Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Flashing A Thigh

Juan Roman Riquelme's agent has confirmed that West Ham United are in 'pole position' to sign the Argentina playmaker. The former Villarreal star has reportedly stalled on an expected move to Brazilian side Flamengo because of a raft of interest from South American and European sides. The mercurial 31-year-old is out of contract at Boca Juniors and is thought ready to return to Europe after three years in his homeland.

Riquelme has no shortage of suitors but his British representative Barry McIntosh told Sky Sports the player would rather join the Hammers than even Manchester United. "In precise words, Riquelme has said that in terms of going to a club like Manchester United, it wouldn't really be an attraction to him because if he goes there they could win the Champions League - they've already done it - or they win the FA Cup - they've already done it," he said. "He wants to go to a club where he's going to make a mark. The location of London, the challenge at West Ham and working beside the likes of Scott Parker and Thomas Hitzlsperger have been very important factors in him considering the move. I think for a foreign player of the magnitude of Riquelme, the lure of London is always going to be a deciding factor over any other club. So unless Arsenal come in then I think the most likely destination and the one Riquelme would be most interested in is West Ham. But I think he'd like to be a part of the project of West Ham, and what David Sullivan and David Gold have got in mind for the future for the club, including the new stadium."

McIntosh revealed the Hammers currently head a queue of four Barclays Premier League clubs, while there is also a lucrative offer on the table from Qatar. Flamengo are understood to have offered him a two-and-a-half year deal worth £45,000 a week, while fellow Brazilian side Cruzeiro, Mexico's Atlas, and Buenos Aires side Racing Club de Avellaneda have also registered their interest. Renewing with his current side is also not out of the question, although the Mail claim Riquelme is seeking to take a better-paid move after three years of letting his heart rule his head on low wages.

Riquelme almost signed for Everton three years ago, while Tottenham have also been linked in the past. "[A move] was unlikely a few weeks ago because Riquelme's No.1 club, where he is an idol, is Boca Juniors," McIntosh added. "He played for them on very small financial terms to satisfy the fans. But it's come to the position now where he feels he may have to look at all the other options that are being offered to him because he doesn't feel like he's getting value for money in terms of staying at Boca."

Riquelme began his career at Boca before leaving for Barcelona in 2002, although he had an unsuccessful year at the Camp Nou. He then joined Villarreal, initially on loan, and helped them reach the Champions League semi-finals on their debut in the competition in 2005/06. Riquelme returned to Boca on loan in 2007 after falling out with then-Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini and led them to the 2007 Copa Libertadores before making a permanent return home in 2008. Despite ruling himself out of contention for this summer's World Cup after declaring he wouldn't play for Argentina while Diego Maradona was in charge, the three-time Argentina Player of the Year has remained in top form in Argentina and feels it is time to again take on the challenge of playing in Europe.

In the equivalent of flashing a tantalising thigh to the fans, the club would only tease that it is 'making progress' on its transfer targets. "It is only right that we keep supporters informed as much as we can of what we are working on, especially as there is so much speculation around this time of year," said chairman Sullivan. "With the World Cup taking place, it is not as easy to conclude deals but I can assure fans we are working 24/7 with the manager to bring new players to the club. We have limited resources, with the £100m debt the club carries, but we are going to make every penny count and we 100% assure you there will be more new arrivals this summer. It is very possible we will have another one in within the next two to three weeks, if not sooner."

If that player is not now Riquelme then it would be a crushing disappointment. That said, another interesting name in the frame could be Julio Baptista. The Beast has not been scaring too many defences in Serie A of late and the Italians are reportedly ready to sacrifice him in a cost-cutting exercise. Old fans Galatasaray have made an offer already and hope to sign him but he has not agreed terms yet. The Mail reveals Avram Grant almost signed the Brazil international last season only for Portsmouth's financial problems to kick in and he is keen to try again.

