Thursday, 15 January 2009

Latest Transfer Gossip And All That Jazz

West Ham United have rejected two new bids for Craig Bellamy, with Tottenham Hotspur offering Darren Bent in a straight swap deal for the striker on Tuesday evening and then Manchester City upping their offer for the Wales international to £9.5m yesterday afternoon. Jason Burt, writing in today's Independent, states the club are adamant that Bellamy is not for sale having already rebuffed three other offers for the 29-year-old. The club rejected a bid of £6m from Spurs on Christmas Eve and then had two offers from City which they turned down. The first was a £15m bid, which also included City buying Scott Parker, and the second, which was also immediately rejected, came on Monday morning when City offered £8.5m for Bellamy, plus another £1m if he scored 25 goals in a season or the club won the Champions League. They have since offered £9.5m cash.

City are now pondering their options, thinks Burt, with Roque Santa Cruz remaining their number one choice ahead of Bellamy, although they would have liked to buy both players. The Paraguayan is expected to move to Eastlands for £20m from Blackburn Rovers before the end of the month. If West Ham were to receive an offer of £15m for Bellamy they have promised that they will then put it to manager Gianfranco Zola who, ultimately, will decide which players are bought and sold at the club.

The Mail believes the Manchester club could walk away from attempts to sign both Bellamy and Scott Parker as they become "increasingly exasperated" by West Ham's demands. They report that City are keen not to be ripped off and are understood to have tabled bids of £12million for Wales striker Bellamy and £10m for midfielder Parker. Aware of the vast wealth at Eastlands, the Hammers are playing hardball. But City are losing are losing patience and face the dilemma of whether to push through the deal or walk away.

The article states Gianfranco Zola is determined to keep hold of his best players, but the reality in these straitened times is that every player has his price. That much is true, with Bellamy's price tag set at £15million. Clearly perturbed by United's impertinence at wanting to hold on to their better players, the Mail insists City's breath-taking £100m offer to AC Milan for Kaka shows the Barclays Premier League strugglers' intent and resources, but that they are also not frightened to walk away from "ludicrous demands".

West Ham are determined to hold on to their best players and have also rejected overtures to sign Valon Behrami – who was wanted by Roma – and Matthew Upson who has attracted inquiries from several Premier League side, most noticeably his former club Arsenal, Aston Villa and Newcastle United, although no formal bid has been received because all suitors were told the central defender is not for sale. To counter any attempts to lure away their most valuable assets West Ham have sold, or are in the process of selling or loaning, a list of fringe players which has been drawn up by Zola. Already gone are Matthew Etherington to Stoke City for £3m and Lee Bowyer, on loan to Birmingham City, with Luis Boa Morte wanted by Hull City for £2m.

Concerning Boa Morte, it is believed the Portugal winger has rejected a move to Humberside. The two teams agreed a fee and the deal was expected to be concluded in time for the midfielder to make his Tigers debut against former club Arsenal this weekend. But the 31-year-old instead chose instead to stay at Upton Park to fight for his first-team place, or at least his first-team wages. Hull boss Phil Brown conceded earlier today that the deal was close to collapse. "We are miles apart where Luis is concerned with personal terms," he said. "We have agreed a deal with regards to West Ham, but it is now down to Luis to come down in his evaluation of his next contract. It is up to Luis." It is not expected that Hull will go back in with an improved offer for the Portugal midfielder, as the fee had already been agreed and a medical passed by the Boa Morte as confirmed earlier by Hull assistant manager Brian Horton.

A deal to sell Calum Davenport to Bolton Wanderers for £3m fell through, despite the player travelling to the Reebok Stadium, after Bolton signed S├ębastien Puygrenier on loan instead. But there are thought to be two other clubs interested in the defender, while West Ham would also part with Julien Faubert who is wanted by Lyons. The transfers mean that West Ham have not only trimmed their squad, reducing the wage bill as well as getting closer to the numbers – 21 plus goalkeepers – that Zola wants to work with, but have also balanced their books. The club are determined to show that they are not in financial difficulties. To that end the desire to hold on to Bellamy is apparent.

