Thursday, June 25

Daily WHUFC News - 25th June 2015 - Part 2

Henry's ready to make up for lost time

Doneil Henry is itching to make up for lost time after recovering from the hamstring injury which ended his 2014/15 campaign early. The Canadian international, who joined the Hammers in the January transfer window, suffered the injury in just his third game of a loan spell in the Sky Bet Championship with Blackburn Rovers. That meant surgery and a lengthy road to recovery, but the 22-year-old is now working his way back to fitness and ready to contribute for the Hammers under new boss Slaven Bilic. He said: "I'm looking ahead to brighter days now. I'm getting fit and my body feels a lot better than it did at this time last year. "I'm ready to get started and look for positivity within the group, and try to impress the manager.
"It's important for us, especially the younger players who might not be in the team right away, to stay positive and optimistic that when the chance comes they can make the most of the opportunity."

West Ham's season gets underway in a week's time when they host FC Lusitans in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, with tickets available for just £10 adults and £5 under-16s.
The former Toronto FC defender is targeting that competition as an opportunity to make his mark with West Ham. He added: "The most important thing right now is taking the matches as they come. Obviously I need to monitor the injury and I just want to do what I can to prevent in from happening again in the future. That means doing the right things, getting in the gym and doing my recovery. "Right now I want to focus on getting ready for the upcoming matches and ensuring that I'm ready to go whenever I get my chance to play."

Henry is currently with a group of players on a pre-season training camp in Ireland and he says that is the perfect way to prepare for this year's early start. He explained: "We're here to get together as a team, get the fitness back and do the dirty stuff to dig deep and win matches when the season gets underway. "Especially with the European competition this season, there will be a lot of games so everybody needs to get their fitness in and maintain it throughout the season. It's going to be a long season and we're going to need the full squad. "By the end of this camp I should be a lot sharper, so right now I'm taking it day-by-day. Hopefully nothing flares up and I can have a successful pre-season."

Marseille blast West Ham in 'tapping up' row
Filed: Thursday, 25th June 2015
By: Staff Writer

Marseille have accused West Ham United of 'tapping up' Dimitri Payet, claiming sensationally that their player had not been given permission to speak with the club. In an extraordinary statement released on the club's website this morning, L'OM insist that they had no intention of selling the player - until he demanded an immediate salaray increase, following interest from West Ham.

Interest, say Marseille, that was entirely unwelcome - and talks that the Ligue 1 club claim they not given West Ham permission to enter. "In early June, an agreement was made with Dimitri and his agent," read the L'OM statement. "Both sides agreed that the playmaker will honour the last two years of his contract. "On 22 June, Dimitri's agent requested a meeting with President Vincent Labrune. During the meeting he announced that he and his player had opened negotiations with West Ham, saying that the English club had offered a six-year contract worth €30 million. "The agent demanded a huge and immediate revaluation of Dimitri Payet's contract to remain at Marseille. Unable to meet this demand, Olympique de Marseille - through the voice of its president - expressed his surprise that negotiations were opened with another club without OM being warned. "The club then agreed to Payet's agent's demands, explaining that we agreed to revise reasonably conditions - but only in mid-July, after having respected its commitments to the DNCG [the Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion, a French football organisation that maintains professional football club accounts]. "The player's agent refused this timeline and asked Vincent Labrune for a quicker resolution, saying that otherwise the English track is preferred. Surprised by this ultimatum, the Marseille president decided to respond favourably to the English bid, after half a day of reflection. The player has been asked to face his responsibilities: to stay in a club he says he loves and wait until mid-July for a discussion with the president, to review contractual conditions for OM - or choose the golden bridge that offers to West Ham. OM obviously wants Dimitri choose to stay in Marseille next season."

Payet flew into London overnight in order to seal his move to West Ham. He will hold further talks with club officials today. West Ham are yet to respond to Marseille's charges.

Kuzmanovic & Destro rumours rubbished
Posted by Sean Whetstone on June 25, 2015 in News, Whispers

The club's in house 'In The Know' insider has rubbished claims that West Ham are interested in Inter Milan midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic or Roma striker Mattia Destro touted by the media in recent days.

Speaking on his regular Boleyn Insider column the mystery ITK says:

"West Ham have also been linked with a move for Inter Milan midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic who has also attracted interest from other Premier League clubs.But my sources have told me that the east London club were never in the market to sign the Serbia international."

"There have also been reports linking Roma striker Mattia Destro with a move to the Boleyn Ground but I believe that is just speculation and the Club will continue to work hard in their attempts to strengthen the squad"

The insider does confirm the club are now confident of finalising a deal in the next 72 hours and that it will be the first eight figure signing of the summer which we all know is Dimitri Payet.

Hammers linked with two France internationals
Posted by Sean Whetstone on June 25, 2015 in News, Whispers

According to French paper L'Equipe, the Hammers are confident they can conclude deals Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Chelsea forward Loic Remy this summer.
Chelsea have reportedly valued Remy at £15million who is hoping to find regular first-team football elsewhere next season while former Newcastle player Cabaye has also made no secret of his desire to leave PSG, having made just 13 Ligue 1 starts last season.

Stats that show Dimitri Payet could be exactly what West Ham need
11:55 25 June 2015

With Marseille accepting an offer of £10.7 million for winger Dimitri Payet and the 28-year-old set to double his wages at West Ham, Opta-powered fantasy football game have taken a detailed look at what kind of player the Hammers will be getting for their money. The Frenchman's game primarily revolves around technical ability, creativity and passing. Last season Payet led Ligue 1 comfortably for assists with 17, five more than his nearest challenger, Paris Saint-Germain's Javier Pastore. Payet also led the French league for key passes, 40 more than any other player in Ligue 1. An impressive 117 in total at a rate of 3.25 per game. The 134 chances that the 28-year-old created last season saw him set up a team mate every 23 minutes. The French international enjoyed an 80 percent pass accuracy and also weighed in with a healthy 7 league goals for Marseille. Payet also attempted more shots from outside the area than any other Ligue 1 midfielder last term with 58 in total, compared to just 17 shots from inside the box. The stats suggest that the Hammers have landed themselves a star in the form of Dimitri Payet, and as the club's second signing of the summer already, new boss Slaven Bilic's new look West Ham is slowing beginning to form.

Transfers: West Ham agree Dimitri Payet fee and target Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye
11:52, 25 JUNE 2015
Upton Park could have a much more Gallic feel if multi-million pound deals go through
the wharf

Marseille striker Dimitri Payet looks even more likely to be turning out in a West Ham jersey when the season starts in July. The Irons have agreed a fee of £10.7million for the 28-year-old forward who flew to London for a medical at Upton Park on Thursday, June 24. The club is thought to have offered him a deal worth £60,000 a week with a £10,000 appearance bonus.
Payet, who made the most assists in Ligue 1 last season had two years left on his contract at his French club but was facing a wage drop of around £12,000 after Marseille's Champions League qualification failure. A seasoned international, the striker has 15 French caps. And his arrival could be the tip of a Gallic iceberg if the rumours are to be believed. Reports from France suggest it's likely to be a busy summer for West Ham's new manager Slaven Bilic who ois apparently confident of securing the services of two more French internationals. L'Equipe says Chelsea's forward Loic Remy (who's likely to cost £15million) and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Yohan Cabaye who's also a target for Arsenal.

