Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said £30.8m signing Andriy Shevchenko is not one of his "untouchable" stars.
Shevchenko (left) has not fired on all cylinders
The Blues boss insisted he would never bow down to pressure from club owner Roman Abramovich to pick the striker, who joined last summer.
"If Abramovich doesn't trust the manager, he has enough money to sack me," he said.
"Sheva is not untouchable because of the way he is playing. I play the best players at the time."
The Ukraine striker has scored just three Premiership goals since his move from AC Milan in the summer.
Mourinho added: "Claude Makelele, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard are untouchable because of the way they play, not because I love them.
"Michael Ballack is untouchable because of the way he plays. John Terry is untouchable. Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba - they are untouchable."
If he was happy, we would have a problem
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
But the former Porto manager had words of support for his underperforming star.
"The way football is played in Italy and England is completely different," he said.
"We have in Thierry Henry the best example of that.
"I know he's the best goalscorer in the last few years in this country, an amazing player, but he scored one goal in 12 Premiership matches when he first changed Juventus for Arsenal.
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"We need to give Sheva time. I give him time. The good thing is that he is not happy with the way he is performing. If he was happy, we would have a problem."
Meanwhile, Mourinho called for Chelsea to be allowed to field a B team in the lower leagues of the professional game, as Real Madrid do in La Liga.
"I would love to see it. I can tell you for sure that if that happened, players like Lassana Diarra, Mikel John Obi, Salomon Kalou, when they are not selected for the first team, they have a competition to play in a different level. So they should have a look.
"Like in Spain, they would not be allowed promotion. They don't even play in the cup to stop the possibility of Real Madrid A against Real Madrid B."