ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO is preparing to follow David Beckham into Major League Soccer as his fears grow that Chelsea will allow him to leave Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are ready to listen to offers for the striker they paid £30.9million for just 18 months ago and are prepared to take a massive loss on the Ukraine international, 31, who cannot break into Avram Grant’s team.
His old club AC Milan do not want him back at the proposed price of about £12m – even though he is a close personal friend of president Silvio Berlusconi – and nor do rivals Inter or fellow Serie A giants Juventus.
Dinamo Kiev, the club where Shevchenko made his name, want their former captain to return but his American wife Kristen is not keen on a move back to his homeland.
The Daily Express can reveal the former model and mother of his two sons has told the player that if he has to leave Stamford Bridge, she wants him to follow Beckham to the USA and seal a lucrative deal for the last few years of his playing career.
Beckham’s club LA Galaxy already have the one player they are allowed who breaks the MLS wage cap.
But the New York Red Bulls are interested in the Chelsea forward, who would be a huge capture for their league and cement the upward curve backers insist is taking place in the sport since the arrival of Beckham last year. Wealthy New England Revolution are also interested.
Shevchenko, though, still does not want to leave Chelsea. He has been working with sprint coach Darren Campbell in a desperate bid to boost his fitness and has told friends he still wants to prove himself in the Premier League and see out the last two years of his contract.
But once again on Saturday, as Chelsea beat West Ham 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to make it 14 games unbeaten under Grant, the unhappy Shevchenko was left on the bench.
Chelsea have lined up Bolton’s £10m-rated striker Nicolas Anelka as a January replacement for Shevchenko but they may still be reluctant to let him go as early as that, simply because Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou will be away with the Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup.
Grant, however, has failed to give Shevchenko a guarantee that their absence would open a window of opportunity for him next month.
He said: “Everybody needs to respect Shevchenko. He is one of the best strikers in the history of football. He belongs to our team. At the moment he is not playing but that does not mean he will not [play] in the future. Sometimes you feel one player is ready to play and another is not.
“When you come to a big club and you have so many big strikers, sometimes there are big names that don’t play for a period of time. He is not depressed. I can only judge players by what I hear when they speak with me or what I see in training. He is happy in training and he is training very well.
“One of the reasons why I have not rushed to make a decision on signing during the African Nations Cup is we have good strikers here in Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro. They are in the squad because they will be useful during that period – but not just then. I want him [Shevchenko] to be useful this month as well.”
Shevchenko has started only four games this season. With Grant still unable to find a place for him in his team – which was the case with the coach’s predecessor Jose Mourinho – Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has reluctantly conceded it would be best to let his close friend go for the sake of his career.