River Plate linked with Zarate loan offer
Posted by Sean Whetstone on June 24, 2015 in News, Whispers

Reports in Argentina suggest Argentian club River Plate will attempt a loan deal for fellow countryman Mauro Zarate. The reports claim there was a meeting between the club and Zarate's representative to explore a loan deal for 6 months. Zarate managed just 71 minutes on the pitch for relegated QPR after his January arrival on loan last season. He made just four second half substitutions for the Hoops against Burnley, Southampton, Sunderland and Hull, three of which resulted in losses. Zarate was also fined two weeks' wages worth £80,000 for throwing a tantrum before QPR's defeat against Liverpool. Zarate was recently quoted saying "It is an exciting time for the club and I want to be part of that. I know the new manager had a good relationship with his players at Besiktas and I want to work hard to become a part of his plans. West Ham is still a club that I love. I have been training hard and I am looking forward to showing that I can still be an important player for them."

Here's the top Irons summer signing of all time
Posted by Hugh5outhon1895 on June 25, 2015 in News, Shep's Blogs, Whispers
Rob Sheperd

There is a positive buzz around West Ham right now. New manager Slaven Bilic has started work, a new retro style kit is selling like hot cakes as fans prepare to say a long Goodbye to the Boleyn Ground, there is the added spice of European football and the club is working hard to sign new players to improve the squad. Since the two transfer window was brought in 13 years ago the summer session especially has increasingly become a soap opera with the drama often going up to the 11th hour with so many clubs , players and a myriad of agents indulging in Mexican Stand offs.

Last summer the club having brought in a new recruitment system with co owner David Sullivan very much hands on did some good business. Aaron Creswell, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho were all impressive and good value permanent signings. Some of the players West Ham are currently chasing excite and that had me pondering: Who was our best ever summer signing ?
I refrained from trawling through reference books or surfing the web and stuck with my instincts. I didn't take long to come up with and answer : Frank McAvennie.
When John Lyall paid St. Mirren £340,000 for McAvennie in the summer of 1985 it was largely a case of a Frank Who ? By the end of the season the chorus of "One McAvennie, there's only one McAvennie" was the favourite song around Upton Park. McAvennie had not only become a cult figure for Hammers fans either, he had become a national celebrity, a forerunner of todays "Hollywood" football stars as he inspired West Ham to finish in their highest ever league position of third and be featured on the celeb pages not just back pages of the tabloid press.
It had all started rather low key. Lyall had planned to play McAvennie at the tip of a midfield diamond ( yes that system is not a recent invention) behind Tony Cottee and Paul Goddard but Goddard got injured in dull 1-0 opening day defeat at Birmingham.
Next game up was at home to QPR in the midweek a match I was covering. Lyall said ahead of the game that McAvennie would take Goddard's place. In those days the entrance for the press corps was at the main reception where the players went in too. I arrived pretty early and bumped into lean looking guy, wearing a light suit ( the leather trousers would come later) and shock of very blond hair and bright white shiny teeth. "Are you McAvennie I asked," not having seen him before as there had been little publicity about his arrival. "Aye, I'm Frank" came his answer in a thick Glaswegian accent. "Welcome to West Ham," I said as I shook his hand . "One word of advice mate, get some goals sure but whatever you do make sure you run your bollocks off and the fans here will love you here"
McAvennie gave me a broad grin and made his way towards the dressing room. A few hours later me and a huddle of press chaps would be waiting down in the reception area for McAvennie to emerge from his after match stint in the players bar and coral him for a snap interview after his stunning home debut in a 3-1 win over Rangers. Not only had he scored twice he has run his nuts off too. He offered some sharp, witty typically Glaswegian one liners …great copy for the next days back pages then the day after follow ups. Clearly he was a character and it wasn't long before he was embraced by some other London clubs ; Stringellows and Browns for instance in the West End or the Apollo Phoenix restaurant in Stratford. Any West Ham fan knows what happened next as McAvennie and Tony Cottee formed a 46 league goal partnership and the team went on an incredible run a fixture log jam in the final few weeks arguably costing the team an elusive league title eventually won by Liverpool with Everton second,
While it was Cottee ( 20 league goals ) who was awarded Hammer of the Year it was McAvennie ( 26 ) who was the catalyst for that special season. It must be said another low key summer signing in '85, Mark Ward from Oldham, played a big part too. It was McAvennie who grabbed the bulk of attention though . He blew bubbles on the pitch and enjoyed quaffing some bubbles off it often surrounded by Page Three girls. Indeed he was putting his fellow Scot Charlie Nicholas at Arsenal in the shade in the playboy stakes, so much that he ended appearing on the Terry Wogan show so a wider public could know about this new "SuperMac" given that there had been a TV blackout in the first half of the season.
It was like West Ham had their own George Best at last .But for all the celebrity stuff he kept delivering on the pitch that season and made Scotland's 1986 World Cup squad too. No doubt you have you own views and favourites. Obviously Paolo di Canio was a wonderful signing, so too were Paul Kitson and John Hartson when they saved the side from relegation. But these were mid season before the windows came into force.
As for top summer signings > Well there have been plenty down the years, like Phil Parkes , Clyde Best or John "Budgie" Byrne. I am sure I have missed plenty and Claret and Hugh would love to hear who your top summer signing down the years is. And it is to be hoped there are few to be made soon who come the end of the season could be mentioned in dispatches. But they will have to go along way to rival McAvennie. Sadly on the opening day of the following season Frank was crocked by a horror tackle by Chris Kamara which broke his leg. He recovered but his time at West Ham was no longer as electric especially when boyhood heroes Celtic circled and he moved back to Glasgow. But for me if I have to single out West Ham's best summer signing there is ONE that stands out head and shoulders above the rest : "One McAvennie."

Obiang The Dancing Bear
Just Like My Dreams

It was on a derelict scrub of land in the middle of a housing estate that the young Pedro Mba Obiang Avomo first caught the eye. "He was fourteen years of age and playing in the Alcalá de Henares youth team, his local amateur side in a town about 30 kilometers from Madrid," remembers noted Fifa agent Giovanni Fiore. Scouting for Sampdoria at the time, Fiore sent word back to his Genovese paymasters that he had witnessed a 'dancing bear'; that rare combination of imposing physicality and mesmeric technical skill. "Even at that age he was head and shoulders above all his companions," says Fiore. "He had a great ease of movement and it seemed that he could do the more complicated things without much effort. Then there was his personality. He was already the undisputed reference point of the entire team; a leader his team-mates would always seek out in open play, at free kicks and with corners." As yet blissfully unaware of the burgeoning interest being shown, Obiang- known more familiarly by his nickname Perico (a type of parrot)- has a slightly different recollection of those formative years. "I have strong memories of my early days," he says. "From about the age of twelve I was continually overlooked by the big teams; there were a lot of doors slammed on me." It would be a further two years after Fiore's initial report before the Serie A club with a fast growing reputation as the benchmark for clubs plundering La Liga youth academies would make their move. In that time Obiang had finally attracted the interest of Atletico Madrid, enrolling with the Cadetes despite some initial family reservations. "My father only agreed," admits Obiang, "because he knew it was always my ambition to play for Real Madrid." A tentative step closer to what was still a distant dream but still struggling to make an impression, the young Perico was about to get a break. "When I arrived at Atletico I started as a striker," he explains. "But one of the midfielders got injured and the coach tried me there. Since that day, it became my position. I hated it, and I'm still hating (laughs) but they say I can't change."

