Sheva aims to get back on his feet

After a season on the Milan bench, the Ukrainian comes to Wembley tomorrow hoping to revive his career


Vivo. Alive. That, as
Gazzetta dello Sport put it yesterday, is how Andrei Shevchenko hopes he will feel when his return to the city he has come to call home concludes late tomorrow evening and Ukraine have faced England. After the mind-deadening course of the last few years, he probably feels that London owes him that much.

He certainly felt the blood in his veins when life in west London started, his goal in the 2006 Community Shield seemingly suggesting that he would be "King Andrei" at Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, just as he had in Milan for a generation. But the only goal-scoring King Andrei from Ukraine these days answers to the surname of Voronin, a player reborn at Hertha Berlin after his travails under Rafael Benitez at Anfield and Shevchenko has found no such renaissance back at Milan, where he returned on loan to Carlo Ancelotti's side this season after Silvio Berlusconi rescued him from Chelsea.

Long afternoons warming an Italian bench have ended with five minutes on the pitch at the end, generally after Filippo Inzaghi has walked off to a standing ovation, and publicly he is polite about this. "I said I would be prepared to accept anything," was his latest pronouncement on the situation yesterday. But privately, the player who scored 22 times in 75 appearances for Chelsea is indignant at the way that things have turned out under Ancelotti and intends to take his leave of Milan permanently this summer, to return to London and an uncertain future. "I don't know where I'll be next season. I have to speak to Chelsea," he said. A touted move to the US does not interest him.

Shevchenko insists that after 901 minutes of competitive football all season he has no divine right to make his first appearance at the new Wembley for Oleksiy Mykhailychenko's Ukraine. "For the national team coach it is not easy to put a player on the pitch who isn't playing," he said. But a role with his compatriots, among whom he stands three goals short of the Oleg Blokin's 42-goal record, appears to be all there is left.

The course of those Chelsea years is well known. Shevchenko's wife, Kristen Pazik, whirling around west London with Roman Abramovich's first wife Irina before he arrived; Mourinho then making it clear that a player he was receiving under sufferance would fit around Chelsea, and not the other way around. The recent Milan experience has been much the same and there has been something mildly tragic about the sight of the 32-year-old swapping one club's bench for another, celebrating Milan's goals with brave face from the touchline. Ancelotti has never explained Shevchenko's absence, the Italian media has not questioned it and Pazik seems worrying satisfied by his absence, too. She has remained at their residence neighbouring Wentworth golf club in Surrey, insisting on the importance of their children Jordan and Christian's English education, prompting Italian commentators to ask what that says for their relationship. A hurtful outcome, all told, for the fourth highest scorer in European club competition, who took the Ballon d'Or just five years ago after helping Milan to the 2003 Champions League trophy.

Shevchenko, whose awkwardness has not always helped his public profile, grappled with a description yesterday of how it feels to run up the touchline to warm up, only to return to your seat. "It's difficult to read your own feelings when you are not playing," he said. "You don't feel considered and you know there are a lot of people ahead of you. You have to accept these things and react the best way possible" Of what, on hindsight, was a wretched decision to answer Abramovich's call to Chelsea, he insisted: "I don't regret anything."

There are no guarantees that he will appear at Wembley tomorrow night, though there is a feeling that a starting place will be found – perhaps as a withdrawn striker behind the in-form Voronin – for a player who captained the side in Ukraine's goalless draw against Croatia. Shevchenko, whose ratio of a goal in nearly every other game for Ukraine shows he is still to be feared, half concedes that a strong performance tomorrow will be a way of reminding Ancelotti and others what he has to offer – "It's just a way of doing what I love doing, which is playing football" – though Milan's pressing need to build through youth will make that a tall order.

His trip back to London apparently includes an encounter with David Beckham and in the example of England's milestone man and Juventus' Alessandro del Piero, there is perhaps evidence that his days in the elite may not necessarily be over. "Both those players think in the same way as me," Shevchenko reflected. "As long as the body responds and the head is still there you are not finished. I am still here."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project