Chelsea's hopes of buying Andrei Shevchenko received a significant boost yesterday when the Milan striker called a press conference to confirm that he wants to leave the Italian club. The Premiership champions will now offer EUR50m (pounds 35.7m) for the 29-year-old after having three previous bids rejected.
"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 pounds 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 …