August 4, 2008 was the date Obiang insists changed his life. Sampdoria Sporting Director Beppe Marotta and trusted lieutenant Fabio Paratici, responsible for a scouting network that is the envy of Europe, came calling. The pair have worked together for a number of years and although now deploying their collective magic at Juventus, had recently been responsible for, among others, snatching a young Roberto Soriano away from Bayern Munich and Mauro Icardi out of Barcelona. Not that Obiang would use the word 'snatch' in his case. "I would say I was almost discarded," he corrects when he considering the desultory transfer fee of €130,000 the Blucerchiati were asked to pay. "Sampdoria offered me a professional contract," says Obiang, "but also a detailed football project specifically for me." It was, he says, far more than just vague promises and was enough to convince both him and his parents that his style of play was better suited to Italian football than it ever would be in La Liga. Still, at just sixteen- the minimum age that an international transfer within the European Union is allowed- the decision by a young footballer to seek his fortune in another country is a momentous one. "It is actually quite widespread, maybe not in Spain, but in the world," says Obiang. "We tend to think that a home-grown player will have more patience to try and break through, but it is very frustrating when someone from outside will take your chance. It is also true that the player who is bought in has a different value to the club. Besides, in Spain there is far more competition at the younger level than there is in Italy, even if in Italy there is maybe a greater fear of throwing youngsters into the first team."

Life in Genoa was initially hard and the city, in Obiang's own words, was not 'an easy fit'. By his estimation it is a place to be admired rather than enjoyed and the first impression is one of remoteness. "It is created and designed more for its citizens than for tourists," thinks the Spaniard, who lists architectural study as one of his keen interests. In fact, he adds pointedly, it has one of the oldest populations in Europe. "The first trip I made was with my manager, Jose Miguel Gonzalez, and my father to see the facilities and to find out about the sports project," he recalls. "The second trip I did alone. I started living in the residence of Vila Flora with the other youth players and it was quite difficult as it would be for any child who leaves their home and changes country. At first I despaired at not understanding the language. Within two months I said to Jose, 'I want to come back, the Italians speak very fast, and the training runs are long here' (laughs). Then I began to better assimilate the tactical concepts and make friends in the locker room and I began to relax."

Although he arrived as an intended member of the 'Allievi Nazionali' youth squad, in the August of 2008 Obiang was immediately thrown in with the first team for pre-season training. By late January of the following year coach Walter Mazzarri had included him as an unused sub in games against both Lazio and Chievo. The next season, with Mazarri now departed, brought promotion to the Primavera, or reserve squad. Obiang says he was learning quickly but there were some aspects that he initially found difficult. "It was physically and especially tactical," he admits. "At first I tended to 'exaggerate' everything with elaborate flourishes, as is encouraged in Spanish football. In Italy there is very little room for such things. I also suffered a lot of blows and endured much contact. I thought 'you can not give me so many kicks'. Tactically, coaches like you to hold your position, to keep things simple, no heels or tunnels. They removed these things very quickly from my game and when I adapted, I started playing more." While still technically a youth player Obiang would go on to make 7 preseason appearances in the summer of the 2010-11 season, scoring 2 goals. His full debut would follow that September after an injury crisis ripped through the Sampdoria first team. Called off the bench to replace Vladimir Koman by new coach Domenico Di Carlo, and with his side trailing Juventus 2-1, Obiang helped his team to a credible 3-3 draw in the Stadio Olimpico di Torino. On the morning of the game he had put pen to paper on a new 5-year deal. A few months later Obiang made his European bow in a 0-2 Europa League defeat to Hungarian side Debreceni. Although disappointing on the night, it would be the start of what has become an enduring fascination for the travel-loving Spaniard. "I love doing it [European competition] because I consider myself a citizen of the world," enthuses Obiang. "To know and to discover irresistible temptations." It is also the reason he has become a self-confessed 'slave' to the Internet. "It opens the mind and satisfies my curiosity," he says, before revealing that for a recent birthday his friends gave him a computer. Surprisingly for someone known as 'Perico' to his friends he says he is not that inclined to tweet; preferring as he does to communicate with people face-to-face.

Although never establishing himself as a regular in a season that would ultimately end in the pain of relegation for Sampdoria, Obiang's education on and off the pitch was continuing apace. "The Italian practice sessions for the first team are done through repetitions," reveals Obiang. "There are sessions where we would work the same concept for an hour; sometimes it can be an hour video study." It is an idea referred to as 'Omni Particulare Cure' and is centred on preparation through obsessive attention to detail. "When you face a technically superior team," he says, "you have to be superior on a tactical and physical level." Obiang also describes with wonderment the 'thrill' of finding himself lining up next to Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini for the precious few months before they would depart. "I already knew about Antonio from his time at Madrid when I was living there," he states. "When I trained with him, I felt nervous but I also had the desire to want to prove myself." Cassano could be a little 'fussy' always wanting the ball played to his feet, Obiang explains with a smile, but insists all the veterans gave him confidence. "Even though he was very serious during training, at the end Cassano always had a joke and time to talk with me."

That April Obiang, who also holds Equatoguinean passport, earned a Spanish Under 20 call-up for Porto International Tournament. Despite the fact he never made it onto the field it only served to intensify a tug of war between the two countries that has yet to be definitively settled. After all, if Obiang has always identified himself as Spanish (having also represented the country at Under 17, Under 19 and Under 21) things can still get a little complicated when your uncle- Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo- is an African dictator. Once described as 'worse than Mugabe', the man who routinely refers to himself as El Jefe (the boss) is now the world's third longest-ruling non-royal head of state since he ousted his own uncle (Francisco Macias) in a military coup in 1979. Accused of unlawful killings, government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture, corruption, embezzlement and cannibalism, Obiang is understandably cautious when discussing the subject. "I spoke to him only once, when I first said no to the national team," he says. "I know of his life, but I do not judge. In Guinea, when we speak of family we really mean tribe; it is very different from in Italy or Spain. I have two uncles from my mother's side, and on my father's side they are in double figures." He says that he once asked his father to make a list of all his family members and it was 'so long' that most of the names on it he has never met. Obiang also has a cousin, Ruslan, who is 'Secretary of State and Sport' in the African country with direct influence on national team selection. He says he was last approached by the the Guinean Football Federation prior to their hosting of the 2012 edition of the African Cup of Nations, but declined their entreaties on the grounds he could never agree to play for a country on whose land he has never set foot. "Once my parents migrated, they made the decision to never return there before my coming of age," he states. "They still would never leave me alone, even when I was in Italy. Only now, after 25 years, have they returned to visit the country."

