Thursday, 26 July 2007

Anelka Next?

Reports in two papers this morning name Nicolas Anelka as the the latest striker set for a big money move to West Ham United. The Mail claim the Hammers have already bid a club-record £12million for the Bolton forward as they seek the attacking spearhead to lead their ambitious assault on the top six. Meanwhile, Sam Wallace, writing in The Independent, believes Anelka will be offered the club's biggest pay deal to move to Upton Park but is under the impression that a bid of £6million will be enough to tempt Bolton into selling. In both cases, it is thought the France international will command wages of £90,000 a week as the Premier League's new television deal takes effect.

The West Ham chairman has already missed out on signing Andy Johnson and Darren Bent this summer, says Wallace, but the club believe they have a real chance with Anelka, 28, who has been told by Bolton Wanderers that he can leave at the right price. Sammy Lee said at the weekend that he would allow Anelka to go as long as the club he was joining was playing in the Champions League, although Bolton are understood to be flexible on that count. "He told me he wants Champions League football," Lee said. "But if a Champions League club showed an interest, it would be wrong to stand in his way. I'm not in the business of getting rid of our best players, but I have to be fair to everybody. If the deal was fair to all parties, I would not stop him." There is a slightly different tune being sung in The Sun, with Lee insisting Bolton have no intention of cashing in on their prize asset, but I'll leave that to one side for the moment.

West Ham would be Anelka's eighth major European club - he has had two spells at Paris St-Germain - and his fifth in English football. Despite his constant restlessness, he has always proved himself a reliable goalscorer, if not the life and soul of the clubs he has played for. The France striker was also top scorer at the Reebok last season with 12 goals from 38 games after signing from Fenerbahce for a club record £8million. When Arsene Wenger was looking for Thierry Henry's replacement this summer it is thought he seriously considered a move for Anelka. The Mail claim the player was also on Manchester United's wish-list earlier in the summer and Newcastle, under former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, have monitored his progress, too. While some of those suitors have since looked elsewhere, there remains strong interest from from Lyons and Werder Bremen but neither the French or German club would be able to pay anything like the salaries Anelka would command in the Premiership.

The steadily increasing wages paid by even clubs outside of the top four in the Premiership have been powered by the new, three-year, £2.1bn television deal which starts this season. According to The Independent, Eggert Magnusson was prepared to offer Andy Johnson £90,000 a week when they failed with an inquiry for the Everton player last month, and Scott Parker is understood to have signed £72,000-a-week contract at West Ham. The east London club have also matched Freddie Ljungberg's salary of around £60,000 a week at Arsenal when he signed for them this week and were prepared to offer a similar amount to Darren Bent - roughly twice what he eventually settled for when he joined Tottenham. Anelka would certainly command higher wages than all of those, claims Wallace, but West Ham believe he fits the bill if they are to mount a credible challenge to qualify for European football. The Mail quote a club insider as saying: "When was the last time West Ham could offer big salaries and lure players from Liverpool and Arsenal — as well as someone with Anelka's pedigree? The answer is never."

Elsewhere, Alan Curbishley has refused to rule the club out of a move for Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer. An article in the Express states Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce admitted today that the 28-year-old could be ending his eight-year stay on Tyneside due to "family problems" - and West Ham have been heavily linked with the England man. Speaking after yesterday's 3-2 friendly defeat at Coca-Cola League Two side MK Dons, Curbishley said: "I'm looking in all areas, and it's not very often that a club says that a player is available. You normally phone up and get told that people are not available, so it's very difficult. But anything can still happen. The situation is that Kieron wants to leave the club, as I understand it, but I don't know anything else. We get linked with a lot of players at the minute, and he's one of them. We are actively looking to strengthen the squad and we have to replace those who have left. I have one eye on everything until that window closes - so we'll have to see."

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