Chelsea close in on Zhirkov deal after a quiet word from Chelsea's Abramovich
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is said to have personally intervened to convince Russia star Yuri Zhirkov that his future is at Stamford Bridge. CSKA Moscow player Zhirkov has stung his suitors with indiscreet comments that he would prefer to play for his boyhood favourites Barcelona and that he would not be happy to sit on the bench for either club. Chelsea had been close to securing his signing, but Barcelona have targeted him, primarily to vie with Eric Abidal for the left-back spot following Sylvinho's departure. In west London, the versatile left-sided player is likely to be deployed further forward, though Florent Malouda's resurgence means he may not be guaranteed the star billing he might expect. He would cost between £15m and £20m and reports in Russia suggest that a deal is close - and that England will be his destination. Abramovich, who has close links to CSKA through a huge sponsor deal with his former club Sibneft, spoke to Zhirkov after Russia's 3-0 defeat of Finland in Helskinki on Wednesday night. Afterwards, his Russia team-mates joked that he should pack his bags for Chelsea. More seriously, it has been suggested CSKA's league game at FC Moscow will be his last before a transfer is agreed. Although Zhirkov this week said he would prefer to play for Barcelona, he did not rule out moving to Chelsea, which he described as a 'dream for anyone'.
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