Friday, 6 July 2007

For Whom The Bell Tolls

West Ham United were last night close to winning the race to sign Liverpool's Craig Bellamy. Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa have been linked with the striker but it is West Ham who look set to become his fifth club in two years after Rafael Benítez sanctioned his sale. The Guardian believe Liverpool value Bellamy at £9million, £3million more than they paid Blackburn for his services last year, while West Ham rate him in the £6million bracket. It is claimed that the clubs are now working on a compromise which may involve Yossi Benayoun moving in the opposite direction. According to John Ley in The Telegraph, West Ham's talks with the Wales striker have reached an advanced stage. He writes that if an agreement can be found, Bellamy will effectively fill the void left by the probable departure of Carlos Tevez to Manchester United.

The Times think Alan Curbishley identified Bellamy as one of his principal targets after losing out to Tottenham Hotspur in the pursuit of Darren Bent, and the impending sale of Carlos Tévez to Manchester United has only strengthened his desire to bring the Wales forward to Upton Park. They suggest Bellamy, 27, is reluctant to leave Anfield but has been told that he has no future there after the arrivals of Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin from Atlético Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen respectively. Having originally wanted double the £6million they paid for the player, James Ducker insists Benitez will now settle for £10million. That will still be too much for the Hammers, suggest The Sun, who are willing to cover the player's £50,000-a-week wages but refuse to match Bellamy’s price-tag.

Alan Nixon at the Mirror claims the two clubs have agreed a £9million fee and that West Ham will give the Welsh firebrand a stunning £4million-a-year contract. He states Bellamy has opted to join Eggert Magnusson's Upton Park revolution after Liverpool showed him the door and let him go for signing talks yesterday. Bellamy, it is suggested, will receive a four-year deal worth around £16million, making the whole packing worth a staggering £25million. It goes without saying that these figures should not be taken too seriously. The Independent insist Bellamy's move would be a straight cash deal by West Ham and could proceed today, although they do not believe the two clubs have yet reached agreement on the fee. Liverpool exploited a get-out clause in the 27-year-old's Blackburn contract last summer that allowed him to join a Champions League club for £6million but, with Benitez needing to sell in order to finance his outstanding targets, they are seeking a substantial profit on a player who did not secure a regular starting role.

In a new twist, the paper also claims West Ham are pursuing a deal for Djibril Cissé. They report that West Ham have touted an exchange deal for the Gallic striker with Yossi Benayoun, the Israel midfielder who has already been the subject of Liverpool bids of £2million and £4million. The swap, however, rests on the France international's willingness to move to London - Benayoun is anxious to join Liverpool - and the forward has so far refused to countenance any club other than Marseille, where he spent last season on loan, but who are unable to meet Rafael Benitez's £6million valuation. Interestingly, West Ham were fleetingly linked with Cisse last week but at the time were reportedly 'snubbed' by the player's representatives, who failed to respond to Eggert Magnusson's enquiries. A few days later, presumingly when the player's move to Marseille stalled, there were conciliatory statements released to the press suggesting that the lack of acknowledgement had all been a big misunderstanding brought on by constraints of time.

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