Shevchenko's plea for Chelsea move

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The Independent Football

"I want to leave," Shevchenko said. "I cannot hide my wish any longer from the fans. I have spoken to the president [Silvio Berlusconi]. No decision has been taken yet. This has nothing to do with money. It is a family issue. Once I have made a decision I will call another press conference."

The Ukrainian only signed a contract extension last year, which runs until 2009, but, as revealed by The Independent, the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, has stepped up his efforts to secure his favourite player by personally intervening in the negotiations. He telephoned Shevchenko after Milan were knocked out of the Champions' League and again when Chelsea won the League title and then travelled to Italy to see him and Berlusconi.

By then Shevchenko had agreed to leave. But first he inquired whether Milan would be willing to offer him another extension to his contract but was told they would not.

Milan will be offered Hernan Crespo but are favourites to sign William Gallas who yesterday reiterated his desire to leave Chelsea this summer. "My decision has been taken and is definitive," the 28-year-old said. "I want to leave Chelsea. I want another challenge. I've been with Chelsea for five years. I want to experience another league. The directors of Milan are interested in me and I am interested in the idea of going over there."

Gallas, who signed for £6.2m from Marseilles in 2001, insisted it was "not a question of money".

Chelsea, however, responded by releasing a statement which said they had offered Gallas a new four-year contract, with a substantial pay rise, as he is one of the club's lowest-paid players, but would also hold him to the final year of his current deal if he refuses to sign.

"William Gallas has made a great contribution to Chelsea since he has been here and he has been offered a very good new contract in recognition of that," the statement read. "If it is not accepted, then William is still under contract for one more year and we will not be encouraging offers for players that we want to keep. Under Premier League rules he would be able to leave at the end of next season on a free transfer."

Gallas is, however, threatening to test Fifa rules which appear to suggest he can buy himself out of the final year of his contract. The regulations apply to a player who has been at a club for at least three years and it is thought Gallas would have to pay £5m.

However, Chelsea believe that none of the clubs interested in signing the defender will want him to go down that route as they fear other players may follow, creating a precedent similar to the Bosman ruling on the freedom of movement of players if Gallas can win his case.

Definitely moving to Stamford Bridge, however, is Michael Ballack. The German said yesterday that he has "no doubts" he will join Chelsea before the World Cup. "I think my decision should be accepted and I shouldn't be kicked around any more about it," he said.

Hans Robben, the father of Arjen Robben, has hinted that his son is keen to move to Spain when it's time for him to leave Chelsea.

Robben was unsettled before Christmas and Barcelona, in particular, and Real Madrid considered making bids, as revealed by The Independent, but yesterday Hans Robben said: "I have not spoken to anyone. But Madrid are one of the biggest clubs in Spain and the world. Of course it's a good option because if we were to leave England, it would only be for Spain."