Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar – one of these footballing titans will be crowned The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017 at the London Palladium on 23 October. Like the three finalists of the award, former forward Andriy Shevchenko was also a big-game player for club and country during his career, renowned for his goalscoring exploits.
Now head coach of his native Ukraine, Shevchenko enjoyed a trophy-laden career with Dynamo Kyiv, Chelsea and AC Milan, while also netting 48 goals in 111 appearances for his country. Ahead of Monday’s ceremony, the 2003 UEFA Champions League winner believes any of three frontmen would be worthy recipients of the platinum-coated trophy.
“They are three unbelievable players and all deserve to win the award,” said Shevchenko, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com. “I think if you had to choose it would be Cristiano Ronaldo, having won the Champions League and scoring two goals in the final.
“Leo Messi is a fantastic player and had a great season. He’s played very well in the league, scoring goals.
“I’m happy for Neymar because the last five years have been a big competition between Messi and Ronaldo, and now Neymar has come into play and he’s done incredibly well. He’s scoring a lot of goals and has great technical skills. It’s great to watch him play.”
Shevchenko is a figure who can speak with authority when it comes to hitting the back of the net. The Ukrainian frontman bagged 127 goals for AC Milan and stands as the Serie A side’s second all-time top scorer.
“Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s scoring record is incredible,” Shevchenko said. “I’ve never known anyone to score as many goals as those two players. They’re big leaders in the team and always perform well. They’re such great players to watch.
“The pressure is always on the player who has to perform and score,” he continued. “Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar score goals but they’re also leaders. They’re three players who can help their teams win silverware.”
After a distinguished career that saw him play an instrumental role in Ukraine reaching their first World Cup at Germany 2006 and then leading the team to the quarter-finals of that tournament, Shevchenko was appointed manager of the national team in July 2016. Similar to the nominees for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2017 – Massimiliano Allegri, Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane – Shevchenko also plied his trade in Italy during his playing days.
With two Italian managers making the final three, not to mention Real Madrid head coach Zidane who spent five seasons in Serie A as a player, there’s a strong Italian feeling to the final trio for the men’s coaching award.
“Those three mangers – two having played for Juventus and one currently coaching them – there’s something significant around that club,” Shevchenko said. “The Italian school of coaching is one of the most important in the world. “Italy’s Serie A is one of the world’s hardest leagues and to win something there, whether as a player or especially as a coach, you need to have a lot of skills. Not just coaching skills, but personal skills. You have to be able to connect with players.
“In Italy, there’s always pressure from the media and fans, so you have to be well-prepared to win something important.”