A chapter ends in the English premiership. A chapter that promised to be great, promised to be memorable, but a chapter that ended up depressingly short, so much so that tunnel-visioned English and Asian fans of the Premiership (and nothing else) will end up remembering this particular episode with sarcastic humor.
And that is unfortunate. Andriy Shevchnko came into Chelsea as the best striker in the world, just returning from scoring the winning goal in a Champion’s league final. He was an expensive purchase, he was a personal friend of Roman Abramovich. He would be playing for Chelsea, the club with all the money in the world, the club on its way up, and the club with the inimitable Jose Mourinho. Andriy Shevchenko was almost destined to be a success.
And really, he should have been. He had it all, and in his peak, he could really be compared with the best of the best out-and-out strikers of this generation, Marco Van Basten and Gabriel Batistuta. Even Thierry Henry. Probably only Ronaldo (the gap-toothed original) could be considered better than him… Shevchenko was brilliant all the way. He was spectacular in his days of youth, forming a super partnership with Serhiy Rebrov at Dynamo Kyiv…. and he was absolutely unstoppable at times with Milan.
But then, somehow, he failed to kick on in Chelsea. The mistrust that Mourinho had for him, allied with Mourinho’s deteriorating relationship with Abramovich put Shevchenko at a state of unease. Also, Didier Drogba having the season of his life did not help much either.
Mourinho’s penchant for playing only one man up front, apparently, should have suited Shevchenko, for Milan used to play a similar game. But the difference was that with Chelsea under Mourinho, Drogba was expected to hold the long ball up front for the midfielders (Lampard, Joe Cole et al.) to have a crack at; while in Milan, the deep-lying creative genius of Andrea Pirlo linked to the further-up-the-pitch creativity of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf to create chances for Sheva. Both tactics work, it was just that Drogba was better than Sheva at Mourinho’s style of play.
Shevchenko really had everything. Pace, strength, headers, skill, control, temperament, poaching ability… even a mean free-kick. He had everything that would have suited him to every league in the world, and he would have suited excellently to the Chelsea of Ranieri or even Scolari. It’s just that in Mourinho’s Chelsea, Drogba, with his superhuman strength and ability to hold the ball off three defenders, was a better fit.
Adn yet, Premiership-watchers will remember Sheva as little more than a failure. And he deserves better. He is a winner. And who knows, he might do well again at Milan. Here’s praying for that.