I'm not Abramovich's golden boy, says Sheva

Chelsea's £30m striker promises the goals will flow and denies receiving any special treatment from the club's owner, writes Jason Burt
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The Independent Online

Despite the prolonged courtship, the friendship between their wives and the fact that it was Roman Abramovich who personally conducted the negotiations to bring him to Chelsea, Andrei Shevchenko has insisted that he has not received any special treatment from the club's owner.

"I am not Abramovich's golden boy," the striker stated yesterday. "I am just a player and he is my president, he takes care of all his players." Which, given the stellar salaries enjoyed at Stamford Bridge, and the use of one of the billionaire's yachts which has been extended to John Terry and Frank Lampard in the past, may well be true.

But none of the squad surely has the kind of close relationship Shevchenko enjoys with Abramovich, even if the Ukrainian has been at pains to state otherwise ever since he arrived in England following his £31m from Milan during the summer. Indeed, he claimed he had not even had dinner with Abramovich - which raised a few eyebrows among those who are aware of their closeness.

The two men had remained in touch, mainly by phone, ever since Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and made clear that he had set his heart on one day bringing "Sheva" to the club. It was not until the end of last season that Milan agreed to a deal, feeling it impossible to turn down such a fee for a player who turned 30 last week.

Added to that, Shevchenko, influenced by his American wife Kirsten Pazik, who was keen for her husband, and their children, to move away from Italy and learn English, had made up his own mind that it was time for a change after seven years in Serie A. A four-year contract worth approximately £6m a year (£124,000 a week) no doubt also helped to concentrate that mind.

Shevchenko will return to Italy this week, for Ukraine's European Championship qualifier at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday, and yesterday gave an interview to the sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in which he insisted he was unconcerned at the apparently slow start to his Chelsea career.

"Players go through difficult times and it happens to everyone," Shevchenko said before dismissing suggestions that he did not have the same desire to succeed, especially as he had moved to Chelsea for personal more than sporting reasons. "I feel young and full of energy," he said.

After scoring so impressively in the Community Shield, Shevchenko has struck only once in seven League games for Chelsea. However, it should not be forgotten that Thierry Henry did not score in any of his opening eight games for Arsenal, although there have been misgivings, expressed by those within Abramovich's own circle, as to Shevchenko's desire.

Back in Italy there have been suggestions in the media that Milan, who have struggled for goals in the absence of the striker who scored 173 times for them in 296 games, may try to take him back. But there is no likelihood of that happening. "I chose Chelsea and I will continue on this path," Shevchenko said. "Nothing can change my choice. Life goes beyond football. I feel more free here [in London] than in Italy. The life of a footballer in London is more simple, football is a show that finishes once the game is over. I understand the foreigners who speak English and then Lampard and Terry help me out."

Within the Chelsea dressing-room, however, the talk is that both Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, who also joined this summer from Bayern Munich, are growing in influence, especially among the club's foreign players and new arrivals. No longer do Terry and Lampard hold sway and the new dynamics will take some getting used to.

Both - along with Ballack - were at a 30th birthday party held for Shevchenko at the Pan-Asian restaurant Cocoon in Piccadilly, London, on Sunday evening.

Abramovich, and his wife Irina, were also there - as was the Milan vice-president, Adrian Galliani, general manager, Ariedo Braido, and Shevchenko's former team-mate Clarence Seedorf, which may have fuelled the rumours that the Serie A club want him back.

Indeed, Abramovich and Shevchenko could have walked to the restaurant. The billionaire still has a house in Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge, and has also arranged for the striker to live close by until he and his wife, who is pregnant, find a suitable home for themselves and their two-year-old son, Jordan.

The Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, who did not oppose the arrival of either player, has also admitted that it will take time for Shevchenko, and Ballack, to settle. In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha he said: "They haven't yet played 90 completely good minutes this season. Pre-season was terrible because we hardly had time to train and only played two practice matches before starting to compete.

"But we like Ballack and Shevchenko and we're very happy that they're with us - to help us win more trophies. Michael and Andrei are serious professionals and are ambitious, with prestige to defend."

Wide of the mark: Expensive strikers who struggled to find target at new club

Ian Rush

The Welsh international was prolific for Liverpool throughout the Eighties and signed for Juventus for £3.2m in 1986. He scored only seven goals in 29 games over two seasons, before returning to Anfield with the famous words, "I couldn't settle in Italy. It was like living in a foreign country."

Chris Sutton

Half of Blackburn's Premiership-winning strike force of 1995 alongside Alan Shearer, the tall striker cost Chelsea £10m in 1999. He scored once in 28 games.

Fernando Morientes

The Champions' League golden boot winner with Monaco in 2004, he signed for Liverpool for £6.3m the following year. The Spaniard brought with him a reputation for clinical finishing but managed only eight goals in 41 games at Anfield.

Sergei Rebrov

Alongside Andrei Shevchenko, the industrious Ukrainian had helped to steer Dynamo Kiev to the Champions' League semi-finals. Tottenham paid £11m for him yet he scored only 10 goals in 59 games.

Alberto Luque

The former Real Mallorca and Malaga striker was so highly regarded in La Liga that Newcastle United were prepared to spend £9.5m on him. Their faith has not been repaid. The Spaniard's record so far? One goal in 16 appearances.

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