Andriy Shevchenko enjoyed a remarkable playing career before he retired in 2012.
The Ukrainian striker’s time on the football pitch took in spells at three of Europe’s top clubs – Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and Chelsea – and, during his 18-year career, the now 40-year-old played alongside or came up against some of the world’s best stars.
Now manager of his nation’s senior squad, Shevchenko took time out to sit down with FourFourTwo magazine to name his all-time greatest eleven comprising of both former team-mates and formidable foes:
12. Gianluigi Buffon (Goalkeeper)
Still going strong for Juventus at the ripe old age of 38, Shevchenko says that Italian shot stopper Buffon is the best keeper he ever faced during his playing days.
He said: “I won the penalty duel against him in the 2003 Champions League Final but Buffon saved far more of my shots than I scored past him.”
11. Cafu (Right Back)
Shevchenko’s former team-mate at AC Milan, Brazil legend Cafu was always a shoe-in for the right back berth in his side.
Shevchenko said: “A warrior on the field and a sincere, kind man off it. Strong and powerful, his runs from defence led to numerous goals at AC Milan and his jokes helped to ease the pressure during training and in matches.”
10. John Terry (Centre Back)
With nearly 500 appearances to his name for Chelsea, club captain Terry was described as “extremely dangerous” by Shevchenko as he named him in his best eleven.
He said: “A resolute defender and a natural leader, he can calm the panicky behaviour of players. His trademarks are anticipation and judgment. He’s also exceptionally dangerous from attacking corners.”
9. Alessandro Nesta (Centre Back)
A giant in the Italian game, former Milan defender Nesta pairs John Terry in defence for Shevchenko’s greatest eleven.
He said: “I’ve never seen a better reader of the game. A supremely intelligent and pacy defender, he made a great contribution in AC Milan’s efforts to keep Juventus at bay in the 2003 Champions League Final.”
8. Paolo Maldini (Left Back)
Another Milan and Italy legend that Shevchenko had the pleasure of playing alongside, ex-captain Maldini is as deserving of a place in the Ukrainian’s side as anyone else.
He said: “The most gifted and hard-working player I’ve ever seen. He was an excellent all-round footballer with true leadership virtues and the rare ability to be reliable in defence and creative in attack.”
7. Kaka (Right Midfield)
Continuing the theme of ex-Milan stars, Shevchenko opts for former Brazil international Kaka as the player tasked with providing the creativity from the right wing.
He said: “A creative maestro who dictates the pace of the game. It was a real pleasure to be in the same side as he supplied me with incredibly precise passes. I scored a lot thanks to his clever deliveries.”
6. Steven Gerrard (Centre Midfield)
Shevchenko faced off against Liverpool midfield legend Gerrard with AC Milan in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals, and was gushing in his praise for the now LA Galaxy star.
He said: “A world-class midfielder, Gerrard loves to lead by example and is famous for his never-say-die attitude. He loves to run at and beat defenders, and is blessed with a powerful and precise shot.”
5. Zinedine Zidane (Centre Midfield)
Now head coach of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane used to leave opponents in awe at his footballing ability for Los Blancos – and Shevchenko was chief amongst those who believed the former France international was one of the world’s best.
He said: “He could do magical things using his vision, technique and powerful shot. During games it was impossible to predict his next move. Off the pitch, he was a kind and generous man.”
4. Lionel Messi (Left Midfield)
Arguably the best player in the world at this time, mercurial Barcelona star Messi is another who just had to feature in Shevchenko’s all-time best eleven.
He said: “It’s difficult to find another player who can dribble and score like Messi. He is the attacking player of the 21st century. I can’t even specify his position. He’s everywhere, making fools of defenders.”
3. Ronaldo (Striker)
Another South American legend to make Shevchenko’s list, Ronaldo makes the grade to his truly amazing goalscoring record at club and international level.
Shevchenko said: “Skilful, powerful and takes chances like a machine. His strike-rate for every team he’s played for tells you everything. I can only imagine what he could have done in football if not for his injuries.”
2. Wayne Rooney (Striker)
Perhaps the most surprising name in Shevchenko’s list, Manchester United captain Rooney partners Ronaldo up front in the Ukrainian’s side.
He said: “No player in modern football can match his efficiency and work-rate, and he’s not egotistical like many men of his speciality. He’s the sort of magnificent team player every coach wants in his starting XI.”
1. The Best of the Rest… The Substitutes
Petr Cech – “I have great respect for Cech, who stayed in football despite a terrible injury.”
Carlos Puyol – “A superb defender who makes the complete sacrifice for his team.”
Michael Ballack – “A utility man of great talent and determination in midfield.”
Frank Lampard – “My former Chelsea team-mate can start and finish a team’s attacks.”
Andrea Pirlo – “A clever, generous midfielder who can pass over any distance.”
Ryan Giggs – “Mr Gentleman of modern football: wise and creative, with wonderful individual skills.”
Cristiano Ronaldo – “He adds to his tricks with tactical wisdom, work-rate and ball control.”