Mykhailo Mudryk should be judged at Chelsea over the length of his stay rather than on his early form, according to Ukraine great and former Blues striker Andriy Shevchenko.
Mudryk, who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in January for £88million, has so far had a limited impact at Stamford Bridge, with manager Graham Potter preferring Raheem Sterling and fellow new signing Joao Felix in the 22-year-old’s favoured position on the outside of a forward three.
The Ukraine winger has started just four out of 10 games, and despite a promising debut in the Premier League as a second-half substitute against Liverpool he has taken time to adjust to his first experience of football outside of his home country.
The war in Ukraine as well as the domestic league’s scheduled winter break had meant a disrupted 12 months, and he had not played competitively since November when he arrived in England.
He was in the starting XI and set up a goal for Mateo Kovacic as Chelsea won 3-1 away at Leicester earlier in March, but lost his place and did not come off the bench during the draw with Everton last weekend.
Shevchenko, who at the age of 22 left Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine to join AC Milan in a £22million move in 1999, urged patience from Chelsea fans, pointing out that in Mudryk the club have invested in their and the player’s long-term future.
“I wish I had come to Chelsea at his age,” said Shevchenko, who scored 22 goals across two seasons at Stamford Bridge after Chelsea broke their transfer record to sign him, aged 29, from Milan in 2006 for a fee of around £30m.
“What worked for me in Milan and London was immersing myself in the culture, studying the language so I can communicate with my team-mates.
“That will help him acclimatise quicker which is important when you move to any country in the world. On the pitch, the club and the manager will provide him with everything he needs to raise his level.
“Chelsea have bought a talented player when he is very young, for the future. He’s just starting his path in a massive football career. But his first step has been the right step, coming to Chelsea. He’s part of an ambitious project. He’s in good hands.
“The decision to get him right now was down to how much the club believe in his talent. He’s on a very long contract, that’s very unusual. Chelsea are investing in their future.
“The Premier League usually demands results right now, but let’s see how he does in these eight years. Let’s see what he can do in the long-term. The club must be patient with him, believe in his talent.”
Mudryk is in Ukraine’s squad for their Euro 2024 qualifier against England at Wembley on Sunday as they open their campaign to reach a fourth consecutive finals.
It kicks off a tough group for his side who will also go up against European champions Italy for one of two automatic qualification spots. A third side from the group will go into a play-off.
Shevchenko, who won 111 caps as a player, managed the team to the last eight at Euro 2020 but admits Gareth Southgate’s side will face a different Ukraine from the one they beat 4-0 in the Rome quarter-final two years ago.
“We beat (the holders) Portugal to reach the last Euros,” said Shevchenko. “We deserved to be there after a very difficult path in qualifying. We had stability. We had a great mentality.
“The players we had – (Oleksandr) Zinchenko, (Ruslan) Malinovsky, (Taras) Stepanenko, (Vitaliy) Mykolenko, (Andriy) Yarmolenko – these guys bring a very strong mentality. But the generation is changing. It’s going to be a difficult moment now whilst the team rebuilds. With everything that’s going on in Ukraine, it will be hard.
“There are enough of the old team still around to keep some of that stability. But Ukraine is not a country that is going to have a very deep squad, where one player gets out and another one can step in. We need to bring through our new generation. But we are in a transition.
“I worked for five and a half years (in the job). Ukraine is always a big part of my life. I’m still there to offer whatever help is needed. I still have contact, talking to the players, talking to the manager. Any way that I can help, I am doing it.
“But I think that project is finished for me. There’s a new manager now, he has his own ways.”
England v Ukraine is live on Channel 4 from 4pm Sunday.
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