Chelsea target Yuri Zhirkov has stunned his Stamford Bridge suitors by admitting he would rather join Barcelona.
The CSKA Moscow wide man has been a target since January and had been expected to complete a move to London for about £15million this summer.
But European champions Barcelona have also entered the race because they see the versatile the 25-year-old as perfect cover down the left, either for Thierry Henry or as an attacking full-back in place of Eric Abidal.
And Zhirkov insisted his move to Chelsea was not a done deal, adding: 'I can say now that, if it was my decision, I would choose Barcelona, but this does not mean I would automatically decline Chelsea's offer. They are a great club and it would be a dream for anyone to play for them.'
Zhirkov had already warned he would not join Chelsea if he was just considered a squad player to cover for Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda, but he clarified: 'There is a difference between "playing" and "sitting on the bench". Even at Barcelona, I wouldn't want to do the latter.'
Zhirkov is in Helsinki ahead of Russia's World Cup qualifier against Finland tonight and admitted he had talked about England with Arsenal striker Andrey Arshavin and Tottenham Hotspur's Roman Pavlyuchenko.
CSKA have a close relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who used to help bankroll the club when in charge of Sibneft, their big-spending shirt sponsors.