When a player moves for a national record fee of £30.8m, the pressure on him to perform is enormous. For Andrii Shevchenko, it proved to be something of a monkey on his back from the day he walked through the door at Stamford Bridge and into the arms of Roman Abramovich.
The Ukrainian star had begun his career in Kiev. Forced to flee his home at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, Shevchenko was signed up to the Kiev youth programme as a ten year old and spent eight years in the youth ranks. Aged 18, he progressed into the senior ranks and his coolness in front of goal, control and vision marked him out early on as a class act.
Goals were quick to come for the striker and he was already regarded as one of the world’s best. Confirmation of that came when Italian giants Milan paid a then world record fee of $25m to land the player. In seven years at Milan he would continue his fantastic goalscoring form, being labelled as the best all round striker in world football during this spell.
When Roman Abramovic finally completed his Chelsea takeover, in the summer of 2005, there were rumours all summer long that Abramovic wanted Shevchenko and would pay anything to get him. An offer, reputed to be worth close to £60m was turned down by Milan, but the following summer, Abramovic got his man, signing Shevchenko in a £30.8m deal.
Things started well for the Ukranian, in his debut in the Charity Shield, he netted Chelsea’s goal but the rest of the season was disappointing. Shevchenko ended up with 14 goals in 51 games. Hardly the return of the world’s best striker. The Ukranian seemed to have problems adapting to the pace of the English game and at times, he was anonymous for Chelsea, much to exasperation of manager Jose Mourinho at times. The occasional glimpses of brilliance, such as this goal against Tottenham, were sadly a rarity, rather than the norm for Chelsea fans.
The following season, better was expected. Having had a year to get to grips with the English game, this was the season Shevchenko was expected to show the qualities he had shown regularly for Dynamo Kiev and Milan in the past. However the departure of Jose Mourinho and the appointment of Avram Grant saw him in and out of the side due to his lack of form and a succession of niggling injuries. He ended the season with five goals from 17 appearances.
By now Avram Grant had decided that his Chelsea could do without Shevchenko and the Ukranian was loaned back to Milan for the entire 2008-2009 season. He failed to impress in his second spell at the San Siro and returned to Chelsea, playing just one more game as a substitute in the 2009-2010 season before being allowed to leave the club to rejoin Dynamo Kiev on a two year deal, where he has begun to rediscover his best form.
So why did the player who had it all flop so badly in England? It could be many reasons, weight of expectations, the size of the transfer fee, or the fact that neither Jose Mourinho or Avram Grant were sufficiently impressed by his performances to warrant a regular place in the side. Whatever the reason, Shevchenko, at £30.8m, is the biggest big money move that went totally wrong.
The only fortunate thing in the whole tale, is that if one man can afford to make that kind of mistake, it is Roman Abramovic.
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