Sunday, 11 January 2009

Banking On Survival

West Ham's future will be decided by an overseas bank and not by the new Carlos Tevez inquiry, insists Daniel King in the latest propaganda piece in the Mail. A big-name overseas bank is controlling the process of selling West Ham because they are the largest creditor in a consortium of five institutions owed a total of £42million by the club. Potential bidders, including the overseas party with a long-standing takeover interest, have reportedly been directed to speak to the lead bank rather than the club or Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.

The decision by the FA and Premier League to open a new inquiry into the relationship linking West Ham, Tevez and his 'owners' MSI at the end of the 2006-07 season will delay any sale, because the outcome will have an impact on the level of compensation an independent tribunal will order West Ham to pay Sheffield United. That, in turn, will affect how much Gudmundsson can ask for the club and how much any interested party are willing to pay for West Ham. Yet it is the banks, rather than Gudmundsson or the Icelandic administrators for the club's holding company, Hansa, who will vet buyers. The article states they will have to decide whether to allow a new owner to inherit the debts or demand that they are paid off as part of the club changing hands, now believed unlikely before the summer.

The board are rumoured to be taking a calculated gamble by selling fringe players like Matthew Etherington - rather than cashing in on bigger names like Craig Bellamy - in order to keep the club in the Premier League this season and make themselves attractive to potential buyers. Selling the winger and others will slightly reduce the £42m debt, but the determination to keep Bellamy, Scott Parker and Matthew Upson, rather than slash borrowings by selling, reflects a belief that boss Gianfranco Zola can beat relegation this term.

To that end, Zola has declared himself "very confident" of hanging on to his star players in the transfer window despite another week in which the likes of Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker have been linked with moves elsewhere. Zola watched Bellamy shine in his side's 2-2 draw with Newcastle at St James' Park and sought to bring an end to speculation that he will be off-loaded as part of a rumoured Hammers fire sale.

"I am very confident because this club is determined to improve and it's not true we want to sell our best players," he said. "The way we are playing and training this club deserves to be in a better position. Being a footballer I know it's not easy when you have so many words around you to concentrate and perform, but they are outstanding and I would say their performances have gone even higher in this period.''

And Zola reserved special praise for the performance of Bellamy who returned to his former club and ignored the boos of the home fans to net the Hammers' opener in the first half. "If you see the way Craig moves about the pitch it is fantastic. He is an exemplary professional and he has performed very, very well -- not only him but everybody. Considering the way we played I am a bit disappointed we didn't win the game but we were playing against a very good team. But I think my team deserved a little bit more than that."

In other news, United have turned down offers from Coventry and Watford to take teen stars Freddie Sears and James Tomkins on loan according to this morning's News of the World. Striker Sears is struggling to make a breakthrough this term after a scoring debut against Blackburn last March, while fellow England under-19 star Tomkins featured in the Hammers’ defence in last week’s FA Cup victory over Barnsley, after a successful loan spell at Derby. Both 19-year-olds are highly rated by boss Gianfranco Zola and recently signed long-term deals.

In a throw-away item in the Sunday Mirror, Arsenal are credited with an interest in Jack Collison. The Sunday People claim West Ham are demanding £2million for Lucas Neill after putting his Upton Park future at risk by offering him a cut-price contract. The Star think Manchester City will increase Scott Parker's wages by £22,000 a week if they can prise the England international from West Ham.

Elsewhere, garrulous Galic midfielder Julien Faubert has been nattering again about how flattering it is to be linked with a move to Lyon. Sky Sports reports that the French champions are believed to be lining up a move for Faubert in the January transfer window after watching him in action recently. Faubert has struggled to make an impact at Upton Park since his £6.1million arrival from Bordeuax in the summer of 2007. Nantes and Rangers have also been linked with the player and the 'versatile performer' (he can mishit a pass equally well from anywhere on the pitch) admits a move to Lyon is an attractive proposition as it could boost his chance of winning a place in the France squad. "It is flattering for me to know that Lyon have been coming to watch me," Faubert is quoted as saying. "I think about the France national team and the 2010 World Cup every single day. I've had a taste of international football, and I miss it. Maybe a return to France would help me win a recall."

Similarly loquacious is FIFA agent Claudio Pasqualin, who blurted out yesterday that Gianfranco Zola would love to bring Mario Balotelli to West Ham United and keeps calling up the teenage striker to persuade him to move to the Premier League. However, Zola has rushed to quash the rumours and aimed a sideswipe at Pasqualin. "I never had the pleasure of making Pasqualin’s acquaintance and I don’t think he acts as Balotelli’s representative to make such statements, which I thoroughly refute," Corriere dello Sport quotes the West Ham boss as saying. "I have never called Balotelli, as I have the utmost respect for Inter and his boss, and I would never tap up their players. The last time I spoke with Balotelli was when he wished me luck on my new adventure at West Ham; transfer market issues are not my responsibility, as our director of sport Gianluca Nani takes care of it."

Inter President Massimo Moratti has repeatedly stated that Balotelli will stay put during the January transfer window, but press reports in the peninsula continue to speculate that his future lies away from the Stadio San Siro. Of course, what we mean when we say 'press reports' is actually periphrastic non-football agents looking to score a quick payday.

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