Milan Close On Shevchenko As Abramovich Mellows Over £30m Pal

LONDON, UK -- Milan are exploring ways in which they can cover Andriy Shevchenko's wages as they edge closer towards re-signing the Ukraine international on a season-long loan to end a dismal two-year spell at Chelsea.

Having scored 127 goals in 208 league games for the Rossoneri, Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko still has hero status at San Siro.

Shevchenko cost the Londoners a British record £30 million ($56 million) in the summer of 2006 but has struggled to make any consistent impact at Stamford Bridge and has rarely justified such an inflated fee.

He has managed only nine league goals in 47 league appearances and, while his efforts have been hampered by hamstring, groin and back injuries, he appears to have lost the explosive pace and poise that were once key to his game.

Regardless, he retains hero status at San Siro after scoring 127 goals in 208 league games in a seven-year career at the club, with the Rossoneri having enquired regularly as to his availability while he laboured in London.

Roman Abramovich, a close friend of the Ukrainian, had always resisted the possibility of releasing the striker yet that stance now appears to have mellowed.

Informal talks took place between the clubs over the summer though they did not prompt any resolution, with Chelsea understood to be unwilling to subsidise the forward's £121,000-a-week wage during a long-term loan in Serie A.

More contact is expected before the transfer window closes at the end of the month with Milan ascertaining whether they could afford the 31-year-old's salary. Their outlook was more optimistic last night.

"There really isn't much more to be done," said the Milan director Silvano Ramaccioni. "We are close to the end of the deal and I hope that these little things that have to be fulfilled are done as soon as possible. I would be extremely delighted if Shevchenko returns to Milan and I am ready to embrace the Ukraine champion again. For us it's about a return home."

It certainly appears that Shevchenko does not figure in Luiz Felipe Scolari's plans at Stamford Bridge. Groin surgery over the summer was a set back for his pre-season preparations, though he did recover enough to feature as a substitute in Chelsea's friendlies on their recent tour of Asia and Russia.

However, with his match fitness apparently much improved, he was not even included as one of the club's seven substitutes in Sunday's 4-0 win victory over Portsmouth, with the teenage forward Franco di Santo preferred.

Chelsea, of course, retain an interest in Milan's Brazilian midfielder Kaka - who is currently recovering from knee surgery - though they appear to have accepted that their pursuit of the playmaker is likely to prove more successful next summer.

Instead, they believe Real Madrid can be persuaded to sell Robinho before the September 1 deadline, though that transfer is only likely if the Spanish club can recruit a replacement in advance.

Scolari is close to securing the 20-year-old Fabio Paim from Sporting Lisbon, most likely on an initial 12-month loan, with negotiations on-going between the two clubs. The attacking midfielder has yet to represent the first team but is considered a notable prospect.

Source: Guardian UK