The 28-year-old can play attacking midfield or as a second striker and will be hoping to catch the eye with Brazil over the next three weeks if given a chance to play. It is possible West Ham would prefer to sign him on loan but Roma want around £4.5m for a player they signed for £7.2m from Real Madrid in 2008. As normal these days, Baptista has also been offered to Tottenham but that position, according to the Mail, is not a priority for Harry Redknapp.

Although it could be if the rumours surrounding Roman Pavlyuchenko have any truth to them. Some media sources claim the player has demanded to leave Spurs after enduring a miserable spell at White Hart Lane since a £13.8million move from Spartak Moscow. The Russian showed glimpses of brilliance last season, scoring 10 goals, but remains unhappy at the lack of first team football and has asked his agent to find him a new club this summer. Today's Mirror states the forward is valued around £10m and would like to remain in England, preferably with West Ham as he could play more regularly and wouldn't have to uproot. It is thought United could be interested but have so far have balked at meeting Pavlyuchenko's salary of £60,000-£70,000-a-week.

How realistic you find this story probably depends on how much faith you place in the Mirror. The same paper also claims West Ham boss Avram Grant has ripped up the club's proposal to Sol Campbell and is targeting Nigerian defender Elderson Echiejile instead. That would be the same Elderson Echiejile who signed a four-year deal with Braga just two weeks ago. The article insists David Sullivan has teed up numerous potential transfer deals for Grant to decide on now he is installed as Gianfranco Zola's replacement. Grant is said to have already knocked back a proposed lucrative two-year deal for centre-back Campbell, 35, who is out of contract at Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Grant is also monitoring contract talks between Fulham and Dickson Etuhu and has expressed an interest in St Etienne striker Gonzalo Bergessio, according to the Mail. Etuhu, 28, who is with Nigeria at the World Cup finals, has one year left and is hoping for a long term deal. Argentinian Bergessio, meanwhile, is also interesting Bolton. The 25-year-old, nicknamed The Bull, is valued at around £4million.

Elsewhere, Zenit St Petersburg striker Sergey Kornilenko insists he would have signed for West Ham in the winter if Gianfranco Zola had the final say. "West Ham changed owners and the plans of David Gold and David Sullivan were to sign more stellar attackers, such as (Ruud) van Nistelrroy, for example," said the Belarus striker, who was on trial with the Hammers. "Zola said that signing a contract for me was just a couple of days away, but the Londoners got new owners."

Finally, United could move for goalkeeper Richard Wright after the 32-year-old was released by Ipswich Town at the end of last season. It is understood the Hammers will offer a contract to the free agent, who made 58 appearances for the Tractor Boys in his latest two-year stint at Portman Road. Wright formally spent six years with Ipswich between 1995 and 2001 before moving to Arsenal, where he made just 12 appearances. He switched to Everton in 2002, where he spent the next five years, before he was eventually released and snapped up by West Ham.

Despite ludicrous reports in the media that Wright would be coming in to replace Robert Green, it is clear the keeper, who failed to make an appearance for West Ham during a season-long spell at Upton Park back in 2007, would be a deputy for next season. Peter Kurucz and Marek Stech are the Hammers' current reserve keepers. David Sullivan believes speculation on Green's future is merely a cheap shot intended to further undermine his confidence. He told Soccernet: "It is just total nonsense that we are now trying to find a replacement for Robert Green. It is just not true. He is our No. 1 'keeper and will remain our No. 1 'keeper next season. He's had a superb season with us and we expect him to be with us for at least the two years left on his current contract."

15 comments:

javery said...

We've put together a prediction table at http://www.whfuc.com/ to show 'statistically' how we should go this year............ turns out we're coming 9th so I wonder how we will go.

Dan said...

Hi,
Just wanted to let you know that Absolute Radio will be broadcasting the first West Ham game of the season, against Aston Villa this Sunday on 1215AM and on Absolute Radio extra on DAB...
More details are at http://www.absoluteradio.co.uk/football

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