Young Pedro remains the only one of his siblings yet to take the trip to Akam-Esandom, the region where his father was born. "Before they would put more pressure on me," he smiles, "but since they see that things are going well for me in football they understand things differently. They know that I travel a lot and need to focus." Part of his ambivalence can be explained thus: "There are things that scare me a little. I see it in pictures, but I only know the things that I have been told. I want to live my own experience, because not everything is always as advertised. Right now, I could go and not know if I would enjoy it. I'm waiting for the right moment, when I have a longer vacation. I wanted to go last summer, but had to cut short my break because of fitness issues." All of which is to suggest Obiang has not fully turned his back on 'his roots'. Recently, he reveals, he got a call from current Equatorial Guinea coach Andoni Goikoetxea, the legendary 'Butcher of Bilbao'. "He spoke to me again about the project," says Obiang, "but I told him we should talk later because my club were in a negative run at the time and I needed to stay focused. To address such an issue requires a lot of quiet thought but I guess I will need to decide soon." There is, of course, a third option available to Obiang. "Never, even if in theory I could play for the Italian national team," he laughs. "I like to defend the causes I believe in. If I chose the blue shirt, it would be like a betrayal."

Obiang would get a chance to fight for Sampdoria's promotion cause in the 2011-12 season following the club's ignominious fall from grace. With several of the big names- including Cassano and Pazzini- jumping ship, new manager Gianluca Atzori was forced to put his faith in young recruits and academy players. The team struggled initially but following yet another change of coach late in the year finally scraped into the playoffs with a sixth place finish. Obiang made a total of 33 league appearances during the campaign, mostly in a purely defensive midfield capacity, and then shone as the team went on an unexpected run through the promotion deciders that saw them upset both Sassuolo and Varese to return to the top flight after just a year. "I had always believed that sooner or later I would play a leading role for a club at the highest level," states Obiang. The following season he was at the heart of Sampdoria's first survival season back in Serie A; his consistently solid performances in the centre of midfield allowing the more creative players such as Andrea Poli and Icardi the freedom to work their magic. Now established as a key player in the side, his form over 34 league appearances would attract the attentions of some of Europe's top clubs; Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City reportedly among those showing interest. "Sampdoria was the ideal club for me to mature and develop my skills," says Obiang when he thinks about the teams rumoured to be looking at him at that time. "But then I also think that dreaming about joining a top club in the future is natural and inevitable." Further evidence of his growing profile was a poll conducted at the end of that 2012-13 season by Inside Spanish Football naming Obiang among their top 15 Spanish youngsters.

As befits a player who started out as a striker, Obiang says that before he came to Italy he was a far more offensive player. Now he had developed into the player he was always meant to be. "I have become a mixture because I had learned a lot of defensive work," he says. "Clearly, I like to get into the penalty area, but now my role is more defensive." Where once he would regularly cite the 'innate elegance' of Zidane as is role-model, now his points of reference are Marcos Senna and Sergio Busquets; to Obiang's eyes the quintessential modern midfielders because they make everything easier through good positioning. "I also love Pirlo because he doesn't just play in front of the defense," he says. "In Italy that player can also control the whole game." For similar reasons he names Xabi Alonso as the player he most admires at the moment. Along with Cruyff and Guti he is the inspiration for why he likes to wear the number 14 on his back. That said, Sam Fribbins, writing for Transfer News Central, thinks there is perhaps an even more apposite comparison to be made with Manchester City's Yaya Touré. "Obiang possesses great stamina and energy enabling him to get around the pitch with ease, especially as a box-to-box midfielder," notes Fribbins. "At the height of 6"2, Obiang can be easily compared to a player such as Touré, since their roles are also fairly similar and both have strong builds, therefore making it hard for any player to push them off the ball." Though larger players, neither are necessarily slow, he observes, and this enables them to make meaningful runs from their own half and well into the opposition's half. Another similar trait is a great passing ability, ranging from little 'one-two's' to the more optimistic medium to long-range passes. This is one reason why the Spanish youth setup regularly employed Obiang as a deep-lying playmaker during his time with the team, since he possesses a good passing ability, as well as being able to closely dribble with the ball. "As well as all this," concludes Fribbins, "Obiang has good tackling ability, again making him a dependable option as a box-to-box player. He is known for his terrific work rate, which is a key attribute for any central midfielder to have. Moreover, his natural fitness is of the highest quality, without sustaining any major injuries throughout his professional career to date."

That latter point would be called into question during the following 2013-14 season when a lingering hernia injury meant Obiang would only feature 27 times. During a stuttering campaign which saw Sampdoria struggling to keep their heads above the relegation places, the Spaniard's meteoric rise temporarily faltered. That November, however, would see the arrival of new manager SiniĊĦa Mihajlovic; the man credited with putting both the club and player back on track. "Mihajlovic kept us under strict control, but it depended on how you reacted to him," reveals Obiang. "In some periods he was serious, and at other times very open." If the midfielder has one criticism of a man he credits as a great influence on his career then maybe, he says, "he takes things too much to heart" before acknowledging "but with him we got great results." The list of people who have played an important part in Obiang's journey is a long one. "The first was my discoverer, Antonio Lozano," he states. "Along with my agent, Jose Miguel, he never let me give up on football. Then I went to Atletico. Felice Tufano also, my first coach in Italy with the youth team. They are the ones who have given me a harder psychological mentality. They were very insistent that you had practiced fully and was always learning. After this the physical training troubled me far less. Now I realize that this is a requirement if you are going to be able to handle the pressure of modern football. Nor do I forget Domenico Di Carlo, who gave me my debut." Aside from Mandela and Obama, who Obiang calls his idols, the rest are what he calls his 'family'. "I need to thank the strength of my mother who convinced me to leave Madrid; the courage of my father the traveler and immigrant; the joy of my sister, who occasionally comes to visit and brings a breath of fresh Spanish air. There is also Samuel Eto'o, symbol of Africa, and then [Alfred] Duncan, [Afriyie] Acquah and [Stefano] Okaka. We feel and treat each other as brothers."

Obiang and his brothers would all play their part in what was to be a momentous return to form for the Blucerchiati in 2014-15. Far from the best set of individuals in the league, their industrious, combative style of play turned them into one of the best teams as they finished an impressive seventh. "It's Samp's level of self-sacrifice and defensive organisation that has been the most impressive aspect of their game," noted Sports Blog Nation's Jack Sargeant. "Unsurprisingly, Mihajlovic emphasised rapid counter-attacks, and urged his team to get the ball forward as soon as they won it back. It was not always pretty, and it lead to them giving the ball away more often than more patient sides, but its success was undeniable." Then there was the fastidious level of training involved. Taking 'Omni Particulare Cure' to extremes, one report from a training session last season tells how the reserves were called upon to replicate Roma's 4-3-3 formation, and for almost an hour the first team practiced winning it back and instantly triggering a counter attack. "There's no doubting that Mihajlovic is an excellent tactician," observed Sargeant. "However, it's not just on the field that the Serb impressed - his press calls continuously provided entertainment. In his introductory press conference, he borrowed heavily from speeches by John F. Kennedy, describing him as "a man whose ideas and words continue to make us dream." He said he'd ask his players "not what Sampdoria can do for them, but what they can do for Sampdoria." A few months later, ahead of a game against Atalanta, he began quoting Dante's epic poem Divine Comedy, urging his players to "push past the Pillars of Hercules." He added that when he arrived at the club, "we were in hell, now we are in purgatory and I want to reach paradise." However, he saved his best literary reference for Samp's trip to Verona, when, in true Shakespearean style, he threatened to "knock Juliet down from the balcony."

