Exclusive: Andriy Shevchenko defends Mykhailo Mudryk and backs him to prove Chelsea doubters wrong
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Former Chelsea star Andriy Shevchenko has jumped to the defence of compatriot Mykhailo Mudryk after a difficult start to life at Stamford Bridge.
Mudryk joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in an £88.5 million January switch as Chelsea continued their wild spending spree under owner Todd Boehly.
The 22-year-old, who penned a huge eight-year contract, looked bright in his debut cameo against Liverpool but failed to score a single goal in 17 appearances in all competitions.
Chelsea's instability led to them finishing in a lowly 12th place and many were quick to label Mudryk a flop.
But Shevchenko believes his fellow Ukrainian should be given time to prove his worth ahead of his first full season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The 2004 Ballon d'Or winner offered some words of wisdom to Mudryk as he provided similar expert advice to kids aged 14-16 at the Gatorade 5v5 global finals in Istanbul as part of his role as a "confidence coach".
“Mudryk is very young but I think he is quite confident," Shevchenko told SPORTbible.
"I saw his interview and he knows his quality. Chelsea signed him for eight years, it’s a long-term contract and they believe in the quality of the player.
“In football if you have the opportunity you have to take it. I think he’s going to have plenty of opportunities but we’ll see how it goes.
“For me he is quality, he is sharp, he’s strong, he’s fast and you just have to adapt better for Premier League football.
“The best advice is to just believe in yourself. I think he has this quality. He knows he’s a good player. My best advice is just keep working hard and see what you can achieve.”
Shevchenko's message to Mudryk is a similar one to the 15,000 competitors who took part in Gatorade's mixed tournament. Now in its sixth year, the tournament saw youngsters participate from the national qualifying rounds onwards and teams from diverse backgrounds such as Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Europe were all flown out for the showpiece.
Honduras’ AFFI boys’ team and Chile’s Club De Lo Prado girls both emerged victorious in their respective finals and played at the Champions Festival on the same pitch where legends like Robert Pires and Esteban Cambiasso strutted their stuff.
The incredible prize for both was tickets to the Champions League final, where Manchester City beat Inter Milan to complete a historic treble.
Previous participants in the 5v5 competition have gone on to play professionally for River Plate and Tenerife, showing the path to stardom an impressive outing can create.
“It’s important, you can inspire some good talent," Shevchenko added.
"Sport is all about competition but in a good way because of the opportunity Gatorade gives these teams, it's a different environment, you learn different cultures, be around the different teams and compete. It's a great feeling.
“This is a special experience, and I can only imagine the finalists when they get that prize.”
In his pep talk to the youngsters, Shevchenko openly discussed about losing two Champions League finals - one of which was of course in Istanbul when he missed the decisive penalty for AC Milan against Liverpool.
But he suffered a bigger disappointment long before that when he failed a dribbling test aged 16 at a specialist sports university in Kiev.
His story serves as an example to the next generation that the comeback is always bigger than the setback.
“I didn’t pass what is called a specialty test but I never gave up and life gave me another opportunity," the former politician explained.
“You have to put yourself in the situation and the opportunity will come, you just have to be ready.
“Especially in sport because you cannot always win but through the experience, you'll learn a lot about how to find the right motivation in the future for you.
“The young generation need to stick with the plan, train well, be disciplined and believe in yourself.
“The year after I came back, I basically redid the exams, came back to university and finished university. Then I was playing in the first team of Dynamo Kyiv and I just rebuilt my path. Sometimes bad experiences give you different motivation.”