Sunday, 6 June 2010

Der Hammer Time

West Ham have announced the signing of the Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger on a three-year deal. The 28-year-old will join the club on a free transfer on 1 July following the expiry of his contract at the Italian side Lazio. Hitzlsperger becomes the first new arrival at Upton Park this summer as the club aim to rebuild after narrowly avoiding relegation last season.

It is understood David Sullivan pulled off the signing after meeting the player on Friday, with the capture described as a “big-money deal” as far as Hitzlsperger’s personal terms go. The experienced midfielder reportedly had five ­offers on the table from Premier League clubs. ­According to several newspaper reports, Tottenham’s pursuit ­began in February when they ­discovered the German was out of contract in the summer. Everton, Birmingham and Stoke all made tempting offers to the ­player and his representative. His original desire was to join a side playing in ­Europe, but he refused to rule out making a move to a club with ambitions that met his own.

With Avram Grant due to be installed as manager later this month – subject to a successful work-permit application – the West Ham co-owner expressed his satisfaction with the direction the club is taking. "I am delighted to welcome Thomas to the club," Sullivan told the West Ham official club website. "We had to move quickly to secure his services when he became available, especially as there was understandably so much interest in him from around Europe and back in Germany. I am especially pleased that he is excited by what we are trying to achieve here at West Ham. He is the first of many signings this summer. We are going to sign a mixture of exciting young talent as well as the very best senior pros who can add real strength to the squad, like Thomas. He is still a young man but has massive experience."

Nicknamed "The Hammer" because of his powerful left foot, Hitzlsperger should find favour among the West Ham fans, and Sullivan expects great things from the former Bayern Munich youth player. "Thomas is a top-quality player who I know the fans will love – and not just because of his nickname," Sullivan added. "He is a wholehearted midfielder with an eye for a goal who gives everything in every match."

Hitzlsperger has previous experience of Premier League football, having spent several seasons at Aston Villa between 2000 and 2005. He began his career at Bayern before joining Villa at the age of 18, making his debut for the club in 2001 and going on to make 114 appearances, scoring 12 goals. He returned to Germany with Stuttgart in the summer of 2005, and went on to lift the Bundesliga title with them two years later. He joined Lazio in January this year but made only five appearances before his short-term deal expired. Hitzlsperger has won over 50 caps for the German national side but missed out on a place in Joachim Löw's World Cup squad this summer.


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