Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Blips On The Radar

Thomas Hitzlsperger has spoken of the "destiny" of playing for West Ham United as Der Hammer prepares for life at the Boleyn. The Germany midfielder earned his fitting nickname during his five-season stay at Aston Villa because of his powerful left foot and long-range shooting. The alias stuck during a hugely successful spell over the next five years at VfB Stuttgart, during which time he helped them to the Bundesliga title and two cracks at the UEFA Champions League.

As such, it is apt that 'The Hammer' has signed on with the Hammers, having passed a medical in England on Saturday before concluding the deal and then heading back to his home city of Munich on a high. He will report for pre-season training a month today under new manager Avram Grant - who today received his work permit - ready to live up to his nickname once more.

"It is destiny," he told whufc.com. "I knew that West Ham were called The Hammers and it has actually always been on my mind whether I would play for the club one day. I am really pleased to be a Hammer. It is nice and it suits perfectly to be at West Ham. Hopefully people will be talking about my nickname a lot because that will mean I will be doing my job and scoring some goals as well."

Hitzlsperger - whose signed for Lazio in January of this year, but only played four times - admitted that his time in Serie A had not gone as planned, but hinted that this makes him more determined to succeed in his second spell in the Premier League. "The manager who signed me at Lazio got sacked after a week and the new manager didn't fancy me," he revealed. "They were in a relegation battle and he felt he needed players with experience of the league who spoke the language. I tried my best and worked very hard in training but he didn't pick me. That happens sometimes. It was frustrating but you just have to get on with it. [So] my contract came to an end and I wanted to move on. I have always wanted to come back to the Premier League; I had a really good time when I was in England and I knew this is where I wanted to be."

Having just turned 28, the German is convinced he has his best years still ahead of him. "I want to establish myself very quickly," he said. "I am raring to go with the experience I have had in Italy. I want to prove myself and play week in and week out, but I know I have to show what I can do. We have perfect conditions for a good season and I am really looking forward. The fans are looking forward, they are optimistic and we have to give them reasons to be excited. We will see where that takes us."

Certainly he needed little persuading to head to east London when the opportunity arose - flying to London to get the deal done at the end of last week. "My agent spoke to the club and there was good interest," revealed Hitzlsperger. "The manager was really keen, the chairman was very positive and it felt right. There were plenty of other clubs but it was West Ham that showed the most interest and wanted me. I don't think there will be any shocks for me and I know the league well. I know a few things about the club and I am sure I will learn more when I am there. I will try to integrate into it as quickly as I can. There is no language barrier so it is just about getting there, meeting all my team-mates and working hard. I am looking forward to it. I want to establish myself very quickly."

Elsewhere, West Ham are one of two clubs thought to be holding talks with representatives of striker Dieumerci Mbokani. The Congolese forward currently plays for struggling Standard Liege in Belgium, where he is contracted until until 2014. However the chances of Mbokani remaining with Les Rouches appear slim after it was revealed that his agent is in London this week to hold talks with both United and Fulham over a proposed move.

Liege - who underperformed massively last season, finishing just ninth in the Jupiter Pro League (the top tier in Belgian football) - are understood to be looking to sell the 24-year-old striker for around €12million in order to ease the club's financial worries. It is unclear at this stage whether that would be within the club's budget, with an initial loan deal perhaps the more likely approach.

Mbokani arrived in Europe in 2006 when he joined Anderlecht from the Lubumbashi-based Tout Puissant Mazembe. He arrived in Belgium having scored 67 goals in 72 starts for the Congolese side, but managed only nine starts for RSC, scoring four goals (including a hat-trick against Roeselare in May 2007). After just 12 months at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium he moved to Liege, where he has subsequently bagged 34 goals in 79 appearances. Since making his international debut in 2006 Mbokani - whose forename apparently means 'thank you God' - has notched eight times for his country (in 14 appearances).

The forward is an exciting but unpredictable talent who has developed a reputation for ill discipline on and off the pitch. A fiery temper has landed him in trouble with the football authorities, while poor timekeeping coupled with a fondness for the nightlife has brought him into regular conflict with his various clubs. Should Mbokani sign he would be linking up with compatriot Herita Ilunga.

Meanwhile, Algerian ace Nadir Belhadj is said to be coveted by a host of clubs from around Europe. Sky Sports are reporting that Portsmouth's left-sided star is one of the club's most prized assets and the cash strapped South Coast outfit are ready to cash in. The interest is strong with Premier League clubs West Ham and Bolton amongst those who are vying for his signature. The former Lyon and Lens man also has interest emanating from Italy and Germany. Roman giants Lazio have lodged an interest, with Bundesliga sides Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and Stuttgart also monitoring the situation.

Finally, today's Express credits the club with an interest in taking the bin-dwelling Jimmy Bullard on loan from Hull, while several ITKs suggest Djibril Cissé, wife-beating Lord of Frodsham, is blipping on the radar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wife beating aside I for one would be very happy to have Cisse up front for West Ham. We have already got plenty of young talent so not sure we need thanksgod also.

I think we should push the boat out for Belhadj he is class and just what we need. Jimmy Bullard would be a good option as playmaker but he could be quite disruptive. Personally I think he is what we need.


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