The unsettled Faubert has put his West Ham future in doubt after launching a furious attack on manager Gianfranco Zola. The out-of-favour midfielder, a £6.1 million recruit from Bordeaux in 2007, is keen on a move to French champions Lyon in a bid to revive his international prospects for Les Bleus. The 25-year-old angrily lambasted Zola after he was an unused substitute in the Hammers' 2-2 draw at Newcastle last weekend. And his days at Upton Park are seemingly numbered after the Italian boss transfer listed Birmingham-bound team-mate Calum Davenport, who previously spoke out against the manager following his exclusion from the side that beat Stoke last month.

"I don't know what he is up to," said Faubert. "Zola has said he relies on me but I don't see any opportunities coming." Faubert admits he is desperate to quit the Barclays Premier League outfit having endured a nightmare 19-month period in East London. The one-cap France international has failed to make an impact since his arrival having been blighted by a succession of injuries, notably the ruptured achilles tendon injury he sustained within his first few weeks at the club which saw him sidelined for six months and caused him to miss most of last season.

With no less than two weeks until the end of the window the unpopular Faubert, who has made 15 league starts in the claret and blue this term, is becoming increasingly desperate to end his tortuous stint in the capital alerting a host of Ligue 1 sides to his availability. '"Right now my agent is discussing a move with other clubs." he revealed with both Lyon and Nantes believed to be interested. "Playing for a club such as Lyon is my priority to re-launch my international career." Although the makeshift full-back is keen to hurry a swift exit, Faubert's hefty price-tag is thought to be putting off potential suitors with the frustrated winger's "financially troubled" (copyright Daily Mail) employers looking to recoup most of the fee they initially paid for him. "The problem is that my selling price is far too high," he added.

Similarly mystified is Nigel Quashie, who concedes he is unsure of his long-term future as he comes to the end of his loan spell at Birmingham. Quashie's loan deal at St Andrews expires this weekend after the game with Cardiff and as yet no permanent move has been agreed. Newcastle were linked with a shock move for Quashie earlier this week only for Joe Kinnear to dispel the rumours. The 30-year-old admits he is in the dark as to what his future holds after his loan move comes to an end. "I don't know if there's been any talks with West Ham, or what will happen," Quashie told the Birmingham Mail. "I'm just glad to be playing football. I've had a long time out and I'm still getting used to the feeling of getting round a football pitch. I've got 18 months left on my contract at West Ham, so it all depends on what West Ham want. I'm happy to carry on playing football, I haven't broken down, and I just want to keep enjoying myself. Whatever happens, happens. Like I said, I've got 18 months left at West Ham and we will take it from there."

Elsewhere, the Guardian claims Newcastle United have made enquiries as to the availability of the United captain Lucas Neill, who manager Joe Kinnear hopes to bring in on a loan deal with a view to a permanent move. Kinnear has asked about the 30-year-old defender as he attempts to cover for the loss of Habib Beye to an ankle injury. The Newcastle manager is now awaiting developments. He said: "We have spoken to his agent and it is ongoing at the moment, we are just waiting to see. We could get an answer at any time." If a deal was to go through it would remove one of the club's highest earners from the wage bill. The Australian is reported to earn around £70,000 a week at Upton Park after West Ham beat Liverpool to his signature from Blackburn Rovers two years ago.

The Mail go further and claim Newcastle are poised to make a £2million bid for West Ham captain Lucas Neill if they can move Geremi on to Besiktas. Football director Dennis Wise is hoping to come to an agreement with West Ham to buy out the remainder of Australia international Neill’s contract – which has six months left to run. Although his wages could be a stumbling block, Neill is understood to be keen to join Aussie team-mate Mark Viduka at St James's Park.

