Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Pearl Of Africa Is Now On Show

Well, it's official...West Ham United have finally unveiled the signing of 19-year-old forward Savio Nsereko from Brescia Calcio. A brief statement on the club website reads:

West Ham United are delighted to announce the signing of Germany Under-20 international Savio Nsereko from Brescia Calcio on a four-and-a half-year contract.

The 19-year-old forward, who can play wide or through the middle, chose the chance to play under Gianfranco Zola ahead of long-standing interest from some of the continent's leading clubs. The fee is undisclosed, although the club confirm it is a significant investment.

Savio, who will wear the No10 shirt, has made his name with Brescia, who are well-placed to secure promotion back to Serie A this season. His last outing for the Italian club saw him score two spectacular goals in a minute in the 4-0 win against Pisa on Saturday 17 January.

A West Ham United delegation led by technical director Gianluca Nani flew to Brescia in the middle of last week to secure his services. When terms had been agreed with both club and player, Savio made the reverse trip to England over the weekend to meet Gianfranco Zola and finalise the deal. He passed his medical on Monday and, subject to international clearance, could even make his debut on Wednesday night against Hull City.

"We are delighted to sign Savio, particularly with the fierce competition for his services across Europe," Scott Duxbury, the West Ham chief executive, said. "He is an exciting prospect, who Gianfranco Zola believes will prove a valuable asset for this club now and in the years to come. It is a significant investment and shows our determination to continue moving this club forward."

Despite interest from a host of European clubs, including Bayern Munich, Juventus, Roma and Napoli, the Telegraph states the Ugandan born striker was encouraged to move to London because of the opportunity to work with Zola. It is also true Gianluca Nani‘s father in-law, Luigi Corioni, is the president of the Serie B club from which the player moves, and that Nani knows the player well after being responsible for taking him to Italy from Hertha Berlin in 2005 when Nsereko was just 16. Writing in the Mirror, Darren Lewis claims Savio had been on the club's radar for several months - even before Craig Bellamy demanded to leave Upton Park.

Although the final fee is undisclosed, the Times reports it is almost certainly greater than West Ham’s previous biggest outlay, the £7.5 million spent signing Bellamy from Liverpool in 2007. The Mail states previous reports suggested that West Ham had agreed to pay Brescia £5million, which could rise to almost £10million depending on the success of the forward. The Guardian are none the wiser, but suggests a figure in the region of £9million to make Nsereko the new club record transfer. The Mirror also has the same number in mind.

The Independent writes that the versatile Savio, who has scored three goals in 17 games for Brescia this season, will be expected to fill the void created by Craig Bellamy's £14million transfer window switch to Manchester City. It is inevitable that such comparisons will be drawn (and perhaps invited), especially as the Ugandan-German inherits the No 10 shirt by vacated by Bellamy following the Welshman's acrimonious departure.

The signing will reassure fans who had feared the club would only be a selling club during the January transfer window, states the BBC. Owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson has been beset by financial problems in recent months and is considering selling the club. But other than Bellamy, who was determined to leave Upton Park, West Ham have only sold fringe players Matthew Etherington, Lee Bowyer and Hayden Mullins.

Gianfranco Zola is now excited about working with Savio, but acknowledges that the former Brescia star will require the opportunity to find his feet in England. When asked about the Germany youth international, Zola told Sky Sports News: "We have expectations of him, but we do not forget that the boy is 19 years old and he has come here for the future. We are going to try an improve him and make him a better player. We know that he has got great potential and can become a top player. But everybody needs to be patient. He wants to improve and we want to help him, but he also needs time to settle. The reason why we bought Savio is that we saw the potential which belongs to special players. We like to gamble, but I do not think that Savio is a gamble."

Meanwhile, Savio expressed his delight at sealing his move to East London. The youngster, who has relatives living in London, was born in the Ugandan capital of Kampala before his family moved to the German city of Munich when he was just two years old. Speaking in perfect English, he said: "I am very happy to be here and am proud to have the possibility of playing for a club like West Ham. I was happy [to move to England] because West Ham is a big club and a big story so I was very excited. I know a lot about the manager. I saw him play and he was a great player and I think he is also a great manager and can improve me a lot. I will try to do my best to improve and help the team to get better. I know it's a big responsibility [to wear the No10] but I think I know what I can do and I'm happy for that and that's it. I see myself that I hope I can help us. I have to improve a lot and I will try to improve and get better in training every day."

In other news, this morning's Sun reports Cardiff City have rejected West Ham’s £5million bid for Joe Ledley. Everton, Spurs, Wigan, Fulham and Stoke are said to be watching the midfielder too. Bluebirds chairman Peter Ridsdale is quoted as saying: "Joe is not for sale." The Times reveal Sunderland have opened negotiations with United over the £3million capture of defensive outcast Calum Davenport.

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