Chelsea set for fourth bid to sign Milan striker Shevchenko

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Chelsea are to launch another attempt to sign Andrei Shevchenko in the wake of retaining their Premiership title and Milan's exit from the Champions' League. Sources close to the 29-year-old, and at Chelsea, believe that after three previous attempts the Ukrainian striker may finally move to Stamford Bridge.

Negotiations are delicately poised but there is understood to be a degree of turmoil at Milan as to what to do and that may work in Chelsea's favour this time. No deal has yet been struck - or a price fixed - but whatever fee is quoted for Shevchenko will be met, as will his personal demands. Chelsea are also willing to send Hernan Crespo back to Italy if that helps land the deal but Milan are cool on the Argentinian - especially if he is used to reduce the fee for Shevchenko.

Crucially, it appears that Shevchenko himself, who is contracted until 2009 and has previously rebuffed Chelsea's interest, is now, in private at least, more keen than he was to come to London and that may help swing any talks. One of his agents, Fabio Parisi, maintained at the end of last week that he was staying in Italy but concedes that a bid is also likely.

If Shevchenko does sign, he will join Michael Ballack, who is set to agree a Bosman free transfer from Bayern Munich later this month. The German midfielder, who may also be used as a second striker, an option Chelsea are keen to explore, is still waiting to see if he gets a better offer from another club than the one he has received but that is highly unlikely.

The arrivals would complete two-thirds of Chelsea's main transfer targets. The final element would be Arsenal's Ashley Cole. Chelsea will, again, match any deal from elsewhere for the left-back, whose transfer could be triggered by a club offering the £16m to activate a release clause in the contract he agreed with Arsenal following last season's tapping-up scandal.

It had been thought that Cole would move to Real Madrid - they do not want to pay so much for a defender - if he left Arsenal but Chelsea are certainly back in the running, although sources admit they are less sure he will sign for them than Ballack or Shevchenko. Indeed, Chelsea are scouting four other left-backs including Bayern's Philipp Lahm.

Both the manager, Jose Mourinho, and the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, have reiterated the line that Chelsea will sign three players and allow three to leave this summer - as they said they would in last year's transfer window. There is little reason to doubt their intentions although they may be forced to be more active.

William Gallas has already stated his desire to leave - and is wanted by Juventus in particular - but Chelsea still hope to persuade him to stay. Another player expected to depart is the Icelander Eidur Gudjohnsen whose first-team chances have been reduced and will be reduced further with the expected arrivals. Gudjohnsen, too, will be subject of great demand from other clubs. If Gallas does depart it may limit Ricardo Carvalho's chances of getting the move he also wants.

Chelsea are also considering bids for the Tottenham pair Jermain Defoe and Ledley King. Defoe, who is wanted to vary the striking options, is thought to be available for £15m - £5m more than they want to pay - while King's contract talks at Spurs are being closely monitored. His, and his club's resolve, may be severely tested by Mourinho.

Chelsea may tempt Spurs by trying to strike a deal involving Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson, who also want to leave, while Gudjohnsen could be bait along with Carlton Cole. Spurs may desire Arjen Robben or Damien Duff but neither would be keen to move to White Hart Lane.

There does appear to be a deliberate attempt to leave some players unsure of their future. Following the title celebrations last Saturday the talk, privately, was of the lack of certainty that some Chelsea players now feel about their future.