Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Continental Drift

Ambitious West Ham United aim to join continental drift screams a headline in this morning's Times. According to an exclusive by Gary Jacobs the club are preparing to offer Brescia general manager Gianluca Nani the role of technical director at Upton Park. The Italian’s duties- which would begin in the summer- would include finding players and conducting transfers. If the recruitment is successful then it would bring to an end a long search that has taken in names such as Franco Baldini, Wim Koevermans, Giovanni Trapattoni and the Brazilian Leonardo.

Nani is reputed to have a good depth of knowledge of players in South America and has been a familiar face in scouting circles at reserve matches all over the globe. He is also a renowned negotiator, which is something that appeals to Björgólfur Gudmundsson as he seeks greater fiscal control at the club prior to the planned relocation to a new stadium. Overseeing that development project next to West Ham Underground station, as well as the move to a better-equipped training facility, would be responsibilities to fall under Nani's remit. The Italian worked as a sporting events organiser before taking on his present role soon after he married Silvia Corioni, the daughter of Luigi Corioni, the president of Brescia. Nani’s arrival at Brescia coincided with that of Roberto Baggio, whose performances helped the team to seventh place in Serie A in 2001 – the best placing in the club’s history – but they were relegated after the retirement of the former Italy forward in 2004.

Jacobs observes that West Ham United’s shift to a continental structure would be a bold break from tradition for a club that became known as “The Academy” long before the word had its meaning today. They nurtured Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters to lead England to the 1966 World Cup triumph and more recently graduated the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe. Crucially, Tony Carr, the club’s director of youth development, will be unaffected by any changes and will continue looking for young local players. That would leave Nani to concentrate on discovering foreign talent and experienced players for the first team.

Alan Curbishley has also been part of the interview process, leading the club to believe that there will be no tension between him and Nani. Damien Comolli and Frank Arnesen, the only other sporting directors working in the Barclays Premier League, have crossed swords with the managers at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea respectively, while Nicky Hammond is the Reading director of football. Comolli’s fractious relationship with Martin Jol has been linked to the dismissal of the Dutchman at White Hart Lane in October. While the Mirror think that the appointment of such a 'low profile' figure as Nani would only strengthen Curbishley's position within the club, the Mail are cautioning that there is still some way to go before a final decision is made. They report that the Hammers' manager, together with chief executive Scott Duxbury, travelled to Italy to talk to Nani and both were impressed with the achievements of the managing director of the Serie B club.

In other news, various reports in Iceland are suggesting a strong interest from the club in signing 17 year old central defender Holmar Eyjolfsson. The player, who has also been tracked by Bayern Munich among other clubs, trained with the first team at West Ham United last week. Eyjolfsson revealed: "I had a great time at West Ham and joining the club is certainly a very exiting option. It was a great experience and a good learning curve. It was also interesting to see how I compared to the Premier League players. They treated me like an equal and it felt like I was just one of the boys. When I sat down with Alan Curbishley and the clubs chief scout Roger Cross, the manager told me he wanted me to join the club and that he would talk to my dad (former Iceland national team manager, Eyjolfur (Jolly) Sverrisson) about it as soon as I went home." Holmar arrived back in Iceland yesterday and news of West Ham United's interest was confirmed on the official HK Kópavogur club site shortly after. Eyjolfsson had an impressive U17 European Championship finals last summer and was voted one of the players to watch out for in the future. He has subsequently emerged as regular for the Iceland U21 side and has only recently returned from a trial at Hertha Berlin.

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