Saturday, 9 June 2007

Zizou And The Art Of Speculation

Alan Curbishley is adamant that West Ham will not be held to ransom this summer despite having a £50million transfer budget. An article in today's Telegraph states the West Ham manager has the full financial backing of Eggert Magnusson but remains insistent that he will not pay over the odds for any player or break the club's rigid pay structure. Curbishley said: "There is a lot of stuff being said about us; how much we are paying for players, how much we have offered them. If there are players who can improve us, we will try to get them. People look at us as new kids on the block. We are not. A lot has been exaggerated. If you look at what we are spending it is not outrageous. We are fair game at the moment. Most of the team who played and won at Old Trafford on the last day of the season were here before I arrived. It showed what talent was at the club. I am not saying that I am going to sign 11 players and everyone is out. If nothing else happens until we kick off, I still have a lot to work with." This is, perhaps, a not particularly subtle message to Charlton Athletic who have escalated the asking price of prize asset Darren Bent to something approaching £20million. It is also the clearest sign yet that the overarching aim for this summer is to improve the quality rather than the quantity of the current squad.

The club's interest in Darren Bent is well-publicized. According to a story in the Mirror, West Ham and Tottenham were actively locked in a bidding war for the Charlton striker last night. In an 'exclusive' by Darren Lewis, it is claimed Bent is the prime target of both clubs and that the Hammers are prepared to offer him £60,000 a week in wages - double the sum Spurs had banked on paying. Twenty-three-year-old Bent, who has bagged well over fifty goals in the last three seasons, is currently on holiday and expected back towards the end of next week. Charlton supremo Peter Varney last night warned all interested clubs that they won't land the south Londoners' prize asset unless they match the Addicks' valuation. Varney said: "Darren Bent will only leave Charlton if the price is right for Charlton. If it is not then he will be going nowhere." The Daily Mail complicate the picture further by insisting Liverpool have also entered the race for the player within the last 24 hours.

Speaking of the Mail, John Edwards has written a speculative piece in which he insists the club are ready to include Yossi Benayoun in a package aimed at persuading Liverpool to part with £9million-rated striker Craig Bellamy. The article claims Alan Curbishley identified the newly-appointed Wales skipper’s pace and movement as the qualities he will need if Carlos Tevez makes his expected departure, and Benayoun is emerging as part of an equation that could end with Bellamy moving to Upton Park in a £70,000-a-week deal that would virtually double his earnings. Benayoun is said to have left the door open for a move to Anfield by stalling on the signing of a five-year, £50,000-a-week contract with West Ham. There were even claims in Israel, after their 2-0 win over Andorra, that his representatives had agreed personal terms with Liverpool. Benayoun, himself, stated: "I still haven’t signed with West Ham because of some small differences. They are my first aim but if another team want me we will consider it. If it is good for everyone, why not?" Of course, this has to be countered by Alan Curbishley's comments from yesterday, when he revealed: "Yossi phoned up yesterday (Wednesday) to reiterate that he is coming here tomorrow (Friday) to sign the contract. He is a terrific player and one who wants to be here. It is not a bad commitment, five years. It is the same as Scotty and we are delighted." It is also my understanding that Craig Bellamy has never been on the West Ham radar as a possible target so, all-in-all, this rumour would seem to have little credence.

A report in the Argentinian press has linked the club with a £6million bid for goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo. The story suggests it would be impossible for River Plate to turn down such an offer, despite manager Daniel Passarella's entreaties for the player to stay one more season. The president of River, José María Aguilar, is said to have received the offer in person from his West Ham counterpart after taking advantage of a trip to Europe with the Argentina national side, and he will seriously consider it. Passarella had asked Aguilar to retain at least four of the five footballers that he considers essential to the ongoing success of the club, and the first on the list is Carrizo. The others are Leonardo Ponzio, Paulo Ferrari, Eduardo Tuzzio and Ernesto Farías. If the offer is accepted, it would be a record amount paid for an Argentinian goalkeeper.

Finally, for a moment of levity, have a look at the BBC 606 board. Somebody on there has surpassed themselves with the following message:
Very strong suggestions around the training ground this morning that Magnusson has agreed a MASSIVE deal that will shock football, but more importantly will push us into Europe next year. A year since his retirement, Zidane Zidane has been persuaded my Eggert Magnusson to sign a 12-month deal (with a 1 year extension), worth £6m! He has been promised that Tevez will be at West Ham come August and that "significant" signings will be made before the start of the season. Expect Zidane to sign for us by the middle of July!
Expect to read this in the Daily Mail as early as Monday morning.

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