Saturday, 17 January 2009

Division Bell

Her love rains down on me easy as the breeze
I listen to her breathing it sounds like the waves on the sea
I was thinking all about her, burning with rage and desire
We were spinning into darkness; the earth was on fire
Take It Back

Craig Bellamy is unlikely to play for West Ham United against Fulham tomorrow after a "breakdown in the relationship" between the striker and the club which resulted in him turning down a contract extension and angrily walking out before training yesterday, an executive at Upton Park revealed to the Guardian. Reports last night said that Bellamy was refusing to play tomorrow and had cleared items from his locker at the training ground after a stormy meeting with Scott Duxbury, the West Ham chief executive, at which the Wales captain was informed of a bid made for him by Spurs and was also offered the contract extension that would keep him at the club until 2013 when he will be 34. Bellamy had already flatly refused West Ham's offer on Thursday afternoon to discuss a new contract, and then told Duxbury yesterday that he wanted to leave.

The 29-year-old was dismayed to hear that the offer from Spurs had been turned down. And, having rejected the fresh contract, Bellamy's mood was deepened when he was then refused permission to speak with the north London club. He left without training, although that is optional two days before a match. The Independent reiterates that after his meeting yesterday, Bellamy did ask for permission to be excused from training because he was not in a fit state of mind, and this was granted by Zola who is keen to keep the striker, but only if he has a change of heart and wants to stay. "The club made it clear that to the manager, Gianfranco Zola, and board he remains a West Ham player," the executive told The Guardian. "It is clear, at the moment anyway, that there is a breakdown in the relationship. That might change, of course." Would Bellamy play against Fulham? "It's unlikely," he added. "Ultimately that's an issue for the manager but if his head's not right, if it's all over the place, then the view from the training ground is likely to be that he won't be in the team." Bellamy remains, for the minute at least, part of the squad for the game.

According to the Independent West Ham are still insisting that Bellamy is not for sale but also add that if Spurs meet their valuation – £15million in cash, rather than a cash plus add-on deal based on goals and appearances – they will consider it and put the offer to manager Gianfranco Zola. Bellamy still has 18 months left on his current contract and the club had thought he was committed to staying after they showed considerable patience following injury difficulties since his move from Liverpool in July 2007. However, it appears likely that a deal may now be struck on Monday, if Spurs meet the asking price.

Duxbury had earlier rejected two more offers for Bellamy – with Spurs bidding £10m plus £2m in add-ons and Manchester City, who are now regarded as out of the running, tabling £9.8m for the Welsh international. Duxbury emphasised to both clubs that West Ham did not want to sell. United are adamant that Bellamy, who made his decision to leave after apparently holding talks, without permission, on Thursday evening, can only go if their asking price is met. The Wales striker is understood to be furious at the hard-line stance having made it clear he wants to move to White Hart Lane but, so far, has not submitted a formal transfer request. West Ham have rejected two previous offers from Spurs for Bellamy – a £6m offer on Christmas Eve and a straight swap deal for Darren Bent on Tuesday evening.

They have also declined three previous offers from Manchester City – a £15m offer, which would also have included Scott Parker, a bid of £8.5m plus £1m in add-ons and a £9.5m offer that was made on Wednesday. But Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, shocked by his team's defeat away to Wigan Athletic last Sunday, has convinced chairman Daniel Levy that Bellamy is the kind of player who can save the club from the threat of relegation and is likely to offer even more money. Importantly, Spurs are believed to be prepared to smash their wage structure to land Bellamy who is understood to currently earn around £70,000-a-week at West Ham, more than any Tottenham player.

Bellamy, the former Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Coventry City and Norwich City striker, arrived at West Ham for £7.5m in 2007 and is regarded as a key player at the club. Yesterday, Zola said: "What can I do about it? As far as I am concerned I want to keep him – and the club want to keep him. But if a player wants to go, it's difficult. At the moment he is a West Ham player and he will stay a West Ham player. However, I do not know if he will play on Sunday. We will see what happens."

Zola, though, admitted that West Ham were already considering replacements. "If Bellamy goes we will need to replace him and that's why we're looking," he said. "I respect Craig and I am disappointed he doesn't want to stay. He has done very well for me and I hope he stays and if he doesn't then I hope he does as well for someone else as he did for me. You need to have players who are committed to what you're doing. I've been told he's still our player and I'm confident he'll change his mind. [The] priority is to keep Bellamy. We have no commitments with anybody so that's most important. He is important for us but I am prepared to deal without him. I was hoping to have him until the end of the season. I think highly about him but it's his choice. He knows what he can get here but if he thinks he can't get what he wants here then that's up to him. He's a good player and gives us a lot on the pitch. I have no doubt that he is an important player as are many of the others. He's an important piece of a mosaic." If Bellamy is sold, West Ham will re-invest the funds to find a replacement and are understood to have a list of potential targets in addition to, according to sources in Italy, taking 23-year-old striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo on loan from Fiorentina.

Bellamy has played his last game for West Ham insists Pat Sheehan. Writing in The Sun, he states the striker drove away from the Hammers’ Essex training ground yesterday having snubbed the new deal offered by Duxbury. He now aims to sign for London rivals Spurs — who have upped their offer to £10million plus another £2m in add-ons- and a deal will be forced through this week. Furious Hammers believe Tottenham have already tapped up Bellamy and they are waiting for Manchester City to top their bid. In the meantime, Bellamy is said to have taken the matter out of United's hands by effectively going on strike in the hope of forcing through a move. Despite Manchester City making at least three bids, Bellamy favours White Hart Lane because he believes there will be a guarantee of first-team football at Spurs whose latest offer is thought to have been around £12m. Also, the player does not appear to want to move his family again and he may also believe that Mark Hughes, whom he is close to, will not be City manager beyond this season.

West Ham officials have privately complained that Tottenham's interest has unsettled Bellamy after a media report said that the player had met a representative of Spurs on Thursday night. That follows similar complaints from Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who grumbled about Spurs' transfer tactics, rejecting bids for Kenwyne Jones and Stewart Downing respectively. If proved, it could embarrass Tottenham, who complained about how Liverpool and Manchester United tried to sign Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov respectively in the summer.

"We haven’t tapped anyone up," Redknapp said. "'I don't want to work like that. I haven't done anything wrong. If Craig Bellamy says he wants to go to Tottenham because someone has told him we've made an offer - and so have Man City - then that's up to him. It's not my fault. Daniel Levy [the Tottenham chairman] spoke to Niall Quinn [his Sunderland counterpart] and asked if they’d sell Kenwyne Jones. We haven’t spoken to an agent. Am I getting upset because José Mourinho [the Inter Milan coach] says he wants Jermaine Jenas? The chairman has made an offer [for Bellamy]. Someone has told me he wants to come here and play rather than City so we'll see how that develops. We did it all in private, it's not our fault it got into the public. But that's the way of the world now, everyone's got people they talk to and things always seem to get out."

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