Italian suitors face high price to sign desperate Crespo

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The Independent Online

Hernan Crespo is desperate to return to Italy but Chelsea insist they will only sell the unsettled Argentina striker at the right price.

Crespo returned to Stamford Bridge last summer following a season-long loan spell with Milan and is so anxious to return to Serie A that he admits he is "hoping the mobile will ring".

But Chelsea are adamant they will not let Crespo leave cheaply and confirmed the club have received no approach for the 31-year-old during the transfer window. A club statement released yesterday said: "There are no new contract talks or discussions about offers of any nature with Hernan Crespo. He is contracted to Chelsea for the next two years and will remain so unless Chelsea receive a suitable offer for him.

"Everyone at Chelsea is aware of his domestic situation and we have every sympathy for that."

The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, has gone to great lengths to make Crespo's time in London as bearable as possible but the player, who has a home near Milan, has his heart set on Italy.

"Abramovich has offered me a house, a private jet and more money, but I told him I simply want to return home," he told the Italian sports newspaper Tuttosport. "The fact is I love Italy. The money and success don't come into it. Italy is my natural environment, it is the place where I will live when I retire and it is the best place to play.

"Abramovich is a marvellous person and Chelsea have treated me like a king. The fans have been great to me too, telling me, 'He wants to move to Italy, but he still gives it his all on the pitch'.

"I am waiting here, hoping my mobile will ring. I can guarantee that I am a healthy striker with just one wish - to return and play my sort of football."

Milan and Internazionale will have been alerted by Crespo's comments but they will have to make a substantial offer for the former Lazio marksman, who cost Chelsea £16m in 2003.

Milan tried to extend his loan contract for a further year last summer but the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, was interested only in a permanent deal.

Asier del Horno, meanwhile, said that he had no regrets about his year spent at Chelsea after the Spain defender completed his move to Valencia yesterday.

"It was a good experience in London. I developed a lot as a player and a person," Del Horno said. "Looking back I view it positively and for me it was important to have won a League title in my first season in England."

The 25-year-old left-back has signed a six-year contract with Valencia in a move that Spanish media said was worth around €7.5m (£5.1m).

Del Horno moved to Chelsea on a three-year contract from Athletic Bilbao in June 2005 for €12m (£8.1m). He made 32 appearances but failed to live up to expectations. He hit the headlines when he was sent off for a wild challenge on the Barcelona forward Lionel Messi during Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the Champions' League in February.

Although he was selected as part of the Spain squad for the World Cup in Germany he had to withdraw at the last minute after suffering a recurrence of an Achilles tendon problem.

Valencia finished third in the Primera Liga to earn a place in the Champions' League third qualifying round this season. Spanish media are reporting that Valencia are also close to signing the winger Simao Sabrosa from Benfica.