Andriy Shevchenko has blasted back at his critics, denying that he is a spy in the dressing-room for Chelsea`s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, according to Daily Mail.

The Ukraine striker, struggling to adapt to the English game with only five goals since his £30million summer move from AC Milan, said: "People are putting me in the middle of all this. I am being made a scapegoat for things that are nothing to do with me."

He refutes that he is a close friend of Abramovich, claims he has the greatest respect for manager Jose Mourinho and his decisions, and admits his performances have not been up to scratch.

"There have been criticisms of my performance on the pitch and I can accept that," said Shevchenko. "But I can`t accept criticisms about things off the pitch. There have been things written about my relationship with Roman Abramovich that have been exaggerated.

"I see him in the dressing-room or occasionally at training, the same as the other players. We might have a quick word because we both speak Russian. Perhaps I shouldn`t speak Russian!

"These rumours are all lies. They have caused a lot of hurt to myself and my family. He`s the owner and I`m the player. It is entirely professional. We have never been out to dinner, we do not ring each other and my wife does not go out shopping with his wife. I`m a footballer, not a politician."

After a two-game absence, Shevchenko is fit for selection against Liverpool on Saturday where the champions will be attempting to cut the six-point deficit on Manchester United. Before that, Mourinho had left him mainly on the bench and he has no idea if he will start.

"I have the greatest respect for Mourinho," he said. "He has won two titles at Chelsea and the Champions League. He has proved he is a great coach and winner. Whether he has the greatest respect for me, you will have to ask him but he`s the coach and if he decides I`m not capable I have to work harder. The team is not just about Shevchenko."


He also says he has an excellent relationship with his team-mates. "They are great people. I just want peace of mind and to have fun with the guys and not be thinking about the other stuff. We are friends with the Lampards and have been out with them, but I respect everybody."

Shevchenko puts his struggles in English football down to several factors, such as coming back from the World Cup with an injury, th e upheaval caused by settling in a new country and the birth of his second child.

"But these are not excuses. My performances have been a bit down but I`m working hard. I can`t do miracles.

"I came as a new player, the fee was high and the expectations were high. Anywhere you go, you need time to understand things and you need luck. I haven`t had that recently. Football can be strange. I had my worst goalscoring season at AC Milan the year we won the Champions League.

"The styles of the game in Italy and the Ukraine are all different. You need time to find the style and adapt."

Shevchenko insists he will stay at Chelsea. "My contract runs for four years. I have been attacked from all sides but I intend to carry on. I will grit my teeth. I am not a quitter. I just want to be kept out of the politics."

The latest rumour is that the rift between Abramovich and Mourinho has widened because of the owner`s suggestion that Chelsea hire Avram Grant, former Israel coach and now director of football at Portsmouth.

Abramovich believes that the Israeli coach can help certain players, including Shevchenko, to find their best form. He also speaks Russian.

"I know who he is, but I don`t know him," added Shevchenko. "It doesn`t concern me if he comes or he does not come. This is a decision the club will make. I`m just here to play. It is what I have been doing since I was nine years old. People are crossing the limits in what they are saying about me. It is bull