He is Ukraine’s youngest and oldest international goalscorer. He is also the record goalscorer with 48 goals and is their second-most capped player with 111 caps. He is only the third player in Ukraine’s history to have received the European Player of the Year award (2004).
Ukraine played their first official match in 1992, and in their short history, Andriy Shevchenko put them on the map of world football.
His club exploits at Dynamo Kiev and AC Milan were enough to make Sheva, as he is fondly called, a household name in Europe. He is third in the all-time list of top scorers in European competitions (67 goals in Europa and Champions League) and third even in the list of Champions League goalscorers (58). With 175 strikes for AC Milan, he is their second top scorer after Gunnar Nordahl who scored 221 goals. Sheva also has the most number of goals scored in Milan derbies.
The numbers show why it is hard to gulp the fact that he has retired from the international scene. The man who led them to the quarter-finals of World Cup 2006 will no longer don the yellow no.7 shirt.
But what now for Ukraine?
Their only threat in front of goal is planning a stint in America for one last bumper contract. And the problem is that he has always been there. It is a problem because Ukraine, to a huge extent, completely relied on Sheva to hit the net — thus not extracting the most of their other strikers.
And even if there is a gem yet to be unearthed, then the signs are bleak. Andriy Voronin (32), Artem Milevskiy (27), Yevhen Seleznyov (26) and Marko Devic (28) are too old to suddenly explode into their best striker.
Compare Shevchenko, who has been playing since 1995, to Ukraine’s latest call-ups in attack: Oleksiy Antonov, Edmar Holavskiy, Anton Shnyder and Oleksandr Kovpak are all 25 and above.
Maksym Koval, who is their youngest player currently, at 19, is a goalkeeper.
Clearly there is a dearth of some exciting young strikers coming through the rank in Ukraine — a dangerous situation for a team which has always had fine midfielders and… well, Shevchenko.
Ask their fans who they have come to see, and nine out of ten will reply that it’s a Shevchenko goal. Like the kid in this video to many more who saw him turn around the match against Sweden on its head with two headers. And to do it with an injured knee is just class.
The mad runs into the box will be missed, the sidestepped finesse shots will be missed, the 360-degree pirouette will take time for anyone else to master, the wide eyed smiling celebrations will be missed and it will take time for any other striker to command the sheer respect he did.
To top it all, he was a nice bloke. Not only Ukraine, but it seems football fans around the world will miss King Sheva.