The idiosyncratic approach clearly worked for Obiang, whose game over 34 impressive appearances visibly improved again. "He remains neat in possession and loves to get forward, making runs from deep with or without the ball," wrote Unibet's Adam Digby, but now he has added an increased goal threat. According to statistics from, Obiang averaged 3.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game, the former mark (153) bettered by only four players in Serie A. That compares favourably to the likes of Song (2.6), Mark Noble (1.9) and Cheikhou Kouyate (1.8) last season, while Chelsea's Nemanja Matic, for example, only averaged 2.8 successful tackles per 90 minutes. He also had an impressive 82.2 per cent pass completion rate. "Obiang was often deployed to man-mark a visiting playmaker, sticking to the task diligently and showing a good awareness of the game going on around him," notes Digby. "Long shots at both ends have become something of a trademark, the Alcalá native unafraid to either throw himself in the path of an opposition attempt or unleash a powerful effort of his own." At a point when Spain is still in the grip of the tiki-taka generation of shorter and more agile midfielders, Obiang thinks it is an advantage that he clearly provides another option. "Since I've been away from Spain I feel that I can bring something different," he says. "I have a special mark. My brand is the tactical and physical aspect. In Italy the ball goes faster, so tactically the players are better positioned and apply more pressure so I had to work hard to master that facet." Yet if Obiang had learned to add that physical approach to the neat passing he had learned in the Spanish capital then it is clear that he had not forgotten those lessons, as his delightful through ball to Mauro Icardi for a winning goal against Juventus showed. Then there was the composure and man marking skills displayed against AC Milan, specifically the way he effectively neutralized the threat of Boateng and Montolivo; or the long range effort against Inter Milan that Samir Handanovic somehow parried away from the goal.

Although he clearly blossomed under the guidance of Mihajlovic, notes Digby, there was still a hint of a spat between the two men last season; Obiang gaining notoriety for kicking over a water cooler on the touchline after being substituted during a loss to Lazio. "I'm happy because he was angry with the team's performance and not the substitution," the Serbian said at the time. "It's pointless being angry afterwards, as you need to use that fire on the field." In fact, so great is the respect between the two that Obiang became the first black player to ever be named vice captain at the Genoa club. "My responsibilities remained the same," states the Spaniard. "Us younger players must always show that we are ready to take the next step." It was, nonetheless, an important symbolic gesture in a country where acts of discrimination remain an everyday occurrence. Take for example the recent comments by former Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi that there are 'too many black players' at youth level in Italy and that it is evidence that the nation is now 'without dignity or pride'. "I challenge racism," insists Obiang, "but I can also agree with what he said if the criticism is not about skin color, but vocational training. I grew up in football in Italy, did years of school there, enrolled at the University of Genoa to study Political Science. I feel so at home there, that it seems like I am more a foreigner these days when I visit my father and my mother in Madrid." It helps, of course, to have a thick skin. If being likened to a 'dancing bear' is questionable enough, then regularly being referred to as the 'Coconut Hierro' in the written press is problematic in the extreme. He was fortunate, Obiang says, to live in a city that quickly learned to accept him. "I was, at first, wondering why there were so few blacks there," he admits. "Yet the Genoese people are strange. At the beginning they are suspicious but then if you make the effort they will take you in their hearts and there is no more difficulty." It is the reason, he says, the recent horrific footage of the drowning illegal immigrants 60 miles off the Libyan coast hit so hard. "I hated the way those images were portrayed on TV," he sighs. "It creates an unwarranted fear in people. Intolerance is not always racism, it can be ignorance and selfishness. The world has changed and some people are afraid of losing their status quo, their well-being, because someone else is in trouble economically."

Never one to hold back, when Genoa was hit by catastrophic floods last October for the second time in three years, Obiang could be found rolling up his sleeves to help the so-called 'mud angels' in the massive rescue and clean-up operation. Corriere della Sera, Italy's biggest daily newspaper, attacked the government by announcing in its front page headline: 'The mud of Genoa, shame of a country', while the Archbishop of Genoa called for a 'timely and massive' action by the government to resolve the crisis and prevent similar disasters in future. "When your city has been rocked, it is normal to give something back," says Obiang. At times like these his mind casts back to all those who helped him when he first arrived as that bewildered sixteen year old; from the lowly employees in the club office who would give him the money for a taxi back to his digs, to his 'second mother', Mrs. Cristina, who would make him dinner and speak patiently and incessantly to him in Italian long before he was able to respond in kind. By now it is clear that Pedro Obiang is not your average footballer. A self confessed cinephile (I usually go to the movies two or three times a week) and fluent in several languages including English, his nickname in the Sampdoria dressing-room was 'The Intellectual'. "That started with Mihajlovic," he laughs. It was, he says, on account of his glasses and intellectual pursuits. "I study more as a hobby these days because I never have the time to take exams" admits Obiang. "I studied architecture because of my father, although I was always attracted more to psychology. I think I'm good at talking and I am very interested in the personalities of people." So does he believe in the application of psychology to football? "Yes, it has helped," he insists. "When Sampdoria won promotion to Serie A we had a mental coach who though not specifically a psychologist, worked more on the motivation side. It helped me to relax." After all, he says, it is not always easy to carry out a normal life on the one hand and on the other a football life; to juggle two competing and often conflicting set of expectations. Not even for a dancing bear.

Marseille statement confirms Payet deal
Posted by Sean Whetstone on June 25, 2015 in News, Whispers

Marseille appear to be saving face in a PR gesture by publishing a statement on their official website to appease their supporters about the imminent departure of their star player.
"Olympique de Marseille has absolutely no intention to sell his player Dimitri Payet. An agreement was reached in June with Dimitri and his agent. Both sides were in agreement and Dimitri wanted to honour his contract (until 2017)" A statement on the Marseille website reads. "Three days ago, Dimitri's agent requested a new meeting with Vincent Labrune. During this meeting, he announced that his player had opened negotiations with West Ham, saying that the English club offered a big contract for six years, worth €30m." "He asked for a huge and immediate re-evaluation of Payet's contract with Marseille."

"The president expressed his surprise, because negotiations were opened with another club without informing OM. The club declined the demands of Dimitri Payet's agent, agreeing to revise the terms of his contract, but only in mid-July and to reasonable conditions." "The player's agent, refusing this timeline, demanded a quick response from the president, stressing that the English club will be their favoured destination if their demands were not met. "Surprised by this ultimatum, the president decided after a day of reflection to respond favourably to the English bid." "Payet has to decide whether he wants to stay at a club he says he loves and wait until mid-July for a discussion with the president to review his contract, or choose the golden deal that West Ham offered." "Olympique Marseille obviously wants Dimitri choose to stay in Marseille next season"

The statement in French can be found here

West Ham's £14m Dimitri Payet offer is "impossible" to compete with, admits Marseille president
10:34, 25 JUNE 2015
"No-one in France, apart from PSG, can give this to a player. They are asking for the biggest gross salary in the history of Marseille," said Vincent Labrune
The Mirror

Marseille's president has admitted his club cannot compete with the financial power of West Ham for the signing of Dimitri Payet. Vincent Labrune has claimed the Upton Park club have upped their offer every week in the last month to £14m as they bid to sign the playmaker – and offered personal terms more than the French club can afford. And after reluctantly accepting the Hammers' offer, he said the decision now rests with the player and his agents. Labrune told L'Equipe: "You need to know that we don't want to sell Dimitri Payet. "But the player and his agent have been talking to West Ham for a while and they have an offer which we cannot match. Now they have this offer, they want a considerable rise to stay at Marseille. It would mean an €18m (£12.8m) investment for Marseille. "No-one in France, apart from PSG, can give this to a player. They are asking for the biggest gross salary in the history of Marseille "You cannot play in France with the salary of a star of the Premier League. It is impossible for us." The France winger, 28, still has two years left on his contract. The Marseille boss added: "When they tell you that they want the massive offer from the English, what can you do?

