Chelsea flop Shevchenko out to prove he can still cut it against England
Andriy Shevchenko lines up for Ukraine determined to prove to England supporters that he is not a £30.9million flop. The 33-year-old gave up on his Chelsea career in August, heading back home to Dynamo Kiev on a free transfer more than three years after arriving from AC Milan as the most expensive signing in British football. Shevchenko blames a nightmare run of injuries as the reason he never set Stamford Bridge alight. He joined after carrying an injury through the last World Cup and knows that he can help his country to next summer's finals with some heroics against former team-mates such as Frank Lampard and John Terry. He quit England after scoring just nine goals in 48 League appearances - 22 from 77 in all competitions - following previously netting nearer to 30 a season at the San Siro. But he was on the back foot from the start, suffering a knee injury shortly before signing in May 2006 then pushing his body through Ukraine's five matches at the World Cup in Germany, where his country were beaten by Italy in the quarter-finals. 'I was not prepared for the World Cup,' he says. 'I trained only in the week before the first game against Spain. I brought a physio, who put me on my feet after each match. 'But still I couldn't play at even 50 per cent of my capacity and left a lot of strength in Germany. When you're not ready for the tournament, it is necessary to compensate by giving more physically. Perhaps that affected me in the future. But I couldn't not play in the 2006 World Cup.' He says it is 'nonsense' that he was signed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich without manager Jose Mourinho's approval and rejects the widely held belief that he did not cut it. A first-season return of 14 goals, 'and more than 10 assists', was not bad, he insists, and he explains how he was struck down at the moment he felt at his best, midway through his second season. It was Boxing Day 2007, just when he felt like his injury problems were fading and he was getting a regular start. 'I had just begun to recover,' he says. 'We drew with Aston Villa 4-4 and I scored two goals. But about 10 minutes from the end I realised I could not finish the match, though the pain was not in my back, but in the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle. 'Later the problem was discovered in my back. Something was pressed against the nerve connected to the calf and my right leg was getting no signal. For three months I couldn't run normally or even walk and all this has dragged on for two years.' Shevchenko was also given few opportunities in a return to AC Milan on loan the following season, but he reveals there were other motivations for the move - specifically that he trusted Milan's medical department more than Chelsea's. 'I personally phoned (Milan owner Silvio) Berlusconi,' he says. 'The training process is different there. And treatment: not better or worse, but just different. 'My back injury was very severe and specialists at Milan had known me for a long time. At Chelsea it would have been much more complicated. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. As a result, it was at Milan where they put me back on my feet.' A close relationship with Abramovich enabled him to rip up his stellar £130,000-a-week contract 10 months early, enabling a return to Kiev when he realised he would not get the game time he craved at Stamford Bridge. The Ukraine club are believed to be giving him every chance to be the next head coach, while the incumbent, former Russia boss Valery Gazzaev, is ambitious enough to eye Champions League glory in the next three years. 'Why not?' says Shevchenko. 'You always need to set the hardest task. We need to change in mentality, to wean ourselves off the idea that Dynamo Kiev, by European standards, are second grade. 'In the UEFA Cup, CSKA Moscow, Zenit and Shakhtar Donetsk have all proven this and we went to the semi-final.' Gazzaev has eased him in, surprisingly deploying his new signing on the wing, but Shevchenko has already scored two goals and believes there is more to come. For a man who has won almost everything, one simple target drives him on. 'To win every game,' he says, listing his remaining dreams. 'To win every match. To win the Champions League again, to play again in the World Cup and achieve something there. Simply to take pleasure from football and to feel that I want to fight and to win. And for football never to become a routine.' With Ukraine knowing a Group Six win against England gives them a hope of reaching South Africa 2010, the dream continues in Dnipropetrovsk.
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