Shevchenko registered 127 times for AC Milan in the historically ultra-defensive Serie A, putting him second all-time in the club's history behind Sweden's Gunnar Nordahl. For Ukraine, he scored 48 goals in 111 appearances, scoring in the country's first ever FIFA World Cup™ win.
The assumption could be that one of football's purest forwards would likely tip Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to be crowned FIFA Ballon d'Or 2014 champion.
FIFA.com: As a former winner yourself, what does the FIFA Ballon d’Or mean to you?Andriy Shevchenko: It means a lot. It’s the premier individual award in football. Winning the award means a lot to the player. It’s a very nice award I dreamed about when I was a young kid. I came very close to winning a few times, but when my time came, I was so happy. I felt like one of my dreams really happened.
How did you feel the next day?
When you’re playing your normal routine, you’re playing your games, the day after was a normal day. It was no different. You go back to your normal routine. You think about the next game, the next year, and just keep going, and try to win the most games possible.
Going back to the year when you won the Ballon d’Or, can you remember what the season was like? Can you remember how you felt while you were playing?
I remember it very well, because it was one of my best seasons. I was playing very well and feeling good. I had been playing well for AC Milan. We did very well in the Italian league and in the UEFA Champions League. It was also the year of qualification for the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. We had a very difficult group. I knew if I wanted to be considered for the Ballon d’Or, I needed to do well for the national team. There were a few games at the start of September, October and November. We played against Turkey, Denmark, and I scored important goals and we did very well, and we qualified for Germany 2006. I think this helped me in the end to win the Ballon d’Or.
You recently said that Manuel Neuer was favourite to win the Ballon d’Or. You’ve obviously come up against some fantastic goalkeepers in your time as a great striker, what is special about him?
I had been watching the World Cup, and first of all, he’s from the winning team. He was fantastic. He wasn’t only playing like a traditional goalkeeper, but he was also the last man in defence. He was participating in the possession of the ball, helping his defenders a lot. He was not only a fantastic goalkeeper, but he was fantastic in everything.
It’s rare for goalkeepers to win the plaudits. He’ll be up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, so how difficult is it for a goalkeeper to beat those players and to win the Ballon d'Or?
I still think Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have a great chance to win. Real Madrid won the Champions League and Ronaldo was the star. At the World Cup, Germany and Argentina played a fantastic final. It was not easy for him, but I think Messi played a fantastic World Cup. He played for the team. Maybe individually it was not a fantastic World Cup for him, but I saw him play a lot more for the team, he did a fantastic job for Argentina getting them to the final. All three names are potentially great winners, but my choice is Neuer because I think he did something special at the World Cup and also in his season with Bayern Munich. He’s been fantastic all year.
Carlo Ancelotti is a candidate for the coach of the year award. You played under him at Chelsea and AC Milan, what was he like as a coach?
When I talk about Carlo, I want to smile, because he’s a fantastic manager and a fantastic guy. I have great memories working with him, and we’ve remained great friends. I was so happy for him when he won the Champions League with Real Madrid. It was a tough season at the start for them, but in the end they were winners. It was nice to see him happy. I knew exactly who he was when I started with AC Milan. It’s fantastic to see how his Real team plays and how they understand the game. What you’re seeing is the great work done by Carlo, but also he has and has had great players.
What’s your favourite memory while playing for Carlo Ancelotti?
My best memory was winning the Champions League with Carlo, because in football you have to win. The best memories always come from the victories. To win the Champions League was a fantastic result. The team had a great spirit, there was a perfect relationship with the manager, and it was fantastic. Carlo was a great manager but also a great friend for the players
He’s up against Joachim Low, so it won’t be easy as Low won the World Cup, but what’s your opinion on the job he did with Germany?
He did a fantastic job. He’s been training and working with the German team for a long time, and he built his team to win the World Cup. He deserved it, because he managed the team very well. He managed the pressure to be manager of such a great team with so many talented players. It looks like the players just play fantastic while having a lot of fun. Germany plays great football with a perfect understanding between the players. They seemed to play pressing football for all 90 minutes. When they needed to sacrifice to defend a result, they sacrificed. It was fantastic to see how this team worked together. Low did a fantastic job, and he’s still doing a great job. All credit to the team and to him to be winners of the World Cup.
And the last coach is Diego Simeone, who is perhaps a different type of character to Low and to Ancelotti. What are your opinions about him?
I really like him and the job he’s done. Atletico Madrid has always been a good team, but they haven’t challenged for winning the Champions League in the last ten years. They’ve produced plenty of great players, but they weren’t winning regularly. When Diego Simeone got the job, I remembered him as a player. He was always giving 100 per cent on the pitch and more. He was very aggressive as a player, and I can see his character in this Atletico Madrid team. He understands the game very well and knows what to expect from players and he’s built fantastic relationships with the players. Players play for him, players like his mentality, and watching Atletico Madrid pressing for 90 minutes it was unbelievable. He got them to the final of the Champions League, he won the league in Spain, and it’s fantastic.
Lastly, as a former winner, can you send a message to this year’s Ballon d’Or candidates?
Guys, you’re all fantastic players. You’re legends. There’s not one winner here, you’re all winners. You’re all the greatest player and it was fantastic to see you play. I hope you enjoy the occasion!