Report: West Ham offered Oliver Torres deal, will choose Dimitri Payet instead
Olly Dawes

West Ham will reportedly sign Dimitri Payet despite being offer Atletico youngster Oliver Torres. According to The Sun, West Ham were offered the chance to sign Atletico Madrid youngster Oliver Torres - but will sign Dimitri Payet instead. French midfielder Payet, 28, is set to join the Hammers in a huge £11.5m deal according to The Sun, with new manager Slaven Bilic splashing the cash ahead of the new season. Payet had a great season for Marseille and will provide a creative spark in the final third for West Ham, but reports suggest it could have all been so different. The Sun believe that West Ham were offered Atletico Madrid playmaker Oliver Torres - but the Hammers snubbed the opportunity, and will sign Payet instead. Torres, 20, is a product of the Atletico youth academy, and has earned comparisons to Manchester City's David Silva due to his style of play. This past season, Torres has been out on loan in Portugal with Porto, scoring six goals in 34 games before returning to Atletico this summer. It's unclear whether West Ham were offered Torres permanently, but given how highly-rated he is in Spain, it is more likely that it would be a season-long loan deal - which could be why West Ham would prefer Payet permanently.

Payet - money well spent?

The French international will cost a reported £11.5m, which would make him one of the most expensive signings in West Ham's history. Payet is now 28, and £11.5m is a huge amount of money to pay for someone approaching 30 - and West Ham must be aware that the player will have little resale value in a couple of years time. Payet should have an instant impact at West Ham, but he's far from a player for the future, and the Hammers should consider a younger winger or playmaker as well as Payet this summer.

West Ham confident of Yohan Cabaye & Loïc Rémy deals

According to today's edition of L'Équipe, West Ham United's summer transfer window pillage of French football has only just begun. The London club have made their interest in PSG's Yohan Cabaye and Chelsea's Loïc Rémy crystal clear and are even confident of doing both of these deals at the time of writing. More undoubtedly to follow.

West Ham are about to sign a player more creative than Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard or Cesc Fabregas
09:39, 25 JUNE 2015
Forget Roberto Firmino - the stats say the Hammers may just have made the signing of the summer
The Mirror

The transfer window isn't even officially open yet, and agents across Europe are already doing cartwheels. David De Gea to Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos to Man United, Raheem Sterling to anyone… there are some huge names being linked with huge moves right now. Thanks to all that excitement, you might have missed the news that West Ham are on the verge of completing the £10.7m signing of Dimitri Payet. We know what you're thinking. 'A Marseille forward, signing for a mid-table team? Why should I care about that?'

THIS is why:

Most chances created, top five European leagues, 2014/15
Dimitri Payet (Marseille)
Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Nolito (Celta Vigo)
Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Yes, Payet created an enormous 135 chances for his team last season - more than any other player in England, Spain, Italy, France or Germany.
That's 34 more than Eden Hazard.
That's 40 more than Cesc Fabregas.
That's 40 more than Lionel Messi.

Marseille release statement over Dimitri Payet
In an official press release, Marseille have announced that they have no intention of selling Dimitri Payet, despite agreeing a fee with West Ham.

They had the following to say:

"Marseille makes it clear that it absolutely does not have the intention of selling its player Dimitri Payet. At the beginning of the month of June, an agreement had been found with Dimitri and his agent. The two parties endorsed at this time that the attacking midfielder would honour the final two years of his contract. On the 22nd of June, Dimitri's agent asked for another meeting with President Vincent Labrune. During this meeting, he announced that he and his player had opened negotiations with West Ham, explaining that the English club were offering a 6 year contract worth €30m over this period for the player. Due to this, the agent asked for a colossal and immediate contract extension so that Payet could stay at Marseille. Unable to agree to this demand, Marseille, through the voice of its President, first expressed his surprise that negotiations with another club had been opened without Marseille's agreement."

"The club then pushed back the reckless demands of Dimitri Payet's agent explaining that he had agreed to revise contract conditions of the player but only in mid-July, after Marseille had respected its commitments to the DNCG. The agent, who refuted these claims, asked Vincent Labrune for a quick answer affirming, that if they he didn't, the English offer would be the one that Payet's team looks favourably on. Surprised by this ultimatum, the Marseille President decided after half a day's reflection to respond favourably to the English offer whilst reminding the player of his responsibilities. 1) Wait until mid-July for discussions with the President over a contract renewal or, 2) Take the golden deal from West Ham. Marseille obviously wants Dimitri to decide to stay at Marseille next season."

Bilic describes specific criteria as he looks for new players
Lewis Doe

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has explained what he's looking for in any new signings. West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic told West Ham TV the criteria he will use as he looks to go about improving the squad over the rest of the summer. Bilic has already made a good signing in the form of midfielder Pedro Obiang and has stressed to WHTV that he won't be looking to bring players in unless they are better than the options he already has in that position. "First, we have a good team, second, we can't afford to buy players just for the sake of buying. We are going to try and be active but only if those players are better than the ones we already have," he said.

Is a stubborn approach the best option?

Bilic's stubbornness over transfers does make sense, but the Hammers are under pressure to improve their squad. The club play their first game of the season next Thursday and it's likely to be the first of a very high volume of games over the next 11 months. Bilic needs good options in all positions and he needs to be confident that he can make changes when he starts to spot signs of fatigues in key individuals. It's important he has those options when the higher profile and more difficult games start to come thick and fast.

Where do West Ham need new players?

The Hammers could arguably use a new player at right-back because there's no guarantee they will be able to get Carl Jenkinson back on loan from Arsenal. There's also an arguable need for a new midfielder, who could be needed to replace Alex Song, as well as an extra wide man and another option through the middle of the attack following the exit of Carlton Cole. It all adds up to a lot of cash and hard work for Bilic but hopefully he can rise to the challenge.

Report: West Ham lodge ambitious bid to sign Chelsea outcast Mohamed Salah
Olly Dawes

West Ham are reportedly trying to take Chelsea outcast Mohamed Salah on loan. According to the Daily Mirror, West Ham are set to lodge an ambitious bid to sign Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah on loan this summer. The Hammers have brought in two signings so far this summer, landing Birmingham City goalkeeper Darren Randolph and Sampdoria midfielder Pedro Obiang. Reports from the Daily Mail suggest that West Ham are on the verge of signing Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet, but new manager Slaven Bilic is reportedly seeking another attacking addition. The Mirror believe that West Ham will lodge an audacious bid to take Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah on loan for next season, with a view to signing him permanently. The Egyptian wide man, 23, was sent out on loan to Fiorentina in January having struggled for first team football under Jose Mourinho, but he dazzled in Italy. With nine goals in 26 games for the Serie A side, Salah proved how effective he can be - and it seems West Ham were suitably impressed with his performances, with a bid lodged according to reports.

Can West Ham really land Salah?

It's certainly an ambitious move from West Ham to pursue Salah, with bigger clubs no doubt interested after his Inter Milan performances. Chelsea boss Mourinho would probably rather send him abroad, but with Europa League football, West Ham certainly stand a chance of signing Salah on loan if the player wants to remain in the Premier League. A permanent deal seems unlikely, but West Ham saw great performances from Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson last season, meaning they could well go back to the loan market for reinforcements this summer.

Reece Burke suggests Hammers haven't changed despite new manager
Lewis Doe

/West Ham United youngster Reece Burke feels there is a feeling of continuity despite a managerial change at the club. West Ham United youngster Reece Burke has told the club's website that he's feeling fresh after returning to pre-season training with the Hammers. The club don't have too long to wait before their first game of the season next week, as they take on FC Lusitans as they look to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League. It's an exciting opportunity for the Hammers and Burke is one player who could feature for new manager Slaven Bilic, taking charge of his first game at Upton Park. "It's really good to be back on the training pitch - The legs were a little tired after that first session, but I felt fresh on Tuesday and am feeling good [for pre-season]," he told "We've only had a little break but I think that's good for us. Being back now rather than having a long period of time not getting the football in, it just feels the same."

Does the first game come too soon?

There is an argument which exists suggesting that the game next Thursday could catch West Ham's players off guard in terms of preparations. However, Bilic will back the quality he already has in the squad and will back each player to win his individual battle against their Andorran opponents. It would be a much more precarious situation for the Hammers than would have been the case, had they been coming up against a much tougher opponent. Burke is right to suggest that continuity is important for the Hammers because the side is much more likely to play well with familiarity and feeling comfortable. However, changes are needed looking back to the end of last season, because the team did look flat at times towards the end of the campaign under old boss Sam Allardyce. Bilic should ensure that there's a greater sense of urgency with the game next week, which is also an early chance for any first team squad member to impress him.

Let's Hear It For The Boy: Sebastian Lletget proving to be the real deal for the LA Galaxy
Lletget has scored four goals in his last four games for LA
JUNE 25, 2015
Larry Morgan

CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena knew he was getting a talented player when he signed Sebastian Lletget in early May 8 and was confident he would help solidify his midfield.
But this is ridiculous. The 22-year-old, who last month joined the Galaxy from West Ham United, has four goals in six matches across all competitions, including a goal in Wednesday's impressive 5-0 romp over the Portland Timbers in front of 21,207 at StubHub Center. "Bruce has given me a chance and I'm just doing what I think I can do," he said after the game.
Lletget has been nothing short of sensational since he joined the defending MLS Cup champions, but it was definitely a work in progress Lletget made his debut with the English Premier League side in an FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest last year, but that was it for first-team appearances. Lletget then trained with the Galaxy during their preseason tour of Sweden and Ireland and officially joined the club on May 8.

Lletget made his first start with LA on June 13 in Columbus – he also scored his first goal in that game – and has been a force since. He scored in the 13th minute Wednesday after a fortuitous deflection on a pass from Dan Gargan and then was pushed down from behind by the Timbers' Maximiliano Urruti in the penalty area five minutes later. Robbie Keane scored on the ensuing kick for a 2-0 lead and the rout was on. It was a very good performance," Arena said of Lletget. "In the early minutes of the game was our best player. He made a bunch of good plays and then ultimately got the first goal."

Lletget said his goal simply was being in the right place at the right time. "I was just waiting for it. I think everything was timing," he said. "I knew the cross was coming, then it was just getting the ball and finishing. "It wasn't easy. With those you have to have a good connection and hit it toward the goal, and luckily it went in." The Bay Area native estimated he'll have as many as 50 tickets waiting for family and friends for Saturday's clash with the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium – "It's ridiculous," he said with a grin – and said he finally feels comfortable in his new surroundings. But he admitted it took a while. "I think the way Bruce managed it … bringing me in slowly, coming on as a sub," he said. "Then starting against Columbus was good, especially with the goal. It was a good way to start with this team. I felt confident; I just hope to keep it going."

The Galaxy's Robbie Keane, who had a goal and two assists Wednesday, has been impressed with the newcomer. "He's got some quality," Keane said. "He's young, he's been great and he's scored a few goals, which is very important to us. He continues to do that and listens to experienced players and know when to run at people, take on people … just keep it simple. "Already he's been a big addition."

Report: Everton attempted hijack bid for West Ham's expected new signing Dimitri Payet
Tom Thorogood

West Ham United are closing in on a deal for Dimitri Payet. According to reports in The Sun, West Ham United will tie up a deal for Marseille's Dimitri Payet over the next 24 hours despite a late bid from fellow Premier League side Everton. The 28-year-old winger has been linked with a move to the Hammers for much of the summer following an impressive campaign in the French top-flight. As per The Sun, Payet is flying in for a medical with the Hammers after agreeing to a five-year, £65,000-a-week deal following an accepted bid in the region of £11.5 million.
The expected arrival of Payet represents a real coup for the East London outfit, but one which has seemingly swung back and forth with fresh reports claiming Everton made a late offer.
"Dimitri Payet will join West Ham today for around £11.5 million after snubbing Everton. The French international, 28, opted for the Hammers despite a late bid from Toffees boss Roberto Martinez," the report claims.

What can Hammers supporters expect?

Payet can be described as a gifted attacking player who is able to play in a range of positions off the main striker, though he was largely deployed as a winger last term. He played 35 French top-flight matches last season, racking up an incredible 17 assists and averaging 1.8 successful take-ons and 3.7 key passes per match. Clearly comfortable with the ball and blessed with an eye for key passes in the final third, Payet will be a key player in helping the Hammers adjust from their previous direct style into a team that utilises short passing.

Charlie Austin fears £15m price-tag is putting off potential buyers
Queens Park Rangers goalscorer will plead with club bosses to cut his transfer fee as he fears being priced out of a move from relegated Londoners
By Matt Law10:30PM BST 24 Jun 2015

Charlie Austin will plead with Queens Park Rangers to drop their £15 million asking price for him if it continues to put off potential buyers. QPR are yet to receive a single official bid for Austin this summer, even though a number of Premier League clubs are desperate for new strikers. Newcastle United have shown the most interest in the striker so far, but value him closer to £10m. Austin had hoped Southampton, West Ham United and evenTottenham Hotspur might offer him a route back to the top flight, but none of those clubs have made an inquiry at this stage. While it is still early in the summer, Austin is keen to get his future resolved in plenty of time for the start of the new season, on Aug 8. There is also the worry that he will start to run out of options if clubs pursue different targets while his asking price remains at £15m. Austin scored 18 goals in his first season in the Premier League and earned a call-up to Roy Hodgson's last England squad. With only Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Diego Costa ahead of Austin in last season's Premier League scoring chart, QPR believe their valuation of Austin is fair. Aguero, Kane and Costa would all fetch well over £30m, while Aston Villa are demanding £32.5m for Christian Benteke, who scored five fewer goals than Austin. QPR signed Austin for £4m from Burnley two years ago and his Loftus Road contract only has one year left to run. Chelsea have been linked with a move to make Austin their third-choice striker if Loic Remy leaves, but the player's former QPR manager, Harry Redknapp, has urged him to join Newcastle if a fee can be agreed. "A move to Newcastle would be the best one for Charlie Austin," said Redknapp, writing for social network site Kicca. "He's rumoured to be on Chelsea's radar as well but, no disrespect to him, he won't make their starting line-up. They only play one up front and he's not going to replace Diego Costa. "He's 25 and he's scored some good goals, and I think Newcastle would be a good move for him and a good challenge. He's a good lad and knows Steve McClaren from when Steve was at QPR, and I reckon he'll do well at Newcastle."
QPR have confirmed that assistant-manager Kevin Bond will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of this month. Bond joined QPR as part of Redknapp's backroom staff in 2012, but Chris Ramsey has since taken over as manager. A QPR statement read: "Kevin Bond will leave QPR when his contract expires at the end of this month. The 58 year-old, who joined Rangers as part of former manager Harry Redknapp's backroom team in November 2012, will depart when his current deal concludes on June 30. "The club would like to place on the record its thanks to Kevin for his services to QPR and wish him well for the future. A further announcement regarding Chris Ramsey's backroom team will be made in due course."

