Sometimes it's difficult to say what is the biggest waste of money Roman Abramovich has tolerated at Chelsea. The big, bronze-coloured academy that never produces any players? Or the man inside the academy, Frank Arnesen, who buys lots of kids who aren't good enough to play for Chelsea? Or is it the mural at Stamford Bridge which had Luiz Felipe Scolari in it?
Then, every now and again, you get the reminder. It's Andrei Shevchenko. The £30m waste of money who is still hanging around the club three years on, the man who reappeared this summer on Chelsea's American tour looking even more out of place than Claudio Pizarro.
In the early days, we heard a lot about how Shevchenko was desperate to recapture the form that once made him one of the best strikers in the world. He was even said to be embarrassed at how badly things have tailed off. Yet not quite embarrassed enough, apparently, to take himself off somewhere else rather than pick up the last year of his lucrative £120,000-a-week, four-year deal.
This is Shevchenko last week on a proposed move back to Dynamo Kiev: "You know very well what Dynamo Kiev mean to me, you know my relationship with the president, that I love the Ukraine and Kiev, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I have a year left on my contract and I want to complete it. And then? No one knows what's going to happen."
Of course he wants to see out that Chelsea deal. Nothing Dynamo Kiev could offer – apart from, of course, the opportunity to play – will match what Shevchenko will earn for sitting on the bench at Chelsea. This year he will be lucky to get a place on the bench with Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge all ahead of him in the squad for Saturday's win over Hull.
Shevchenko is a long-standing reminder of Chelsea's excesses, an occasion when the club paid over the odds – a stock that they bought at the height of the market that has plummeted since. And it was possible to feel sorry for Shevchenko at times, even with the money, the big house in Wentworth and the ex-model wife. The mind was willing, the body was not. As if Milan had sold Chelsea their favourite toy, just without any batteries.
But the longer Shevchenko stays at Chelsea, the more determined he would seem to be to pick up his money, so the sympathy wears thin. He is becoming a latter-day Winston Bogarde, stoically sitting out his contract, oblivious to those who think he should do the decent thing and find a game elsewhere.
Shevchenko has not just been a disaster because of the transfer fee and wages lavished upon him. He has, however unwillingly, been part of the club's decline after their two Premier League winning seasons under Jose Mourinho. Yet at 32, with enough money potentially to buy Dynamo Kiev – never mind play for them – Shevchenko appears determined to hang in for one more lucrative year.
His last year spent on loan at Milan was, quite simply, atrocious from the point of view of goals. He avoided the injuries that have dragged him down at Chelsea and started nine games, coming on as a substitute in 17 more. In all competitions he played 944 minutes for Milan, although dramatically less after the arrival of David Beckham in January, presumably on the basis that Milan could not afford two faded lights at the same time.
Yet in all that time, Shevchenko managed two goals, one in the Uefa Cup against FC Zurich and the other in a defeat to Lazio in the Italian Cup. Not one goal in Serie A. Chelsea still hope that they will be able to get Shevchenko out before the end of the transfer window next month but, given those kind of returns, will there be anyone prepared to match his wages?
The signing of Shevchenko was a misguided notion from the start. Shevchenko was Abramovich's notion of what a great player should be. He bought a house in an area he could enjoy his new-found passion for golf. The Chelsea programme was full of his Armani adverts as soon as he arrived.
Shevchenko has rewarded Chelsea with 19 goals in two seasons and one of them was in the Community Shield. This time around he will have to equal his season's best of 11 in his first year at Chelsea is he is to take that total up to 30 – then at least Abramovich could say he got a goal for every £1m he laid out in transfer fees, but that's before you take into consideration the wages he has paid.
Some players, the likes of Gary Neville or Sami Hyypia before he left Liverpool for Bayer Leverkusen, are entitled to see out their time gracefully, playing when fitness or necessity dictates. They have earned that status. But when you see Shevchenko on the Chelsea bench this year just remind yourself that this man is picking up one of the easiest pay cheques in football.
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