Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Player’ series. In this edition, we take a look at Andriy Shevchenko.
Returning Players – Andriy Shevchenko
First Spell at Dynamo Kiev
Andriy Shevchenko made his league debut for the Dynamo Kyiv first team at the age of 18 in 1994. His debut came about following a successful spell in the reserve side, where he scored 21 times from 56 appearances. His debut was a 3-1 victory away to rivals Shakhtar Donetsk. From then on, Shevchenko did not look back. He won the Vyshcha Liha – Ukraine’s Premier League – in each of the five seasons he played, as well as three Ukrainian Cups.
His true breakthrough moment at club level would come in 1997 against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. A breath-taking performance saw him score a first-half hat trick in Dynamo’s 4-0 humbling of the Spanish behemoths. In fact, he was the only player to score a Champions League hat trick at the Nou Camp until Kylian Mbappe replicated it for Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year. This was the game that turned the heads of the European super-clubs.
Five glorious years in Ukraine helped cement Shevchenko as arguably the greatest player that the Ukrainian league has ever seen. He ended the 1998/99 campaign as the league’s top scorer, and now a big-money move was inevitable.
First Spell at AC Milan
In 1999, Shevchenko joined Italian giants AC Milan for a then world-record fee of £25 million. If there were any doubts about whether he would repay that sum of money, they were quelled quickly thanks to the Ukrainians early domestic performances. He won the Capocannoniere – the Serie A top scorer – in his first season at the club with 24 league goals. Shevchenko would go on to be Milan’s top scorer in five of his six years at the San Siro.
Though his first couple of years in Milan did not produce silverware, Shevchenko managed to reach the summit of club football in 2003. Having already secured the Coppa Italia that same year, Milan won their sixth Champions League trophy on penalties following a 0-0 draw against Italian rivals Juventus. Unsurprisingly, it was Shevchenko that was the hero at the end of the game, scoring the match-winning penalty.
A year later, Shevchenko added another medal to his already trophy-laden cabinet. This time it was Milan’s first Scudetto since 1999 and Shevchenko topped the scoring charts once again with 24 goals. This was 12 more than Jon Dahl Thomasson, AC’s next highest scorer in the league. While he helped his side to numerous successes, the 2004 season was also triumphant on a personal level for Shevchenko. He managed to scoop the Ballon d’Or award for Europe’s best player, becoming the first, and so far, only, Ukrainian to win the award in the process. It was a fitting honour for a man that had proven himself to be one of the greatest footballers of the early 2000s.
In 2006, he was the subject of interest from a new club, and another record-breaking transfer fee.
Teams That Andriy Shevchenko Played for in Between
Shevchenko then moved to Chelsea for an English record fee of £35 million. Off the back of seven phenomenal years in Italy, his move to England was supposed to be another example that Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovic meant business. Unfortunately, however, Shevchenko’s Chelsea stint would be uncharacteristically baron, failing to score more than five league goals in a season.
Mourinho favoured a one-striker system which meant he was regularly overlooked for the rising star that was Didier Drogba. A League Cup in 2007 and a Champions League runners-up medal would be the highlights of his days in West London.
Return to AC Milan
After two seasons at Chelsea, Shevchenko made a loan move back to AC Milan in 2008. This meant a return to the club he had helped dominate Italy in the early 2000s and a reunion with his former manager, Carlo Ancelotti. Sadly, his year-long second stint at the club proved to be the antithesis of his brilliant first. Having scored 127 league goals during his first spell, Shevchenko only managed to find the net twice from 26 appearances in all competitions. It appeared as though he had not yet recovered from his forgettable time in England.
His one-year loan proved to be just that and, on returning to Chelsea, was immediately sold back to the club where it all started.
Return to Dynamo Kiev
Ten years removed from his departure from Dynamo Kyiv, Shevchenko returned to his boyhood club at the age of 32. He was used sparingly this time, though. His final trophy was the Ukrainian Super Cup in a 3-1 victory of Shakhtar Donetsk, albeit as an unused substitute.
Three years after re-signing with Dynamo Kyiv – with a political career beckoning – Ukraine’s greatest footballing export retired at the age of 35 after adding a further 30 goals to his previous tally of 94 in his homeland.