuries that plagued him throughout his Chelsea spell definitely didn’t help.
Written by Frankie