Friday, 15 June 2007

Bent Out Of Shape

Darren Bent last night pulled out of a £17m transfer to West Ham United in a shock 11th-hour decision. A deal involving £16m plus Hayden Mullins - the former Crystal Palace midfielder who was the first signing of Charlton's manager, Alan Pardew, during his time at West Ham - had been set out between the clubs as early as Tuesday and the 23-year-old striker was expected then to sign personal terms. Bent's decision came as a shock to both clubs. West Ham's Icelandic chairman, Eggert Magnusson, had released an official statement just hours earlier in which he said: "We are making progress in our plans to strengthen the squad over the summer period. We are hopeful of making an exciting announcement soon and Alan Curbishley and the Board will continue to work to get the right balance in the team for next season." By midnight, a second message appeared on the club site confirming an agreement with Charlton Athletic on a transfer fee for Darren Bent had been agreed. It stated: "Discussions today took place with the player and his representative. Unfortunately, we were unable to agree personal terms and have therefore ended our interest in the player."

Charlton chief executive Peter Varney said: "We set a valuation for Darren and West Ham were the only club prepared to meet that valuation. This morning we gave them permission to speak to Darren, which he did, and he has decided not to join West Ham. We therefore look forward to Darren starting with us in the Championship next season, which is a massive boost to our chances of returning to the Premier League." That Bent should remain in the Championship is an unthinkable prospect for the player according to the Guardian. It is suggested that Tottenham Hotspur has always been Bent's preferred destination, and the north London club have been monitoring developments. Whether the player has had some form of informal contact with a club to spark his sudden change of heart last night is open to speculation. What is clear is that Tottenham are now expected to formalise their interest in the coming days; although they have always been unwilling to match the fee that Charlton now believe to be set in stone by West Ham's offer. The Mirror claim that while Tottenham remain interested, it was actually a last minute intervention by Liverpool that scuppered the deal. It was so late in the day that Eggert Magnusson only discovered the player had changed his mind after being alerted to it on the TV news.

Gary Jacob in The Times believes Bent had been offered a five-year contract worth about £75,000 a week during talks at Upton Park yesterday — which would have made him the joint-highest paid player at the club with Scott Parker, the midfield player, who joined from Newcastle United last week. Bent’s decision now raises several issues, none of them good for Charlton. Tottenham are believed to be willing to offer only £12 million and Liverpool have at least four other preferred targets. Those two clubs will not be willing to pay Bent more than £55,000 a week, which is double his wage at The Valley. The Independent say that given the disparity of the wages on offer for the 23-year-old, by holding out for Tottenham's bid it reveals the degree of Bent's conviction that they are the right club for him. Tottenham are understood to be offering personal terms of £30,000-a-week, around half of what West Ham are prepared to pay. The knock-on effect of the deal falling through is that it delays the anticipated burst of activity in the transfer market. Bent's transfer holds the key to a number of players' futures including Craig Bellamy, Jermain Defoe and Andy Johnson. Sean Wallace concludes that West Ham will now have to target Bellamy, who is also sought by Aston Villa.

An article in The Sun insists Bent's main motivation for turning down West Ham was a personal dislike for Alan Curbishley. They state the Charlton striker, 23, does not want to work again with the Hammers boss and that he would rather play in the Championship than move to Upton Park. That is, of course, a laughable suggestion but still not quite so amusing as the screaming hysteria being whipped up over at the Mail; with Matt Barlow suggesting the 'West Ham effect' has put the fear of God into football. The anti-Irons bias of this particular publication has reached a new low with claims the club's conspicuous spending power is inflating the game's finances to breaking point. So no mention of Sky television money then? Or parasitic agents? Or avaricious, self-serving players? Or the bloated, egregious, nauseating experiment in capitalism that is the Champions League? Or the countless millions the 'Big Four' as well as others have spunked away on overseas players? No, it is West Ham spending a few million on English talent playing for English clubs that epitomises the cancer of the modern game!

Barlow argues there is general fear and unrest within the game and that many are shifting uncomfortably but very few are willing to go public. One leading agent told Sportsmail of his fears that the West Ham effect was a symptom of a wider problem which is leading the game into meltdown. He said: "It’s 'think of a number and double it' time. Transfer fees are going up in leaps of £5m, salaries are going up in leaps of £10,000. It’s dangerous, it’s unsustainable. People with no football knowledge and no industry acumen are sailing this ship on to the rocks." Clubs may be aware of this but eating away at them from a different direction is the fear of relegation. What is an extra £20m on the wage bill compared with the drastic losses incurred if they slip out of the Premiership? Eggert Magnusson remains unrepentant. "I know we are moving in the right direction and I also know the fans share our ambitions for the future," he said. "This is an ambitious club with a very sound financial base and we are determined to move forward. As we do that, we can expect criticism, but the most important thing is delivering the potential of this great club."


greezy pimp said...

So in spite of Chelsea paying massively over the odds for everyone they have bought since the arrival of the Russian it's the West Ham effect not the Chelsea effect, not the greedy player/agent affect, these Fleet street clowns need taking down a peg or two they spout their half baked half truth stories spoon fed to them by players agents as gospel and then hang the blame on the clubs. As for the bent story are we really to believe he flew home from the Caribbean when told West Ham were interested to tell Eggy to his face he'd never work with Curbs again. What nonsense, surely he would have told Charlton don't waste your time I'd never go to West Ham before the negotiations got going.

Richard said...

Oh, please. No way Scott Parker is on £75k a week.

Pure paper talk.


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