Remembering Andriy Shevchenko's Chelsea career

05 January 2021 10:15

On 31 May 2006 Chelsea announced that, after several failed attempts, they had finally secured the signing of Andriy Shevchenko.

The £30m+ they paid was, at the time, the sixth highest transfer fee ever and it also eclipsed the British transfer record. Despite this, few argued that the Ukrainian was not worth the money. He was considered one of, if not the, best striker on the planet at the time, netting 175 goals in just over 300 games for Milan and even winning the 2004 Ballon d'Or.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho publicly described the signing as a 'dream' (via BBC Sport), although Roman Abramovich was far more keen on the move than him, making it his personal mission to recruit the high-profile frontman.

Mourinho insisted he was delighted with the signing at the time | ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

Shevchenko was similarly delighted.

There is a right moment to join a football club and I think I have arrived here at the perfect time.Andriy Shevchenko in 2006

His prediction turned out to be way wide on the mark.

Mention Shevchenko to a Chelsea fan and you are likely to be greeted with a tortured, anguished look, as in 2010 he left having scored just 22 goals in 77 appearances for the Blues.

However, his meagre return during his playing career at Stamford Bridge hasn't stopped him being linked with the managerial hot seat should under-pressure Frank Lampard be given the boot.

But where did it all go wrong for the man who was supposed to take them to the next level in his playing days? 90min fired up our time machine to find out.

Pre-Chelsea days

Shevchenko poses with his Ballon d'Or | New Press/Getty Images

To understand why his Chelsea career is viewed as so underwhelming, one must remember what calibre of player the club believed they were signing back in 2006.

Over the prior two campaigns, Shevchenko had starred for a Milan team that won the Scudetto in 2004 and reached the 2005 Champions League final. During his final two seasons in Italy, he managed a combined 72 direct goal involvements in 80 games. Blessed with pace, intelligence and lethal finishing ability, he was one of the most feared forwards in the world.

However, all was not what it seemed.

In his final game for Milan he picked up a knee injury, yet played through the pain to captain Ukraine at their first ever World Cup in Germany. There has been speculation that the damage he did at the tournament had a detrimental effect on his future career. Nothing concrete has ever been proven, although it does offer one explanation for the pale imitation of Sheva that arrived in the capital back in 2006.

The debut

Not even Steve Finnan could stop Sheva | CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

One of the talking points at the time was what Shevchenko's arrival meant for Didier Drogba, who had been Chelsea's offensive talisman the previous campaign.

Interestingly, during the season's curtain-raising Community Shield, Mourinho opted to field both players, alongside Arjen Robben, in a haphazard 4-3-3. After 25 minutes of getting in each other's way, Michael Ballack's injury saw Shevchenko moved to an attacking midfield berth.

Soon after, he would announce his arrival as a Blues hero, scoring a superb goal; racing onto a lofted ball from Frank Lampard, he chested it down elegantly, before showing trademark composure to guide it past Pepe Reina.

It was a vintage Shevchenko and regrettably, it would also prove to be the one of the few highlights of his Chelsea career.

The goal drought

Shevchenko struggled for goal in the league | Phil Cole/Getty Images

After getting off to a dream start, Shevchenko failed to replicate these heights during the first half of the 2006/2007 season.

Deployed either alongside Drogba in a 4-4-2, or as a fluid, wide forward in a 4-3-3, he had notched up just three goals after 19 Premier League appearances. Even more worrying was the fact that the vast majority of these appearances had been starts.

Things were not much better in Europe either. Despite Shevchenko starting the campaign as the Champions League's leading all-time scorer, he only netted once in the group stages - and that came in a dead rubber against Levski Sofia.

It was becoming clear that Drogba and Shevchenko were not clicking, with the pair rarely combining to score during the season.

The Spurs wonderstrike

Shevchenko's first season at Chelsea wasn't all bad. Just when Chelsea fans were losing hope of him ever coming good, the forward reminded everyone what he was capable of during an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Tottenham.

After playing out a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge, the second game was an altogether less dramatic affair - until Shevchenko lit things up with an incredible 55th-minute opener.

Picking the ball up on the right hand side, he streaked past Young-pyo Lee, before cutting onto his favoured left foot and, in one fluid motion, firing a curling shot past Paul Robinson from an impossible angle.

The start of the injuries

His career has sadly hampered by injury | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

One of the key tropes of Shevchenko's Chelsea career was picking up injuries at frustrating times.

This habit started towards the tail end of his first season at the club. Helping the Blues defeat Arsenal in the League Cup final in February was a rare example of Shevchenko being available for a high-stakes game.

Thanks to injury he missed his side's Champions League semi-final second leg defeat to Liverpool, their FA Cup final victory over Manchester United, as well as their Premier League run-in, where they surrendered the title to United.

By the end of the campaign, Shevchenko had managed just seven goals and eight assists in forty Premier League and European appearances.

Going from bad to worse

Shevchenko scored in Mourinho's final game in charge | Phil Cole/Getty Images

His inaugural campaign at Stamford Bridge may have been underwhelming but his second season was even worse.

After missing the opening five games of the season, he made a scoring return in the Champions League against Rosenborg - a game that would prove to be Jose Mourinho's last as Chelsea manager until he returned to the Bridge in 2013.

This strike would be followed by just seven more all season, with only five of these coming in the league.

In truth - the sole brace of his Chelsea career against Aston Villa aside - he looked well off the pace and had to contend with back, ankle and hernia problems during the campaign. Even bringing in Olympic gold winning sprinter Darren Campbell as his personal sprint coach did not return Shevchenko's sharpness.

The forgotten man

Shevchenko struggled during his Milan return | GIUSEPPE CACACE/Getty Images

After back-to-back seasons of woe, Shevchenko wanted to leave Chelsea - but unsurprisingly, interest was low.

In the end, Milan offered him a way out, signing him on loan for the duration of the 2008/2009 season. The move acted as a powerful warning of the dangers of nostalgia, as Shevchenko came nowhere near matching the dizzy heights of his first spell at the club.

In an injury-ravaged campaign, he did not manage to score a single Serie A goal, playing second fiddle to the likes of Filippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato.

The following season his loveless marriage with Chelsea finally came to an end when the club allowed him to rejoin boyhood side Dynamo Kyiv on a free transfer.

Future manager?

He has done well in charge of Ukraine | RONNY HARTMANN/Getty Images

He may not have made it as a player but could Shevchenko reinvigorate his standard at Chelsea by returning as a manager one day?

It may sound far-fetched but it should not be ruled out. Reports suggest he remains in contact with Roman Abramovich and has carved out a fine managerial reputation since retiring, guiding Ukraine to the Euro 2020 qualification in 2019.

Source: 90min