Sunday, 13 July 2008

Sunday Paper Review

It is a depressingly quiet Sunday paper round-up with a couple of the grubbier tabloids omitting to include West Ham United within their desultory transfer rumour pages. While the subjects of shady Iranians, illegal contracts and law suits last summer caused me to doubt the wisdom of Oscar Wilde's famous saying; in the aridity of a more humdrum pre-season it is most definitely better to be talked about than not.

Thankfully you can nearly always rely on the News of the World to slake your guilty thirst for inane transfer tittle-tattle. They insist Manchester City are set to bid £1.6million for United skipper Lucas Neill. The Hammers captain is reportedly in dispute with the club over a new deal and wants an extension plus improved terms. The club are understandably reluctant to better his £55,000-a-week salary, which they consider to be more than generous for a 30-year-old.

As reported elsewhere, Galatasaray have made a firm offer but Neill is unsure about a move to Turkey. Now the Aussie is waiting for City manager Mark Hughes to swoop. Neill played under Hughes at Blackburn before joining West Ham United in January 2007. At the time Liverpool wanted him as well but the Hammers, who were then in the Premier League drop zone, offered Neill a substantially bigger salary for which they are now paying the price. According to the article, the club's lavish spending has caused an urgent need to trim both the squad and wage bill.

Elsewhere, Alan Curbishley is described as 'still hopeful' of completing the £9 million signing of Swiss star Valon Behrami from Lazio, who would replace Neill at right-back. This is despite the comments attributed to the player's agent last week suggesting that Behrami was not interested in moving to the Premiership. With Bobby Zamora poised for a £6 million switch to Fulham, the Hammers have funds coming in and hope defender John Pantsil, although reticent, will follow the striker to Craven Cottage for £1.5million. The club have also recently turned down a £4.5 million offer from Sunderland for George McCartney but, insists the paper, would find it 'hard to resist' an improved £6 million bid for the left-back.

In a separate little piece, the club are reported to be keen on signing Christian Wilhelmsson — the Swedish star gleefully dubbed 'The Feather' after his lightweight displays while on loan at Bolton last year. The experienced midfielder, 28, has 52 caps but still has a year left on his contract with French side Nantes.

A final flight of fancy has the Hammers offering in excess of £11 million for unsettled Everton striker Andy Johnson. It is 'understood' that Johnson would prefer a return to London over a further stint up north. The Sunday People disagree, and insist United are out of the running for the forward. They put Fulham as his likely destination, despite the imminent capture of Zamora.

The same paper has Newcastle offering Damian Duff to United in a player-plus-cash bid for Anton Ferdinand. They say Toon boss Kevin Keegan is keen to land Ferdinand and thus re-create his Under-21 central defensive partnership with Steven Taylor. Tottenham are also credited with an interest in Ferdinand, but as yet neither club have come close to Hammers' £10 million valuation. Alan Curbishley is said to want to bring in a left winger; with and Luis Boa MorteMatty Etherington both tipped to leave Upton Park. Newcastle believe Republic of Ireland man Duff, 29, could tempt the West Ham manager to part with Ferdinand. Duff, once signed by Chelsea for £17 million, returned from a serious ankle injury last season but has failed to nail down a regular first team place.

In a final throw-away piece, Tottenham are also linked with a move for Matthew Upson amid growing concerns for the long-term fitness of Ledley King; while several papers picked up the story of our interest in Leicester City defender Joe Mattock.

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