Monday, 15 June 2009

Zola's Italian Job

We've come here to pay our respects to Great Aunt Nellie. She brought us up properly and taught us loyalty. Now I want you to remember that during these next few days. I also want you to remember that if you don't come back with the goods, Nellie here will turn in her grave, and, likely as not, jump right out of it and kick your teeth in...

West Ham United hope to agree terms in the next 48 hours for the loan signing of the Chile midfielder Luis Jiménez, according to press reports this evening. The Guardian states chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani were dispatched sub rosa to Milan over the weekend with the intention of securing a deal with Internazionale for the 24-year-old. It is reported the pair were last seen gambolling across the Piazza della Scala in matching Mini Coopers. This follows news that the club secured a work permit for Jiménez on Friday, having been urged by Gianfranco Zola to sign the player quickly in an attempt to out-manoeuvre rival bidders. The club hope to agree terms with both Inter and the player's representatives shortly. His medical could even take place before the weekend. Should all go to plan, West Ham will sign Jiménez – who has been capped 19 times by his country – on a season's loan with a view to concluding a permanent deal next summer. The club expect to pay Inter in the region of £7million should they decide to take up that option.

The Guardian suggests that Jiménez could be the first of three attack-minded signings within the next month or so. It is reported Nani will remain in Italy this week in the hope of securing another Serie A player targeted by Zola before linking up with his compatriot to finalise plans for a third capture. It is thought likely that all three moves will be initial 'try-before-you-buy' loan deals. That is partly because Zola deems such deals as risk-free – and, in the case with the defender Herita Ilunga last season, successful – and partly because the club's new owners, CB Holding, are not in a position to dedicate large amounts of money to transfers. Despite these restrictions, the paper insists the club remain committed to significantly strengthening their hand this summer in the hope of improving on last season's ninth-place finish.

In related news, Setanta believe Inter striker Robert Acquafresca is one of those being targeted by the club. The Italy Under-21 international revealed at the weekend that Fulham were weighing up a bid and admitted he was considering a move abroad. When asked if The Hammers were also interested, his agent, Paolo Fabbri, informed Tutto Napoli: "They are one of the clubs involved. The English club already showed strong interest in Robert last summer." Although Juventus were also rumoured to be interested in Acquafresca, Fabbri says he has not had any contact with the club. The article states Genoa, Atalanta, Parma and Napoli have also been linked with the player and his agent claims there have been several firm bids. "The situation is clear – we have seven offers on the table and we are considering them carefully," he said. "Acquafresca wants to think through all the offers calmly."

Still on the transfer front and West Ham United have also reportedly expressed an interest in Manchester City's Ecuador striker Felipe Caicedo. "I received a call from the people at Sporting Lisbon," Caicedo revealed to El Telegrafa. "They told me they have already spoken to the officials at City. There are several offers - not just Sporting Lisbon. There's a number of clubs in Portugal, Spain and also England. The only English club I can name is West Ham United." The 20-year-old was a signing for Sven Goran Eriksson at Eastlands, and towards the end of last season he showed glimpses of the talent which persuaded the Swede to pay Basle £5million for his services.

In other news, it is believed Lucas Neill will make a decision on his future this week. The Australian defender is currently out of contract having rejected West Ham United's initial offer of a one-year extension on reduced terms. However he is expected to re-enter negotiations with the club after he revealed at the weekend that he is still contemplating a return to London. According to KUMB, the Hammers are monitoring a number of potential replacements, including South African full-back Bryce Moon - currently featuring in the Confederations Cup - and Dinamo Bucharest's Radiu Homei, both of whom were heavily linked with West Ham during the last transfer window. Other names recently linked in the media are Matthew Bates, Rod Fanni of Stade Rennais and latterly Manchester City's unsettled Micah Richards.

Finally, Mark Noble was named man of the match by for his influential performance in this evening's 2-1 win against Finland. Although Lee Cattermole and Micah Richards scored the goals, skipper Noble stood out to the UEFA observers for his industrious work-rate, neat passing and positive play - especially when his team were down to ten men and struggling against a lively Finnish side. The West Ham United youngster admitted England were caught out early on in Halmstad. "The conditions made it hard," he said. "We have been playing on wet pitches for the last two weeks and zinging the ball around for fun. Today we got here and the pitch was dry and it was really hot. I think it suited them better than us.

"We are delighted to get the win," Noble added, fully aware that even stiffer challenges lie ahead in the tough Group B. "We go back to the hotel and prepare for Thursday [against Spain]. No matter how we did it, no one will care that we weren't playing Barcelona football. We won the game and that's all that matters. We have put some work in today. We have grafted for the last two weeks as well and we deserved that. It doesn't matter how you win, that's tournament football. You get the three points on the board and let the other game pan out. We have got a tough game against Spain on Thursday."

Oh, hang on, lads; I've got a great idea... ever wondered how you might solve the problem of your gold-laden bus teetering over the edge of an Alpine road? The answer comes courtesy of John Godwin:

-Break the windows at the back to reduce weight.

-Break two windows at the front, hold one gang member upside down out of the window to deflate the front tires and stabilize the vehicle.

-Drain the rear fuel tank through an access panel at the bottom of the bus.

-Gang members leave one by one from the front, collecting stones to replace their weight.

-Keep adding stones until someone can safely go to the rear to retrieve the gold.

-Hope the Carabinieri don't show up!

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