Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Alternatives And Options

Various news sources have today confirmed that West Ham United’s owners will ask an Icelandic court this week for a moratorium to prevent banks from seizing its assets and forcing the sale of the club. The judgment to be heard in Reykjavik on March 6 relates to West Ham's holding company, Hansa, which was granted the original stay of execution in November. Vice Chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson reiterated Hansa has been actively talking with creditors. "Hansa believes that the progress that the club has been making shows the importance of continued stability," he said today in an interview. "A decision from the judges on extending the December ruling is expected next week."

Hansa is controlled by Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, who was the majority shareholder of an Icelandic bank seized by government regulators. In November, West Ham’s holding company applied to enter administration, a form of protection from creditors, because of Gudmundsson’s financial troubles. Hansa Eignarhaldsfelag ehf, or Hansa, is run by an administrator appointed by Icelandic authorities.

Gudmundsson is trying to decide whether to sell, and in December the east London team sent data on its debt levels, income, expenditures and salary ratios to potential bidders. Fridgeirsson said at the time there were between 5 and 10 groups looking at the team, although there haven’t been any firm offers. "There is still an interest," he said. "We haven’t closed down the process at all." Reports over the weekend linked a Far Eastern consortium with a deal for the club, with some suggestion that funds used to temporarily stabilize Gudmundsson's position had already changed hands.

Gudmundsson, whose fortune was estimated at $1.1 billion by Forbes magazine last March, is the former chairman of Landsbanki Islands hf, which was seized by the nation’s Financial Supervisory Authority in October. Fridgeirsson said that even if the court declines to give the extension, the club should not be affected. "There are alternatives and options," Fridgeirsson said, without being more specific. "It will in no way effect the club."

Elsewhere, the Manchester Evening News have been forced to issue an apology to Gianfranco Zola after they claimed the United manager had 'tapped up' Manchester City striker Valerie Bojinov. The newspaper carried a story back in January claiming that Bojinov had been contacted by Hammers boss Zola to ask if he was interested in a move to West Ham United - something furiously denied at the time by the Irons boss. Since the story was published West Ham's recently appointed lawyers threatened the newspaper with legal action should they refuse to issue an apology. That apology was published in today's copy of the Evening News, and read:

"On 14 January 2009, we published an article which claimed, wrongly, that Gianfranco Zola had telephoned Manchester City's Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov and asked him to play for West Ham United, despite Manchester City having made it clear that they do not want to sell him. This would have been contrary to Premier League rules. We accept that this allegation was incorrect and we apologise unreservedly to Gianfranco Zola for the the embarrassment caused by the article."

On a more pleasant note, West Ham new boy Savio Nsreko is heading for cult status at Upton Park, concludes an article in today's Telegraph. John Ley states that the West Ham faithful love to idolise an individual and the signs, at the weekend, were that it will pay to be patient and await the improvement of the Ugandan-born German Under-21 international. Still just 19, Savio was signed towards the end of the January transfer deadline, for around £6 million, and Zola admits that the youngster is already under pressure to perform.

"Savio came on and did very well and I am pleased for him because he came here followed by a lot of expectation and, to be honest, he was under pressure a little bit because he knows that everybody is waiting to see something special from him," said Zola. "But we are pleased with the way he is working. His attitude is good and I am sure he is going to be a successful player for us. We bought him because he’s got something different, something that is sometimes missing in the game, and against City we saw a little bit of that but I’m sure there is still a lot to come."

The manager has handled Savio with kid gloves so far, starting him from the bench, and before Sunday’s 1-0 win over Manchester City, he had played just 81 minutes in five games. However, the serious injury to Valon Behrami on Sunday meant the forward was given his longest run-out in English football so far, and in his 47 minutes on the pitch Savio did not disappoint. Indeed, he was responsible for the goal, his effort parried by City goalkeeper Shay Given before another youngster, 20-year-old Jack Collison claimed the winner.

There is still little or no news as to the extent of Behrami's injury but an MRI scan on the injured leg has shown there is no fracture or break. Further tests will be required to assess the extent of the injury in the next few days once the swelling has subsided. Zola paid tribute to the midfielder's all-action style and his commitment to the cause. "Hopefully it is not going to be too bad as the boy is a really important player for us - on the pitch and off pitch as well," he said. "I think his studs got caught and he fell on his knee. He was in pain so he needed some oxygen. Hopefully we are going to have him back soon but it is too early for us to assess him right now."

Finally, West Ham are checking on two Italian-based starlets, according to Sky Sports. The club are reportedly keeping close checks on Juventus youngster Ayud Daud and Andrea Mei, who is with Inter Milan. West Ham's interest in Daud emerged after Tottenham were strongly linked with the player in the Italian press. The 19-year-old forward was the star of the recent Viareegio Cup - one of the most high-profile youth tournaments in Europe. Now the Somalian-born ace is now catching the attention of a number of clubs and his agent, Ulisse Savini, has confirmed that he is yet to sign a professional deal with the Turin giants.

"I have never talked with Tottenham about this player," he told skysports.com. "At the moment, there are three club with Daud on their list of targets - Wolsburg, Villarreal and West Ham." Daud is now set for talks with Juventus, but Savini admitted it was far from certain that he would be staying. "Daud is a Juventus player, but he does not have any contract with Juve so the player could leave the club at the end of the season," he continued. "In the next few days I will be talking with Juventus about the player, it is for sure that Daud will sign for a big club - but which one I can't say. I have to talk with Juventus and we know other clubs want him."

Loquacious Savini confirmed that West Ham's sporting director Gianluca Nani was interested in Daud and Inter defender Mei - who is also very highly rated in Italy. "About West Ham, this situation is this - I am linked with the sporting director Nani, they have told me they are interested in Daud and in Inter defender Andrea Mei. It is normal that they would be looking at young stars like this, no matter where they are from."

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