Thursday, January 18, 2007
ESPNsoccernet: January 22, 4:55 PM UK
Shevchenko focused on Chelsea
When one of the world's best strikers signs for your club for £30million, you expect him to have an immediate impact. Andriy Shevchenko has certainly had an impact at Chelsea since he arrived in August, but not the kind he, or manager Jose Mourinho, would have hoped.
Accusations of favouritism, linked to his relationship with Russian owner Roman Abramovich, have not helped him settle in England and he has been dogged by poor form, scoring only five goals in 30 appearances for the club.
ESPNsoccernet Press Pass caught up with the Ukrainian striker, who was voted the 3rd best player in world only two years ago, to talk about his start in the Premiership.
See the full interview with Tommy Smyth here.
Off the field Shevchenko feels he has acclimatised to London, but his on-pitch performances have not been up to scratch and the Ukrainian has come under intense pressure to find the net.
'It's hard to judge my performance,' he says. 'The year is not over yet. So far I have not been at my optimum level, I need time but I'm working as hard as I can.
'I need more time, I need time to fit in, I played for another team, for a long time and now I've come to a new team. I need time and luck as well.'
Time, however, is the one thing that Chelsea players cannot afford. Bringing with him an incredible goalscoring record, it is his relationship with manager Jose Mourinho that has caused the most controversy, although Shevchenko is keen to play down any talk of a rift.
'I highly respect him as a manager,' he says. 'He has won many titles, but I cannot judge him either as a coach or as a person because I haven't known him for long enough.
On talk that he doesn't fit into Mourinho's system, Shevchenko says: 'All the managers that I've worked with have different styles, have different ideas about football. Mourinho, Ancelotti, everybody, every one of them has their own style.
Shevchenko on Jose Mourinho.
'At AC Milan I was a second striker and here too, sometimes I play in my role, other times I don't, but it is up to the manager where I play.
'Mourinho is a great manager. He has showed how much he's worth by winning so many titles,' he adds.
A player keen to avoid any of the mutterings behind the scene at Stamford Bridge, Shevchenko is intrinsically linked to the constant speculation whether he likes it or not.
'I'm outside the political sphere,' he says diplomatically. 'My duty as a player is to work on the pitch, and I do what the manager asks of me, but I've got nothing to do with political developments.'
But having been pictured spending time with Abramovich on holiday, and given his Eastern European lineage, Shevchenko has been accused of being favoured by the Russian owner.
'This is not true,' he contests. 'I'm just one player, I'm part of the team like all the others and I don't think this is true at all.'
'I've got the same relationship [with Abramovich] as other Chelsea players, I'm just one player in the team, and I've got the same relationship as all the other players have', he adds.
Regardless of Abramovich's alleged input, it is Mourinho that picks the team, and Shevchenko is keen to get himself back in the squad to face Liverpool and dismiss all the gossip.
'A lot of things have been said which aren't really true,' he maintains. 'Now we live in an age where it's easy to take things to extremes. For instance somebody sends a text message and immediately it becomes like a scandal.
Shevchenko on playing in Italy and England.
'I want to focus on my work on the pitch, and I don't give interviews, or if I give them, they are short and clear. I am a football player and that's what I intend to focus on - playing football.'
But playing football has not come easily so far this season, and talk of the rift has also impacted upon the Chelsea dressing room, with fellow new signing Michael Ballack failing to impress the crowd or his team-mates.
'I don't think there is any squabbling going on at all within the team,' Shevchenko says bullishly. 'The team is united, it's working hard, it's got chances to finish the season well, and I don't think there is any need to worry because the team is a united front.'
Still, lagging six points behind current Premiership leaders Manchester United does not represent success for a side who steamrollered the league for the past two seasons and spent over £50million in 'improving' the side over the summer.
Rumoured to be keen on a loan move back to the San Siro with his former club AC Milan, Shevchenko's future has been, and will continue to be, cause for speculation while his goal drought carries on.
'For the time being, I'm only thinking of playing for Chelsea,' he says with his mind obviously elsewhere.
'I'm only concentrating on playing with this team and I hope we'll be able to win a lot of trophies and give the fans something to be proud of.'
Whether or not Shevchenko, or indeed Mourinho, with be part of this 'united front' next season, remains to be seen. For now, they have a different United to worry about.
Shevchenko on Milan and David Beckham.
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