The last two plus years I’ve viewed with some amusement the dismissive nature with which the British media has viewed Andriy Shevchenko’s football career thanks to his failures with Chelsea. Many in the British media have judged Sheva as a complete waste of a player and have used his troubled time at Chelsea to ridicule Italian Football and the standard of Serie A. Many an analyst in Britain has taken Shevchenko’s obvious failures and magnified its broader significance.
As the Premier League has grown stronger and stronger the British media has become more and more insular and arrogant. Just a year ago a pundit on a prominent English Football podcast declared that the German national team had Michael Ballack plus a group of second rate players because as he put it “Manchester United and Chelsea aren’t exactly coming after any Germans while English national team members are consistently in demand by top clubs.” Yet the group of German players not good enough to play at the top clubs in England has magically reached both the title match of both the World Cup and European Championship in the last six years. Based on the standard applied by these media members, England should win every championship in world football. (I would actually agree with the analysts that England has substantially more footballing talent than Germany, but the insular nature of the British media precludes most writers with the exception of a few like Martin Samuel and most Guardian writers whose publication is simply more worldly than most British rags, precludes an honest look at why nations with inferior talent have the sort of setup and FA structure that lends itself to success. The same can be said for why the US with maybe one third the talent of Mexico consistently beats El Tri.)
So the British media has written of Andriy Shevchencko and Serie A while ridiculing Italian and German football. Why does this matter? For starters England continues to struggle as a national team thanks largely to the media causing such an uproar over player selection for friendlies. Ironically enough England is one of two World Cup quarter-finalists from 2006 to be placed in qualifying group 6. The other is Sheva’s Ukraine. The media in England seems to not recognize the fundamental difference in style of play between England and Italy and simply makes assumptions as to a players quality based on how he fares playing one style at one club.
After the ridicule Sheva faced in England, I believe two things need to be watched. Milan is obviously not in the Champions League this year after woeful 2007-08 campaign, but come next season if Milan takes on an English side, Sheva will delight in showing his quality once again on that stage. Secondly, Sheva much like a Thomasz Frankowski who was dubbed the “pole with no goals” (A nickname that has stuck now that he’s essentially playing behind developmental players in MLS) for his time with Wolves scored twice in qualifying against England in both group matches Poland played against England in 2006 qualifying. Sheva will be motivated to no end next April when England face the Ukraine. Perhaps after that match the British media can give a fairer assessment of the quality of a footballer they have ridiculed.