Chelsea and AC Milan are engaged in a battle of wills over Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko. Less than a week after squabbling over Carlo Ancelotti, who dealt Chelsea a huge blow by rejecting an offer of £7 million a year to stay in charge at Milan, the clubs are haggling over transfer fees for two of the most expensive strikers in European football, according to Times Online.

Chelsea are happy to allow their two biggest signings to move on, but only for the right price. Milan sources said yesterday that the clubs had agreed a fee for the Ivory Coast striker, based on an initial down payment of £10 million, rising to £18 million during a three-year contract, but such claims brought an angry denial from Stamford Bridge. Chelsea value Drogba at £30 million and insist that they will hold out for such a fee, particularly because he has three years remaining on a contract that was signed midway through last season.

The 30-year-old has been Chelsea’s leading striker for the past four seasons, but many at the club have become tired of his petulant attitude, exemplified by his sending-off in the Champions League final defeat by Manchester United last month.

Видео дня

The clubs are even farther apart on Shevchenko, who has scored only nine league goals for Chelsea since his signing two years ago. The 31-year-old has suffered a series of knee and back injuries, but his biggest problem appears to have been getting used to the physical demands of the Barclays Premier League, particularly because he has lost much of the pace that he had earlier in his career.

However, Shevchenko has many admirers at the San Siro after scoring 127 goals in 208 appearances in Serie A during a seven-year spell at the club and has retained a close relationship with Silvio Berlusconi, the Milan owner, who is the godfather to his eldest son, Jordan.

Adriano Galliani, the Milan vice-president, has been instructed to secure Shevchenko’s return but has not offered a transfer fee, instead proposing to take him on loan for a season and pay a proportion of his £130,000-a-week wages. Chelsea used a similar deal to get the high-earning Hernán Crespo and Juan Sebastián Verón off the wage bill in the past (Crespo went on loan to Milan then Inter, Verón also went to Inter), but they are adamant that Shevchenko will not leave for nothing.

The Ukraine striker has become an embarrassment to Roman Abramovich, who brokered the deal personally, with the Russian desperate to recoup part of the £30 million transfer fee.

“Chelsea have authorised us to open negotiations with Drogba,” Galliani said. “Unfortunately, the response we feared came for Shevchenko. Chelsea consider Andriy unsellable. This epilogue makes us very sad.”

Chelsea will continue working to secure a new manager this week, with Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Portugal coach, in pole position after last week’s rejection from Ancelotti, who the club claimed demanded too much money. The Brazilian has indicated his interest and would be a popular appointment, particularly among the Chelsea’s three Portuguese players, who have thrived under his leadership of the national squad.

“If you talk about the top teams, they don’t only want good players but a top manager as well,” Paulo Ferreira, the Portugal and Chelsea defender, said about the Brazilian. “He’s a good manager, so why not? I would like him, but he will not say anything until after the tournament. He has been an international manager for five or six years, but before that he was at a lot of clubs, so we know he can do it.”

The Times Online