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Profile: Andriy Shevchenko - European Footballer of the Year
14.12 || Seamus

Few people if any would begrudge Andriy Shevchenko the accolade of being crowned European Footballer of the Year for 2004. The winner of France Football magazine’s award, the Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball), is chosen by journalists from 52 different countries, and this year the AC Milan striker came top with 175 points, ahead of Deco on 139 and Ronaldinho in third on 133 points.
Recognition for Sheva reflects several seasons of sustained excellence as much as his exploits in the past 12 months alone, though they were impressive enough. He has consistently combined superb individual technique with the ruthlessness of a natural goalscorer, a touch of humility and a strong team ethic.

On receiving his award, Shevchenko said: “When I started playing football I dreamed of being a top player and maybe winning a prestigious award such as this. I am really happy. I would like to send a message to all children who love this sport, that what happened to me can also happen to them.’

The 28-year-old Ukrainian international added: ’I am proud to be Ukrainian and I want to dedicate this success to the people of my country.’

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi said of his team’s star striker after the award was announced: “Andriy is not only a champion on the pitch but off it as well. He is an example to everyone, his team-mates and all Milan fans.”

Shevchenko is the fifth Rossoneri player to win the Ballon d’Or, following in the illustrious footsteps of Gianni Rivera in 1969, Ruud Gullit in 1987, Marco Van Basten in 1988, 1989 and 1992 and George Weah in 1995.

Berlusconi said of Sheva on French TV station Canal Plus: ’I appreciate your quality during matches and your professionalism in training. Andriy Shevchenko is a great champion. Even though Milan have a lot of trophies you have remained humble.

Born in Dvrkivshchyna on 29 September, 1976, Sheva made his mark playing for Dinamo Kiev in his native Ukraine, coming to the attention of a wider audience through his exploits in the Champions League. He formed a highly productive strike partnership with Sergei Rebrov at Dinamo, and soon scouts from around Europe were casting covetous glances Kiev’s way.

He made his debut in Ukraine’s top division in the 1994-95 season, playing 16 times and netting once; over the next four seasons his record with Dinamo was 31 appearances, 16 goals (1995-96), 20 games, 6 goals (1996-97), 23 games, 19 goals (1997-98), and 28 games, 18 goals (1998-99).

The inevitable transfer came, to AC Milan in the summer of 1999, and Sheva made his Serie A debut in a 2-2 draw against Lecce on 29 August that year. Any questions about whether he could make the adjustment to the Italian League and its sophisticated, highly organised defences were emphatically answered from the start of his career at the San Siro.

He scored a remarkable 24 goals in each of his first two campaigns with Milan (32 and 34 appearances, respectively). In 2001-02 his record was 14 goals in 29 matches. There were only 5 goals in 24 games in 2002-03, but last season he was back to his best with 24 in 32 as Milan won their first Scudetto for five years. So far this season he’s scored 11, including a brace in Milan’s 6-0 destruction of Fiorentina at the weekend.

At his press conference in Paris after winning the Ballon d’Or, Sheva spoke about his Milan career and the coaches he has worked for.

“Zaccheroni was the first one that I started to learn and understand Italian football from,” he said.

“He helped me a lot in the beginning. Cesare Maldini is an excellent person, I spent four wonderful months with him and we achieved good results. Terim only stayed a short period, but he had another way of thinking about football and I learnt something new. With Carlo Ancelotti, I became a winner. Our coach is different from all others I have worked with, he transmits great tranquility, he listens, you can talk to him because he is a former player as well as being very well prepared.”

He added: “Today, I feel more experienced, properly more mature, but what is important is that I have learnt to win.”

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