Fulham have finally completed the protracted signings of Bobby Zamora and John Pa(i)ntsil. The pair move across London for a combined sum of £6.3 million, although the fee could rise by a further £1 million based on appearances. Zamora has penned a four-year deal at Craven Cottage, whilst Ghana defender Pantsil has put his name to a three-year contract.
Bobby Zamora leaves Upton Park after four-and-a-half years in East London, having signed for United in January 2004 as part of the deal that saw Jermain Defoe move to Tottenham. Over that time he bagged 40 goals in 152 appearances, including three goals in the play-off semi-finals and final that restored Premiership football to E13. The following year Zamora played a major role in the side that finished in the top half of the Premiership and reached the final of the FA Cup. At the start of 2006/07 he scored six in the first four games of the season before a barren run ensued which coincided with the club's fight against relegation. A stunning return to form towards the end of the season saw him combine well with Carlos Tevez to fire the Hammers to improbable safety; in the process becoming the first - and so far only - player to score a league winner for the away side at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.
Zamora's last season with United was blighted by injury and he made only 14 appearances. With the return to fitness of Craig Bellamy and Dean Ashton, the form of Carlton Cole and the emergence of Freddie Sears, Zamora was deemed surplus to requirements and was granted permission last week to discuss a move to Fulham.
John Pantsil began his career in Berekum, Ghana. A player comfortable at full back or in midfield, he had stints with Berekum Arsenal and Liberty Professionals and a brief spell with Polish side Widzew Lódz before moving to Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2002. After the 2006 World Cup, Pantsil joined West Ham United on their pre-season tour of Sweden on the recommendation of Yossi Benayoun. He featured in the matches out there putting in some impressive performances before his signing with the Club was completed in August 2006.
The Ghanaian international caused immediate confusion by insisting his name was Paintsil, rather than Pantsil which apparently appears on all official documents. His opportunities for United have been limited and the bulk of his 24 appearances have been made from the bench. One of these appearances came in last season's 2-1 victory over Manchester United when he put in a storming performance which he failed to repeat in subsequent matches. His role in that victory endeared him to a section of the Boleyn faithful to the extent that a number of chants developed likening the Ghanaian's skills to those of Kaka.
In addressing the departure of the two players, West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said: "In view of the competition for places at the club and a lack of first-team opportunities likely in the new season, we recognised both players' wish for regular football. Bobby Zamora played a significant part in the club securing promotion back in 2004/05 and his form and goals particularly in that Championship season will not be forgotten. I am sure both he and John Pantsil will be warmly welcomed whenever they return to the Boleyn Ground in the years to come."
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was obviously delighted to secure the double deal. "I am very pleased that we have been able to add both Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil to our squad," he told the club's official website. "Bobby is a talented striker who not only has a desire to score goals but always looks to involve the rest of the team with his intelligent play. I have no doubt that Bobby will play an important part for us and his quality has allowed us to stregthen our attacking options. John has a versatility that will provide us with more defensive options, which is extremely important to the strength and depth we have in the squad. Completing both signings has been a protracted process which has been much speculated about in the media. I am delighted that we can now officially welcome the players to the club, following the completion of all of the necessary paperwork."
Speaking this morning, Bobby Zamora added: "I am delighted that we have reached an agreement to enable me to play for Fulham next season. I am looking forward to joining the rest of the team this week and preparing for the new campaign. This is a new challenge for me and the prospect of working with a coach of Roy Hodgson’s caliber was a great opportunity, so I am excited at the prospect of competing for a regular place in the team."
In other news, Lucas Neill was said to be a step closer to joining Manchester City tonight after West Ham United finally agreed a deal with Lazio right-back Valon Behrami. According to the Mail, the 23-year old Switzerland defender flew into London for a medical after activating a FIFA rule that will allow him to become a West Ham player for a fraction of Lazio’s original asking price. It is claimed West Ham will sign Behrami for less than a third of his initial £11 million valuation after he informed Lazio he was invoking article 17, which gives players nearing the end of their contracts the right to move on without costing a fee.
Lazio will be entitled to compensation and are seeking over £3 million, but United are hoping to settle on around £1.5 million for a versatile defender who started all three of Switzerland’s Euro 2008 matches. The article states Kosovo-born Behrami has chosen the Hammers ahead of both Palermo and Werder Bremen; this despite comments last week suggesting the player was heading to Germany. The Mail insists that Behrami's impending arrival casts further uncertainty over Neill’s West Ham future. An earlier story had revealed how Mark Hughes was keen to revive their Blackburn partnership, and now the paper think a move is even likelier after the Australia defender was left in little doubt he would be competing for the left-back spot if he remained at Upton Park.
Of course, how convincing you find this story depends largely on your opinion of the Daily Mail. The ludicrous scare story the newspaper ran over night that predicted the impending financial meltdown of the Club seemed predicated on a spurious web of half truths and blind speculation. Far from a dramatic downturn in the Icelandic economy and a crisis of confidence in the banking sector, cursory investigations actually show Landsbanki made an after tax profit of €456,000,000 in 2007. The first 3 months figures for 2008, which were only released to the press in May this year, show profits were up again to €171,000,000 after tax. If that is skid row then sign me up.