Shevchenko explains why he is ‘positive’ about Inter tie and recalls derby anecdotes

By Oliver Fisher -

Andriy Shevchenko is confident that AC Milan can turn around the first leg deficit against Inter after Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss that was coupled with a poor performance.

Milan were all at sea during the opening 20 minutes of the game, conceding twice and never really recovering. The first goal came less than 10 minutes in as nobody marked Edin Dzeko from a corner and he buried into the top corner.

The second just minutes later when Henrikh Mkhitaryan strolled through the middle unopposed to slot past Mike Maignan, and things really threatened to get out of hand from there with the Rossoneri getting outplayed in every department.

Shevchenko was a guest at Milan Football Week and spoke on the stage of the Anteo Palazzo del Cinema to journalists Alessandra Bocci and Alessandro Alciato, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

On his arrival at Milan: “My career at Milan has been fantastic. When I first arrived at Milan I knew the great champions and the club that were there… I was a young boy, arriving at Milan I took a very big step.

“What impressed me most of all is that Milan is a family: the greatness of Maldini, Costacurta, Albertini… they welcomed me with a big hug, they opened their hearts to me, helping me to integrate well in Italy. Costacurta has always been close to me.”

On his first emotions: “I felt at ease expressing all my qualities to the fullest. I remember the first goals, like the hat-trick against Lazio at the Olimpico, I felt great… I played against Nesta and it was a wonderful moment. Getting excited it’s part of my character. I really wanted to come to Milan, it was a goal to become a strong player for my country too.”

On winning the Ballon d’Or: “I didn’t believe it… It’s always been a dream of mine. As a child I watched who had won the Ballon d’Or among the Ukrainians, I grew up watching them…

“At Milan I watched Van Basten, an incredible striker. The target was very high, it was a dream for me to win it. When I found out I was happy. Thanks to my team-mates: without Milan, without my team-mates from Milan and Ukraine I wouldn’t have made it.”

On the negotiation that brought him to Milan: “I knew that a manager from Milan was coming to meet with Dinamo Kiev. Braida presented himself very well, elegant, with a tie. He brought me a Milan shirt and told me ‘with this shirt you can win the Ballon d’Or’.”

On his first time at San Siro: “When I came to visit San Siro for the first time, you tell yourself ‘I’ll come back to play here’. There were other teams after me, but Milan wanted me more. When Galliani came to see me I didn’t play a great match, but I had already made myself noticed in other matches.”

On the Manchester penalty: “Every time I think about it I get emotional. It’s the best moment in my history. Writing my name in the history of Milan is crazy. It was not an easy year for me.

“The season started very badly, with a three-month injury. The return had been very difficult, Ancelotti changed line-up by switching to the Christmas tree… I didn’t like it so much, but it worked. The team played well.

“I was on the bench and was in a lot of pain, but I also understood the moment. I was waiting for my moment. And that moment came against Real Madrid. My name was Ancelotti and he told me that he was giving me the opportunity to play.

“Ancelotti is a great coach, he always creates an incredible feeling with the players. He managed to motivate me and I was already very motivated. We won 1-0 against Real with a beautiful goal of mine and my season restarted there.”

On his goal in the 2003 derby: “There was tension, some couldn’t sleep, there was so much pressure. Nobody wanted to lose. When you play up front you don’t have much space and time, Cordoba was strong and he was guarding me;.

“I asked Seedorf to pass me the ball at the right moment. He understood me and my goal comes from an assist from him at the right time. I scored instinctively, I already knew how to position myself.”

On Cannavaro: “Serie A was the strongest in the world. Parma were very strong, for example, without mentioning the historic big names. There were big names and great players.

“Cannavaro had personality, he never gave up space, he was fast, he jumped well, we had to find the means to unbalance him. Each of us had their own tricks. I always studied the defenders well.”

How important is personality to play for Milan? “I don’t think that champions are born, but they become. You are born with talent, but to become a champion you need sacrifice, work, intelligence, the desire to improve. Find new goals once you reach one.

“You have to know how to handle difficult times. I’ve seen great players not knowing how to handle moments of great pressure, and those with less talent who turn into moments of pressure, sending a message to the team of unity and desire to work for the team.”

How do you manage waiting for the derby between the legs? “I tell my experience. We were all nervous. Gattuso made us think of being a group, seeing him. I tried to look at Maldini: his vision, his experience, his greatness, his tranquility… Costacurta also guided us. But I liked this pressure a lot, it excited me, gave me strength, the moment of great tension made me curious. I prepared myself well psychologically”

What did you think of the first leg on Wednesday? “(Sighs) I am positive. We must forget the first half. In the second half there was a right reaction, with the right spirit and attitude, with a match plan. The second half must be like the second half, like this they have a chance.”

On Pioli: “The coach has a lot of pressure. I have a lot of respect for Pioli: the work he did at Milan, with the Scudetto and the semi-final, is positive. He knows the team well, you have to trust him. In the return, with the spirit in the second half, anything can happen.”

On the similarities between current Milan and his: “The strength of Milan is the group, the desire to be together, who have fun together, who have similar goals, who look at life in the same direction and create a winning group.

“This was the strength of the Milan in our group. Is that still the case now? I can see it. The teams that win create a group. You can have 10 champions, but if they don’t like it, it will be difficult to win anything.

“You need work from the club, from the coach, but most part has to come from the players. If you play for a great team, you understand the goals of a great team, you realize that alone you can’t win anything. The group is the most important thing.”

Have you thought about the final in Istanbul? “These are things for journalists who always create coincidences (laughs). It would be nice to see Milan return to Istanbul. And win.”

On being the player who has scored the most goals in derbies: “When I arrived I heard a lot about the derby: the pressure, the city talking… We didn’t have much time to prepare for the first derby.

“There was an event organised by the Gazzetta with 3 players from Milan and 3 from Inter. There was a flood in Milan. At 5 pm we were all on time: Bierhoff and I were there, for Inter there was Ronaldo, Vieri and Zamorano.

“We were waiting for Weah who was late. He arrived dressed as a soldier. And I thought: now I understand what the Milan derby means.”

Tags AC Milan Andriy Shevchenko
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