Chelsea's chances of finally signing Andrei Shevchenko suffered a severe setback yesterday with Milan caving in and offering the striker a two-year contract extension. That would secure the Ukrainian, 30 this year, until 2011 and, significantly, he has also been offered a substantial pay increase taking his salary to €6m (£4.1m) a year - after tax.
Milan's proposal is astounding and may tip the balance back in favour of them holding on to the player. Chelsea will cling to the hope that because Roman Abramovich is conducting negotiations directly with the Ukrainian they still stand a good chance. Shevchenko's wife, the model Kirsten Pazik, is also keen to move to London as he alluded to in a press conference last week.
The striker, who only signed a new contract last year after a previous Chelsea approach, has personally told Abramovich that he will leave this time and the deal was given impetus when Milan initially failed to make a counter-offer. But that has now arrived.
"Shevchenko's future is at the heart of every Milan fan," read a statement on the club's website. "In practice, another five years would mean he would end his career in the Rossoneri colours." It capped an uncomfortable day for the Premiership champions which started with Didier Drogba going public with his complaints that he is not happy.
At the same time the transfer target Roberto Carlos revealed he had been offered a two-year deal at Stamford Bridge, but was still hoping to negotiate a new contract at Real Madrid. The 33-year-old Brazilian is, however, not currently wanted at Real although there is a state of turmoil over the forthcoming presidential elections.
Mourinho also took the unusual step of listing squad members - Eidur Gudjohnsen, Glen Johnson, Carlton Cole and Robert Huth - who can leave. Not all will depart but Mourinho's statements confirm the depth of the upheaval. Chelsea have already signalled Hernan Crespo can leave while Asier del Horno will be replaced at left-back.
Drogba, like Wayne Bridge and William Gallas, who remains hopeful his wish will be granted, is now pushing to go as well. "I want to move on and avoid all the pressure and scandals," he said yesterday. "Those things hurt my feelings." Mourinho reacted by angrily insisting that Drogba - who has attracted interest from Lyon and Roma - was not for sale. "He is one of the players we consider not negotiable," he said. "He has no chance to leave and he has to play for Chelsea. If he plays with happiness, fantastic. We get the best of him. If he doesn't play with happiness, he doesn't play. So it's his problem."
That is likely to lead to further discontent from Drogba, who will feel hurt that Mourinho - whom he likes - has criticised him. The striker signed two years ago for £24m from Marseilles believes that certain stars at Chelsea only play for themselves. His complaints again raise questions over the harmony in the squad. Drogba, who has scored 32 goals in 59 games, is also unhappy with the style of play and has grown disenchanted with being a lone striker and wants a change in tactics. He feels he bears the brunt of the criticism. Significantly the 28-year-old is understood to struggle with the fans' reaction to him, especially over claims that he is a diver.
Drogba was particularly upset by the lack of support he felt after a television interview in the wake of the 2-0 victory over Manchester City. He scored both goals but handled the ball for the first and appeared to suggest that he did sometimes dive. Drogba later claimed he didn't understand the interviewer's question and feels he was not helped by anyone at Chelsea.
Ironically, Drogba believes one of his few backers is Mourinho - who has himself previously complained about a perceived lack of support from the club's hierarchy - although the striker also finds the pressure, and the absence of interaction with fans and the media, a struggle. Ideally the Ivorian would like to leave although he is understood to accept that the chances are remote. Instead Drogba is hoping that the atmosphere will improve and that the team may play in a more expansive way.
That will cut little ice with Mourinho who insisted Drogba will see out the final two years of his contract. Carlton Cole, however, can go. "He is one of the players we are open to negotiate with," he said. "His opportunities are not very good here." Similarly Johnson, "a great boy but he has Paolo Ferreira and Geremi in front of him", and Huth can leave.
Mourinho said he wanted to keep Gudjohnsen, who is disenchanted by his lack of opportunities, but added: "We are open to speak with him like we did in the last couple of weeks and with clubs if they show a real interest." Meanwhile, Joe Cole hopes to sign a new contract before the World Cup.Reuse content