As far as incoming movement there are numerous unsubstantiated reports linking the club with sundry targets. These include Romanian sources adamant that a £2million offer for Rapid Bucharest's defensive midfielder Costin Lazar has already been tabled, a whisper on several forums that a loan deal for journeyman Atalanta striker Sergio Floccari is close to completion and a rather fanciful suggestion that United are keeping tabs on £5million Croatian scoring sensation Nikola Kalinic. The 21-year-old, who has been hailed as the 'New Davor Suker' in his home country, has won rave reviews for his goalscoring exploits with Hajduk Split. Croatia coach and former Hammers defender Slaven Bilic has already handed the player his international debut and rates the forward as one of the best young prospects in Europe. Kalinic scored 17 times in 25 appearances last season and has enjoyed similar success this year, netting 12 times in 20 games.

Closer to home and West Ham youngster Kyle Reid has joined Coca-Cola Championship leaders Wolves on loan until May. The 21-year-old returned to Upton Park at the start of January following a month at Blackpool and has previously enjoyed loan spells with Barnsley and Crystal Palace. Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has been on the lookout for a wide midfielder and swooped for Reid after a move for Rangers winger Alan Gow fell through. Reid, who could make his debut at Bristol City on Saturday, has made nine appearances for the Hammers' first team, scoring his only goal in the Carling Cup victory over Macclesfield earlier this season. He made his only league start for the club in the 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in May 2006.

Speaking on the official site, Reid spoke of his excitement about the new challenge. "I just want to get out there and play and show the manager and myself that I've got the ability to play," said Reid. "I'm at an age now where I just need to get games under my belt and see what happens. When I spoke to Mick McCarthy he said that he had been watching me for a while and he also liked the way that I played the game when we played them. It seems good and I just hope that I can do my bit for myself as well as them and then show them that I can come back and get into the West Ham team."

Reid will certainly be in the spotlight, with a televised game at Bristol City on Saturday evening set to be his Wolves debut and the prospect of an FA Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough on Saturday week. "This is a chance to show the manager that I can play and hopefully he will be watching or getting reports and he will see something in me that he likes and I'll get my chance to play here. Reserve games are not like they are used to be a few years ago when there was a game every week. Now there is a game every two weeks if you are lucky so it's a bit difficult and with the first-team squad players playing as well it is a bit harder for some of the younger ones to break through."

With Wolves four points clear at the top of the Championship and pushing hard for promotion, Reid knows he will have to battle for a place. He is prepared to work hard to make things happen though. "They are top of the league and four points clear so hopefully I can go there and be amongst them and hopefully at the end of the season I can pick up a promotion medal. That would be good! Hopefully I'll do well there and then come back and play for West Ham. I've been here for a long time and I love the club. I'll still keep in touch with the players here like Jack Collison, Hayden Mullins and Carlton Cole because it's important to still feel part of it here. When Wolves aren't playing I'll come back to cheer the boys on."

On a separate (musical) note there is a curious little piece in today's Telegraph concerning a West Ham schoolboy footballer turned jazz musician who has signed a £1 million four-album deal with Universal. Tyler Rix, who has played for West Ham's Academy, signed the deal with Universal Music on the turf at Upton Park. The 16-year-old saxophonist, from London, was discovered by record executives when he took part in BBC2's Classical Star TV talent programme. Bosses at Universal Classics and Jazz offered him the chance to join a stable which includes Amy Winehouse, Take That and Jamie Cullum.

Tyler had a tough decision of his own to make – whether to pursue football or music. By the age of 15 he had experienced a string of successes as a footballer. Snapped up on the day of his trial, he played several times at Upton Park and was prominently featured in Junior Soccer, a coaching guide produced in association with West Ham United. Tyler said: "I always knew that one day I would have to choose between my music and my football commitments. I could never have dreamt of making that choice in such a spectacular way." As jazz aficionado Louis Balfour would say...'Nice!

Finally some good news, with Kieron Dyer in line to make his first Premier League appearance for West Ham since August, 2007 in Sunday's derby against Fulham. Dyer successfully came through 70 minutes of reserve team football unscathed against Aston Villa last night - it was his third outing since his return from an 18-month broken leg lay-off. The 30-year-old former England midfielder is in contention to start on the bench after continuing his steady progress from injury with an impressive performance.

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