Before Genoa hosted AC Milan in Serie A last month, Andriy Shevchenko admitted that it was difficult for him to suppress his emotions before meeting his former club for the first time as a coach.
It will be even harder in Thursday’s match of the 16th round of Coppa Italia at San Sir.
The Ukrainian is, of course, a living legend when it comes to the Milanists, the former striker scored 175 goals for all Rossoneri in all competitions and in 2003 scored a decisive kick in the Champions League final penalty shootout. Juventus.
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So if Shevchenko recovers from COVID-19 in time and travels to Giuseppe Meazza, he will receive an enthusiastic reception.
However, whether he is present or not, it could be his last game as the boss of Genoa, which adds even more importance to what was already so important for the 45-year-old.
Unfortunately, just over two months after taking over the Ligurian leadership, Shevchenko faces an expulsion. In fact, his fate was already sealed by Sunday’s sad defeat 1: 0 at home with Spezia.
Shevchenko and his counterpart Thiago Motta went to fight for the descent of Luigi Ferraris, knowing that their work was in jeopardy. “This is the nature of our work,” Shevchenko admitted in advance. “There’s always a risk involved.”
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He probably didn’t expect to be under so much pressure after just 10 matches in the lead.
The problem for Shevchenko is that Genoa remains without victory in Serie A, with the only victory coming against Salernitan in Coppa. The Grifone are now in worse shape than when they took over on November 7, falling from 17th to 19th place after scoring just three points out of 27 available.
The match schedule was not kind. In addition to the second Milan, Genoa has also clashed with Rome, Juventus, Lazio and Atalanta – all the best teams – eight since Shevchenko’s arrival.
However, a 3: 1 derby with Sampdoria struck hard and the loss of Spezia could be the last straw, with club president Alberto Zangrillo admitting that it was “probably one of the hardest moments” in Genoa’s recent history – which they really say something given their seemingly constant problems in the last few years.
According to reports, the board of directors met this week to discuss Shevchenko’s future, and there is growing speculation that he may be removed from office after the match in Milan, with former Genoa boss Rolando Maran – who still has a contract at the club – and Rudi Garcia said that they are running.
On the positive side, Shevchenko has a contract that lasts until 2024, and his net salary is € 2 million (£ 1.7 million / $ 2.9 million) a year, which means that firing the former Ukrainian boss is now financially very unattractive design.
In addition, after the Spezia debacle, Zangrillo tried to point out that the role of everyone in the club was under scrutiny, not just the coach. “I’ll give you an example,” said Genoa supremo Sky Sport Italia. “If something goes wrong in the hospital ward, you don’t kick the chief doctor. We’re all in control, me first. The hard times analysis affects everyone, the coach and the players. Everyone.”
“We must now be active in the transfer market to remedy a situation that is becoming very difficult.”
Shevchenko would certainly feel lost if he was recalled before the end of the January window. He agreed to take over in the middle of the season, adding that the new owners of the club, 777 partners, an investment company based in the USA, will invest the money in the team in January.
So his elimination would be incredibly frustrating now, especially as he hoped his employers would bring players more suitable for his preferred 4-3-3 lineup.
However, his critics would argue that Shevchenko failed to prove that he was worthy of significant financial support. According to him, Genoa kept only two net accounts in Serie A and, what is worse, he scored only three times in nine matches.
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Shevchenko points out that just before the Christmas break, they played with admirable spirit and solidity in a 0-0 draw with Atalanta, who scored a free goal, while a 1: 1 draw in Sassuol also indicated that things were getting closer.
However, Spezia does not have to recover from the subsequent failure. A shock victory at San Sir may not be enough to save Shevchenko.
A lot of people still support him, not only in Milan. Even Rossoneri boss Stefano Pioli was full of praise for Shevchenko on the eve of Coppe’s encounter. “He is an intelligent, very capable coach and I wish him the best for his career,” the Italian told Sport Mediaset on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, all coaches have such moments, but he is smart and will get the most out of this difficult situation.”
He may not be allowed to do so, as a decision on his future is expected after the match in Milan.
For now, we hope that a negative test for COVID-19 will allow Shevchenko at least his first visit to San Sir as Genoa’s coach on Thursday night, as this could be his last.