Marseille & West Ham finalise agreement for Dimitri Payet

According to La Provence, Marseille and West Ham have just dotted the i's and crossed the t's on a deal for the transfer of Dimitri Payet. The player joins for €15m excluding bonuses and is expected in London tomorrow morning, currently on a flight from Mauritius to London as we speak. A deal should be wrapped on Thursday, but it is clear that Marseille have given up in trying to keep the player by offering him a good contract extension. The only way this deal collapses is if the player has a change of heart despite no decent contract extension offer from Marseille.

helsea transfers: West Ham launch Mohamed Salah loan move
22:30, 24 JUNE 2015
Egyptian winger who is surplus to requirements at the champions scored nine goals in 26 games last season after being farmed out at Fiorentina
The Mirror

West Ham have launched an audacious bid to sign Mohamed Salah from Chelsea. The east Londoners have asked to loan the £17million-rated Egypt international with an option to buy. It comes with the Hammers closing in on a £17m swoop for another attacker, Marseille's Dimitri Payet. Salah, 23, has just had an impressive loan spell at Fiorentina after a January deal which saw Colombian Juan Cuadrado move to Stamford Bridge from the Italians. Although Cuadrado has struggled to settle in London, Chelsea maintain there is a future for him. Salah, however, is surplus to requirements. He is now set to decide, in conjunction with Blues chiefs, whether he wants to remain in Italy, move to a club in Spain or return to the Premier League with another team to play on a more regular basis. Although a number of bigger clubs have expressed an interest, Mirror Sport understands West Ham's approach has not been dismissed. Salah scored nine goals in 26 appearances for Fiorentina and helped to knock Spurs out of the Europa League in February. He is among a number of high-calibre stars targeted by West Ham - set to move into the Olympic Stadium next year - as they look to overhaul the side for new boss Slaven Bilic. They are confident of landing Payet, 28, on a five-year deal with an option for a sixth despite a new contract offer for the player from his club.

Sunderland are mulling over a new bid for Stewart Downing, ChronicleLive understands
06:30, 25 JUNE 2015
Sunderland could improve their offer for Stewart Downing but sources suggest the player is keen to stay at West Ham

Sunderland are weighing up an improved, £7 million offer for Stewart Downing, The Chronicle understands. However, sources in London suggest the 30-year-old looks likely to stay at West Ham United - despite their move for Olympique Marseille winger Dimitri Payet. Reports claimed the Black Cats had had a £5 million bid for Downing rejected by the Hammers. Dick Advocaat and sporting director Lee Congerton are determined to overhaul a squad which avoided relegation from the Premier League only in the final week of last season. Middlesbrough-born Downing started his career at his hometown club but came to prominence at the Riverside only after a seven-game loan spell on Wearside in 2003, when he scored three goals. Following stints at Aston Villa and Liverpool, he joined West Ham in a £5 million deal in August 2013 and has two years left on his current contract. Yet despite Downing producing some of the best performances of his career last term, particularly when deployed as a No 10, new Hammers manager Slaven Bilic is understood to be keen to cash in on the England international - but only at the right price. That could tempt an improved offer from Sunderland, especially as West Ham seem increasingly confident of luring Payet to the Boleyn Ground in a £15 million switch from cash-strapped Marseille.
Jack Sullivan, the son of co-chairman David Sullivan, said: "We hope to announce a very large eight-figure deal within five days." A deal for the 28-year-old - who has 14 senior caps for France - does appear imminent. Whether Payet's arrival sparks Downing's departure, however, remains to be seen, London sources indicating a willingness on the player's part to stay and fight for his place. Meanwhile, the agent of Georginio Wijnaldum has explained Sunderland's pursuit of the PSV Eindhoven midfielder cooled due to the absence of a buy-out clause in the player's contract. Reports had claimed the Wearside outfit were offering £11 million for the Dutchman, who has also been linked with Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham and Zenit St Petersburg. However, the 24-year-old's agent Humphrey Nijman has said Sunderland's interest extended only to an enquiry about Wijnaldum's availability.

Are West Ham not interested in signing Serie A duo Mattia Destro and Zdravko Kuzmanovic?
Damien Lucas

West Ham United are not interested in signing Roma's Mattia Destro or Inter Milan's Zdravko Kuzmanovic, according to a source published by the club's website. The Hammers are being linked with a host of players at home and abroad as they bid to strengthen their squad for a new era under Slaven Bilic. The Premier League side could be facing a long season due to their involvement in the Europa League which could add as many as 23 games to their fixture schedule. The East Londoners know they must have a big squad and have already signed goalkeeper Darren Randolph from Birmingham City and Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang from Italian side Sampdoria. But they won't be returning to Serie A for Destro and Kuzmanovic according to a club source dubbed 'The Boleyn Insider' who has their own blog on West Ham's official website. In the source's latest column - which promises to 'bring you exclusive insight into the behind-the-scenes goings on at the Boleyn Ground' - the Insider claims reports in the likes of The Mirror and The Express are wide of the mark. The source said: "West Ham have also been linked with a move for Inter Milan midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic who has also attracted interest from other Premier League clubs. "But my sources have told me that the east London club were never in the market to sign the Serbia international."

And on reports of a bid for striker Destro, the source added: "I believe that is just speculation and the club will continue to work hard in their attempts to strengthen the squad."
Kuzmanovic, who is also said to be interesting Watford, first made his name at FC Basel before moves to Fiorentina, Stuttgart and Inter in 2013. The 27-year-old has played 242 games in his club career, scoring 24 goals from midfield. He has also got 50 caps for his country and six goals in the national shirt. However, he has not established himself as a key player at the San Siro and has never played more than 15 games in his three seasons there so far. Destro at 24 has lots of potential and has scored 41 goals in 117 club games so far for the likes of Roma and last season on loan at AC Milan. The Italy international has eight caps and was the subject of intense transfer speculation last year being heavily linked with moves to West Ham's London rivals Chelsea and Real Madrid. Destro is famous in Italy for an outrageous 40-yard half-volley in a 2-0 victory over Hellas Verona. It could be telling though that Roma were willing to loan him out to a rival last season.


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