Shevchenko is aiming to finish in style at Euros

Chelsea flop hopes for glorious farewell with Ukraine. He tells Robin Scott-Elliot in Kiev about Torres, Terry and tournaments

There is already a Shevchenko Boulevard in Kiev. It's not named after Ukraine's most famous footballer, rather the country's most famous poet. If the next few months pan out as the optimists on the streets of the nation's capital hope, there may yet be call for another.

Less than 10 minutes walk from the boulevard, which runs through the heart of the old city, is the rebuilt Olympic Stadium, home of Dynamo Kiev and the stage for the final of Euro 2012. Here Andrei Shevchenko grins down on his people from a giant poster. Some way beneath him in the away dressing room – the one the national side prefer to use – his yellow Ukraine shirt with his name and the No 7 on its back hangs on a peg. The man from the ministry touches it reverentially. The state of Shevchenko's legs is the subject of almost as much discussion as affairs of state. Will he be fit for the Euros? Might Oleg Blokhin, Ukraine's coach, dare not choose his ageing star? "Names do not play football," pronounced the great Blokhin grumpily, when pressed on Shevchenko earlier this month. "He's Sheva," says the man from the ministry, and shrugs to dismiss any suggestion that the 35-year-old could be omitted from Blokhin's squad.

Earlier this season Shevchenko returned to Chelsea's Cobham training ground for two weeks of intensive treatment on a thigh injury that has limited his appearances for Dynamo. He also suffers from chronic back pain. The suggestion in Kiev is that, if it was not for the lure of a European Championship on home soil, Shevchenko would have already joined Oleg Luzhny, once of Arsenal, and Sergei Rebrov, once of Spurs, on the Dynamo coaching staff. Rebrov grinned and nodded as he walked past to take reserve training. Luzhny repelled questions with a resolve not always apparent in his spell in the Arsenal back line. "Yeah, it is my dream," says Shevchenko of playing at Euro 2012. "For the last five years I have thought about nothing other than the Euros in my homeland."

Behind him his Dynamo team-mates are wandering into the restaurant at the club's Koncha Zaspa training ground a few miles outside the city, where Ukraine and Sweden will be based come the Euros. Ukraine will play their opening game in Kiev and the next two in Donetsk, the stark industrial city some 435 miles south-east of the capital. Their final match in Group D is against England, and possibly pitches Shevchenko directly against John Terry.

They were team-mates for two years, but it's a reunion he does not want to talk about. First he insists it is about making the squad, but he has no doubts as to how pivotal a role Terry and Frank Lampard can, and do, still perform for club and country.

"They are important players," says Shevchenko. "I think experience is important. For many years with the national team, the performance of Frank and John Terry is very good. They are still very important players."

It's one senior footballing citizen defending two others. He will not, he insists, advance an opinion on whether Terry should be captain of England come the summer, but from what he does volunteer, an opinion cautiously emerges. "This decision should not affect the players," says Shevchenko. "They have to be players on the pitch, not outside. The stories about him... it is more important how John performs on the pitch. The last couple of games I saw John Terry play he was very good. He plays like a captain."

Shevchenko speaks carefully, considering the questions before answering. At first he replies only in Russian but when the conversation switches to Chelsea, he switches to English. It was in May 2006 that he arrived at Stamford Bridge from Milan, feted as one of Europe's best and most consistent goalscorers. But with a record £30m price tag came whispers he was not Jose Mourinho's signing; more an Abramovich plaything. He scored on his debut in the Community Shield and then again in his second league game but a bright start soon fizzled out.

"For me sometimes it was very hard," says Shevchenko. "I really enjoyed the fans, I tell you the Chelsea fans were fantastic. My performance sometimes was good, sometimes bad. I had injuries [a hernia operation]. We played in the [Champions League] final, and when you [get to that stage] it is always a good result, we won a couple of cups. There were some good things."

But there were only nine Premier League goals, from 30 starts and 18 outings off the bench, not much of a return for the club that paid him £121,000 a week and a far cry from the deadly finisher who found the net so regularly in Serie A; 175 in 296 games for Milan. It's a decline that is impossible not to compare with that of Fernando Torres although, at 30, Shevchenko was three years further down his career path than the Spaniard was when he joined Chelsea. "I have watched him in many games," says Shevchenko of the man whose price tag dwarfs even his. "He is moving a lot, doing a lot of work for the team. He still needs time. His physical performance is good and he is trying hard. They have changed the manager, which does not help. But football is about the opportunity. If you trust yourself, an opportunity comes and you score an important goal – that can change your story with the club."

It was in 2009, after an unsuccessful loan spell back at Milan, that Shevchenko finally had his ties with Chelsea severed and returned to the club where his story began. The bright young Kiev side of the Nineties won nine straight titles and began to make a mark in the Champions League. The rise of southern rivals Shakhtar Donetsk in recent years has challenged their position. The two go into the final three games of the domestic season neck and neck. If they finish level on points it will mean the "Golden Match" – one game, winner takes all.

"Football is changing a lot here," says Shevchenko. "Investment in the stadiums is very important. The last three games, and this has never happened before in this country, we get a 60,000 crowd. The quality is much better. People like to come and watch the games."

He may find himself watching much of the tournament. There is a school of thought in Kiev that says when Shevchenko starts it slows down the team – everything has to come through him and the feet are just not as quick as they once were. A substitute's role is a possibility, while Ukraine will do well to get out of their group. "The dream" is one of his poetic namesake's best-known works, and a man must be allowed a dream.

"We do understand that we are playing in a difficult group but we have some good young players," says Shevchenko. "Let's just say we do have a chance." And with that he smiles, shrugs and heads off to lunch.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments