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Ballon d’Or winner 2004: Andriy Shevchenko beats off fierce competition from Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho and Deco

In a year which was defined by shocks and giant killings (Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph and FC Porto winning the UCL spring to mind), the 2004 Ballon d’Or award went to Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko after his goals help AC Milan seal the Serie A title.

36 goals in 51 appearences (all competitions) was enough for him to win the famous Ballon d’Or trophy with his standout moments of the 03/04 season coming in a hat-trick against Lazio in Serie A and decisive goals in the UEFA Champions League against clubs like Deportivo La Coruña and Barcelona.

Andriy Reaches the Summit of World Football

Coming into his 28th year (which for many is considered the peak age for a player in his position), the talismanic Shevchenko recorded his second best season in a Rossoneri shirt.

Scoring 36 in 51 games, he’d earn the Serie A golden boot in the 03/04 season, scoring 24 goals in the league. This was built upon by a great start the following season, as Andriy scored 11 in his first 16 games of the next year.

Milan would win the Serie A, reach the Semi Final of the Coppa Italia and fell victim to an incredible comeback from Deportivo La Coruna, who overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit to win 5-4.

Did he Deserve it?

2004 was a strange year for football, with the European Championships being ground out by Greece, hence the inclusion of multiple Grecians in voting that year. This was particularly helpful for European Ballon d’Or hopefuls playing for weaker national teams expecting to have a tough time at the Euros.

With Greek players playing in lesser club teams, their victory would do plenty to garner individual votes, but their respective achievements at club level for the year would hamper their case. This is why, the Greek’s victory helped pave the way for Shevchenko’s Ballon d’Or, in spite of Ukraine failing to qualify for the 2004 European Championships at all.

France would fall in the first knockout round to Greece, making Henry’s case much weaker and fellow frontrunner Deco lost to Greece in the final playing for Portugal.

So with achievements at international level for there was little to go off of for the top players, with the Greeks sending so many unknown quantities into the voting mix (Theodoros Zagorakis finshed as high as fifth!).

At club level, Shevchenko had an advantage. He played in the Serie A, which in 2004 was the top league in the world, attracting the world’s very best. There’s a very real argument for the Serie A of the late 90s and early 2000s hosting the greatest array of talent in football history.

Henry has the best case for an alternative winner. His 30 goals in the Premier League, which was at this point comfortably within the top 3 leagues in the world, helped Arsenal to their famous ‘invincible’ season, in which they didn’t lose a single game. Henry had also started the season well, scoring 16 in 19 in the first 3 months of the 04/05 season.

Both players stood in similar situations, dissapointing national team showings but with outstanding goal contributions that lifted their teams to league victories.

But, surprisingly, as much as Henry seemed like the main competitor for Shevchenko, he’d finish 4th, over 100 points behind the Ukrainian, in spite of having a very similar season.

Ronaldinho was voted third, its harder to compare him and Shevchenko, both playing very different roles with very different playstyles, but Ronaldinho was coming off the back of a great debut season at Barcelona in 03/04, scoring 22 in 45 all season.

It’s easy to see why Ronaldinho was beaten by Shevchenko looking at achievements in 2004 however… A failure to make it through the qualifying rounds for the Uefa Cup at the start of the season meant no European accolades that year. 2nd place in the league meant no La Liga title either and a loss to Real Zaragoza in the Copa Del Rey Quarter-Final blew that chance of silverware.

Furthermore, an injury meant that while Brazil would win the Copa America in 2004, Ronaldinho didn’t play a single minute.

In second came Deco, runner up at Euro 2004. The attacking midfielder only scored an handful of goals in 2004, but he was a dream playmaker, registering 12 assists from january to May in the Portuguese league.

The Champions League was where he really excelled, helping an underdog Porto side to a Champions League trophy, in a European campaign that saw him contribute 2 goals and 4 assists in the knockout stages. As much as Jose Mourinho is given all the credit, Porto’s expectation defying victory was inspired by Deco just as much as Mourinho.

Deco had a great case, but sadly the Portuguese league was a way off of the Serie A, and as well as he played in the league, his contributions count for less than Shevchenko in domestic football. That would mean Deco would have been won based mostly on 7, albeit incredible, Champions League performances.

When you put it all like that, Henry finishing fourth does feel like an insult, he should have been in a close battle with Shevchenko in the votes.

In 2004 Shevchenko was hot property and had proved himself to be the top scorer in the Serie A. Battling with David Trezeguet, Adriano, Christian Vieri, Alberto Gilardino, Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano and even Kaka. This was a stacked league, to put it further into perspective, legendary attacker Alessandro Del Piero only managed 8 in 22 the same season.

In the end, with both strikers in such similar form, and of similar importance to their respective clubs, it seems the Serie A being seen as the most difficult league to score 20+ goals in gave Andriy that extra boost.

Andriy Shevchenko stats – 2004

Full NameAndriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko
Date of BirthSeptember 29, 1976
Place of BirthDvirkivshchyna, Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine)
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Club (2003/2004)AC Milan (Italy)
Appearances (All Competitions)51
Goals (All Competitions)36
Assists (All Competitions)N/A
Awards (2003/2004)– Serie A Top Scorer (24 goals)
– UEFA Champions League Top Scorer (9 goals)
– UEFA Champions League Winner
– FIFPro World XI
– UEFA Team of the Year
– Capocannoniere Winner
– Hero of Ukraine

2004 Ballon d’Or: Top 20 players

1stAndriy ShevchenkoUkraineMilan175
2ndDecoPortugalPorto, Barcelona139
4thThierry HenryFranceArsenal80
5thTheodoros ZagorakisGreeceAEK Athens, Bologna44
6thAdrianoBrazilParma, Internazionale27
7thPavel NedvědCzech RepublicJuventus23
8thWayne RooneyEnglandEverton, Manchester United22
9thRicardo CarvalhoPortugalPorto, Chelsea18
9thRuud van NistelrooyNetherlandsManchester United18
11thAngelos CharisteasGreeceWerder Bremen15
12thCristiano RonaldoPortugalManchester United11
12thMilan BarošCzech RepublicLiverpool11
14thZlatan IbrahimovićSwedenAjax, Juventus8
15thSamuel Eto’oCameroonMallorca, Barcelona7
17thTraianos DellasGreeceRoma5
17thFernando MorientesSpainMonaco, Real Madrid5
17thFrank LampardEnglandChelsea5
17thDidier DrogbaIvory CoastMarseille, Chelsea5
17thGianluigi BuffonItalyJuventus5

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