Eto'o spurns Chelsea to stay at Barça

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The Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o claims he has turned down an approach from Chelsea and will instead sign a new deal at the Primera Liga champions.

The Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o claims he has turned down an approach from Chelsea and will instead sign a new deal at the Primera Liga champions.

Despite recent comments from his agent, Josep Maria Mesalles, questioning Barcelona's desire to keep the Cameroon international, the player appears ready to sign a contract until 2010 which will earn him around €5.5m (£3.6m) a year.

Eto'o, who is currently in Cameroon on national team duty, said: "I had an offer from Chelsea but I always was clear that I wanted to stay at Barça. The most important thing is not money, and my wife put her foot down over the idea of packing our bags and going to a city like London, and I have to respect her."

Another Chelsea target, Michael Essien, will need a large fee to dislodge him from Lyon, it emerged yesterday. The French side have told Chelsea they must increase their £16.75m bid for the Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien if they want to sign him.

"Chelsea, who are the only club openly interested in Essien, are putting strong pressure on us but we will do all we can to keep him," the Lyon chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, said.

Milan are ready to begin negotiations with Parma for the acquisition of yet another rumoured Chelsea target, Alberto Gilardino. The Milan vice-president Paolo Berlusconi, brother of the club's owner, Silvio Berlusconi, is confident the Italy international will be a Milan player this summer.

Gilardino's transfer to San Siro was delayed due to the striker being involved in the relegation play-offs with Parma. The 22-year-old struck the crucial goal that kept Parma inSerie A.

Hernan Crespo's transfer from Chelsea to Milan seems in limbo. "This week I will speak personally with Chelsea," the 29-year-old striker said. "I'm slightly worried because this is the last card that I can play if I want to remain at Milan. I am confident and calm but I hope that I find people that understand my situation.

The Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, has admitted that Thierry Henry would be a great signing, but has ruled out a move for the Arsenal striker. The Catalan side have already added two new faces to the squad since the end of last season, bringing in Mark van Bommel and Santi Ezquerro on free transfers, and Laporta said, "Of course I would like to have Henry - he is a wonderful player and I have been told a nice person, but the squad is now closed save for an exceptional situation."

Such an exception might be Michael Owen, who the Catalan side have previously expressed an interest in. The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, however, is said to be preparing a £15m move for Real Madrid's England striker.

Owen wants to stay in Spain but has conceded that, if he is not to be a regular, he may have to move on. He has apparently told friends he would not mind a move to Old Trafford and has a clause in his Madrid contract that states he can talk to any club that bids at least £11m for him.

Under the terms of his £8m move to Madrid from Anfield last summer, Liverpool were given first option on the 25-year-old - but their manager, Rafael Benitez, is understood to prefer Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt.