Saturday, 20 June 2009

Days Of Long Shadow

As inevitable as a bubble bursting, as inextricably cinched as the West Ham United board to pecuniary constipation, Gianfranco Zola is being linked with yet another loan bid for yet another Inter Milan player; this time the dilatory, brooding Mario Balotelli. Several of the morning papers credit the Upton Park chief with trying to secure a loan deal for the 18 year-old striker, who has grown impatient at being continually over-looked by Jose Mourinho. The Mail reports that the gifted Italian under-21 international- who yesterday scored then was sent off in Italy's match with Sweden- has two years left to run on his contract with the Serie A champions but is on the verge of being forced out by his frustrated manager. Mourinho is said to have lost all patience with the promising youngster, having repeatedly expressed his displeasure over his lazy attitude in training which resulted in the pacey attacker's exclusion from his first team in January.

Now Zola is keen to beat the long queue of interested suitors for the striker's services and has publicly urged Balotelli to quit the San Siro and join his West Ham revolution this summer. "I have done everything I can to sign Mario and it would be in both our interests and his," he told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport. "There is no place for him at Inter and he is a natural talent. He is very extroverted and he knows his attitude sometimes upsets people, but he is intelligent and is still learning to handle situations. He is bold and brazen and that’s an attribute." Clearly undeterred by the players troublesome reputation, Zola is actively looking to add more firepower to his squad for the forthcoming campaign owed to the uncertainty surrounding injury prone Dean Ashton's long-term fitness and the departures of both David Di Michele and Diego Tristan.

In the same interview, the Hammers boss also confirmed that he is trying to bag Balotelli's Inter team-mate Luis Jimenez. The Chilean attacker is set to join the Hammers on a one-year loan deal with the option to make the transfer permanent. "I hope it is completed soon," Zola admitted. "He is one of those lads who plays the kind of football I like. In England it's not easy to sign non-European players but I think these problems can be solved." Jimenez has reportedly been granted a work permit for a switch to Upton Park, despite not playing the required number of matches in the last two years in Europe. The 25-year-old, who joined Inter in the summer of 2007 on loan from Ternana, was limited to only two Serie A starts last season, as injury prevented him from forcing his way into Mourinho's squad.

It is also understood that the club is making an attempt to sign a third Inter star, 28-year-old winger Mancini. However, this morning's Sun- in lieu of a full-scale retraction of its erroneous story earlier in the week- claims Zola has received a setback in his pursuit of the Brazilian after his head was turned by last-minute offers from rival European clubs offering Champions League football. The paper insists that Hammers chief executive Scott Duxbury flew to Italy to oversee that deal and the one for Jimenez early this week and came away convinced the pair would sign. It is reported that there are only minor details in the Jimenez deal to sort out but Duxbury will not know until next week whether Mancini will be joining him at Upton Park.

Away from the transfer front and rocking the shonkiest photo-shopping skills this side of a pro-Ahmadinejad rally, the same paper reveals Scott Parker took his factor 30 sun cream, swimming trunks, a good book and a West Ham physio on holiday with him this summer. The midfielder missed the final eight games of the last campaign as United's unexpected bid for seventh in the Premier League faded in the last weeks. He is still undergoing rehab on a groin injury and Gianfranco Zola is so determined the Hammer-of-the-Year should regain full fitness in time for the new season he packed one of his medical staff off with Parker and fellow invalid Valon Behrami on their close-season holidays.

West Ham's push for the Europa League wilted under a late wave of injuries to first-teamers such as striker Carlton Cole and winger Behrami. The Swiss international is now back at home but working towards a return for the first game of the season at newly-promoted Wolves after damaging knee ligaments on March 1. "I have to thank West Ham for saying I could go home and someone would come to work with me," said Behrami. "They are a good club and this proves it. Things are going well and I'll be back in mid-August." Zola is anxious for West Ham to keep their sick-list as short as possible but equally he prefers to operate with a relatively small squad of around 21 senior players. That means injuries have an even bigger impact than at rival Premier League clubs. The paper states a recent overhaul of the medical department and plans to move to a new training ground are designed to cut down the injury toll.

In other news, Crystal Palace have, as expected, agreed a deal to take Freddie Sears on a season-long loan deal from West Ham United. Gianfranco Zola is thought to be keen for the teenage striker to gain greater first-team experience next season and a clutch of Championship clubs had shown an interest. Sheffield Wednesday and Championship new boys Peterborough United were among the teams to have made an approach for the 19-year-old. However, Palace have now confirmed that Sears, who failed to score in 22 appearances last term, will spend the campaign on loan at Selhurst Park.

Meanwhile, Luis Boa Morte has pledged to stay at West Ham and continue the fine form he produced at the tail end of last season. The Portugal international has endured taunts from the certain sections of the Upton Park support and was tipped to move on this summer. But with one year left on his deal, Boa Morte has declared war on his critics. He said: "I should stay and fight for my place. I still intend to play three more years away from Portugal. I have one more year at West Ham and then two more after that. Where I play those two years, assuming all goes well, we will see." Boa Morte has admitted than he would seize the chance to end his career in his homeland. "I intend to finish in Portugal," he said. "I would love to play at least one year at Belenenses. I also like Setubal and Guimaraes."

Finally, an unusually loquacious Zola says he is looking forward to seeing Savio take the next step at West Ham United in the coming campaign after a lively introduction to life in England. Speaking at a recent fans forum held at the Boleyn Ground, the United manager was asked his thoughts about the exciting youngster who made eleven appearances for the club in all competitions last season. "Savio is a boy who came from a totally different league with a lower standard so had a few problems at the beginning trying to establish himself," Zola said. "He was used to playing at very low rhythm, so he had time on the ball and would get two or three seconds before someone was going to challenge. In the Premier League it is totally different, you don't have the ball and already someone is challenging you - but he is catching up. He is only 19. He is a player that I believe is going to give satisfaction to the supporters. We need to be patient with him because he needs to adapt. He has got quality and believe me is going to be an important player."

1 comment:

Emlyn said...

This "football project"is doing wonders for my optimism for the next season. On a negative front (which i try not to be), the loan deals may have worked out for David Di Michele and Diego Tristan but Mancini, Balotelli and Jimenez are a different class. Just got this nagging feeling
that after 1 season they would be wearing the colours of another club. Oh well, negative thoughts over, 2/3 of these three players would be fantastic and make for an interesting season. Just want them confirmed so I can continue to look forward to the season.


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