Andriy Shevchenko knows a thing or two about winning the Ballon d’Or, football’s most prestigious and storied individual award. With AC Milan he scored 29 goals over the course of 2004 to claim the prize and attained a status as national hero due to his performances with Ukraine, which he led to the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup.
Franck Ribery, then, could do worse than listen to the forward if he wishes to add his name to the roll of players to have been heralded as the game’s best. Shevchenko has highlighted just how important leading France to the World Cup will be for the Bayern Munich winger, who many have tipped to pinch the crown Lionel Messi has worn for the last four seasons.
“For Ribery it will be a special encounter. If he wants to win the Ballon d’Or he must make the difference in this double confrontation,” the Ukrainian told French radio station RTL ahead of the playoff against Ukraine, the first leg of which is on Friday. The tie is set to define this period in the attacker’s international career, which has largely been disappointing since breaking onto the scene so spectacularly under Raymond Domenech in 2006.
Ironically, Shevchenko did not need Euro 2004 to claim his greatest individual prize, yet the competition was not nearly so fierce nine years ago. Unfashionable Greece defended its way to continental glory and the game had few outstanding candidates in the way that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi presently provide.