Chelsea look to Defoe as Shevchenko move falters

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The Independent Football

Andrei Shevchenko remains at the top of Chelsea's list of transfer targets - but they may well make a bid for Jermain Defoe in January as they continue their campaign to win the Premiership and Champions' League as well as both domestic cup competitions.

Andrei Shevchenko remains at the top of Chelsea's list of transfer targets - but they may well make a bid for Jermain Defoe in January as they continue their campaign to win the Premiership and Champions' League as well as both domestic cup competitions.

An approach for Defoe had been discussed - and then ruled out - but it is back on the agenda again as Chelsea monitor Tottenham Hotspur's contract talks with the striker and wait for the transfer window to open.

Chelsea also retain their long-standing interest in Rio Ferdinand, who is much admired at Stamford Bridge, but sources admit that this remains a "long-term project". However, again, they will see whether he signs a new deal. At the same time Chelsea are prepared to allow goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini to go. United are among the clubs interested in the Italian but are willing to wait until the summer.

Chelsea could bid £15m for Defoe who - crucially - is not cup-tied for European competition. However, Chelsea will be made aware that Spurs are prepared to sell any member of their squad before parting with their most prized asset.

Chelsea turned down the chance of signing Defoe during the last transfer window. He is understood to have had lunch with "super-agent" Pini Zahavi at the Israeli's favourite central London club, Les Ambassadeurs, but Chelsea did not progress their interest.

Defoe signed for Spurs on a five-and-a-half year deal instead, but since breaking into the England team has become aware that he is one of the club's lowest-paid players with a basic of £12,000 a week. Spurs are prepared to award him a huge hike and would even countenance the sale of Ledley King before Defoe.

Chelsea are likely to face even stiffer resistance from Milan over Shevchenko even if Roman Abramovich's interest in the Ukrainian striker, who this week won the European Footballer of the Year, remains as strong as ever. A bid was rebuffed in May but Abramovich has personally continued to woo his favourite player.

Yesterday Shevchenko's agent, Oscar Damiano, was dismissive. "I know that they [Chelsea] may be interested but there is no chance even if they make a ridiculous offer," Damiano said. He pointed out that Shevchenko had signed a contract until 2009, after Chelsea's first bid, and added "they would have no chance on his personal terms alone. He is one of the best five players in the world and is paid as such."

Damiano added: "There are always a lot of rumours but they can forget it. If Chelsea don't understand that, it is their problem." Damiano said that the biggest problem for Chelsea was that Milan are "a buying, not a selling, club". Indeed, the club president, Silvio Berlusconi, has stated he would rather "cut off my arms and legs" than sell Shevchenko who has scored 102 goals in Serie A over the last six seasons, helping Milan win the Champions' League in 2003. This season he has already scored 11 times.

The Chelsea coach, Jose Mourinho, is a huge fan of Shevchenko and has not forgotten the 28-year-old's match-winning display against Porto in the European Super Cup. "To me he is the most complete striker in the most difficult league to score goals in," Mourinho has said. Chelsea will hope that Milan's interest in Hernan Crespo - currently on loan from Stamford Bridge - may help a deal. Talks on making Crespo's move permanent have started and Chelsea would offer cash plus the Argentinian for Shevchenko.

The situation with Cudicini is somewhat clearer. Chelsea were resistant to letting him go but are also appreciative of the way he has handled himself since being replaced by Petr Cech. Cudicini's agent, Federico Pastorello, said yesterday that he thought his client would stay until the summer - when he will hold talks with Mourinho. "Carlo is clear that he is not happy he is not playing but he is a good professional and accepts the coach's decision," Pastorello said. "That is what he has done and Cech has been doing well. I think the situation will remain the same until the end of the season.

"I don't think he will be going anywhere in January. But we will see what happens. At the end of the season we will speak to Chelsea and find the right solution for him." He said the 31-year-old would go only if "there was a big opportunity in England or Italy". Clubs had been in contact, he said, but added that he thought neither United, Arsenal nor Liverpool would wait until the season's end before signing any goalkeepers. Pastrello also added: "If I know him well Carlo wants to play again. It is too early for him to be a second goalkeeper at a big club like Chelsea."

* The Football Association has launched an inquiry into alleged comments from Petr Cech criticising the referee Graham Poll after Chelsea's game against Arsenal on Sunday. "Maybe he [Poll] is a supporter of Arsenal. Or maybe he just had a blackout - it is difficult to explain," the goalkeeper is alleged to have said.

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