West Ham United came out fighting yesterday by accusing Anton Ferdinand of forcing his £7m sale to Sunderland by demanding more than £50,000 a week in wages.
The deal was due to be completed last night after the central defender underwent a medical and agreed personal terms.
Contract talks at Upton Park with the 23-year-old defender broke down irretrievably earlier this month, with sources at West Ham citing his excessive wage demands – more than double his present deal – as the primary reason for the collapse.
It was pointed out to Ferdinand that he was not a first-team regular, given his injury record and the competition at the club, and was not in a position to make such demands. Nevertheless, West Ham had offered Ferdinand around £35,000 a week which, in itself, represented a significant hike in his present wages.
It was then, according to the club, that he pushed for a transfer and a deal was struck with Sunderland, having initially agreed a similar fee with Newcastle United.
West Ham have also been angered by suggestions, partly fuelled by Alan Curbishley himself, that the manager has not been fully involved in transfer dealings this summer. Before last weekend Curbishley spoke of his desire to keep Ferdinand although, following the dispiriting 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, he was forced to concede that a fee had been agreed with Sunderland for the player.
It is understood that Curbishley is, nevertheless, concerned by West Ham's transfer dealings and does not want to sell any more players. He is worried that he will be left with a squad ill-equipped to meet the demands of the board, and more specifically the owner, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, that they finish comfortably within the top 10 in the league this season. It has intensified claims that Curbishley will be the first Premier League manager sacked this season.
West Ham were, once again, yesterday forced to issue a firm denial that they were going to sell the striker Craig Bellamy to Manchester City for £8m. The Welsh international is certainly wanted by City, whose manager, Mark Hughes, is a fan of the player, but West Ham insist they will not sell. It is also understood that Bellamy, who signed from Liverpool only last summer, has no desire to leave West Ham.
Yesterday, West Ham's chief executive, Scott Duxbury, issued a statement. It read: "West Ham United have absolutely no intention to sell Craig Bellamy. He is under contract and is committed to the club. Craig remains a very important part of our plans for the future."
Duxbury also alluded to Ferdinand's behaviour. He said: "The club is being run on sound football and business principles in order to develop a squad which can deliver success this season. No player would be bought or sold unless that helped to achieve that aim.
"We are not interested in selling players who are committed to the club and essential to the first-team squad. If a player refuses to sign a new contract or is not crucial to the manager's plans then we will look to offers on a case-by-case basis. It is the only sensible way to build for the future."
The club insist that after Ferdinand's departure they do not expect any more high-profile sales – having already parted with Freddie Ljungberg and Bobby Zamora – before the transfer window closes next week. There are several fringe players up for sale, such as the midfielder Nigel Quashie, but all the moves have been agreed with Curbishley at a recent board meeting. The club strongly rejects any suggestions that they want to sell defender Matthew Upson, for example.
West Ham have also rejected claims that they are feeling the pinch more than other clubs because of previous over-spending by former chairman Eggert Magnusson and the credit crunch that has, in particular, hit the Icelandic financial sector. However, they do accept that they need to balance the books, given the expensive contracts that Magnusson negotiated during his chaotic regime.
Although they are attempting to make two signings before the window closes, West Ham want to make both loan deals with a view to a permanent transfer. The club's technical director, Gianluca Nani, has identified the Marseilles defender Gael Givet and the Paris St-Germain striker Peguy Luyindula as additions to the squads. Both French clubs would, however, prefer to negotiate permanent deals.