Zola bids £10m for German starlet
West Ham United are closing in on a record £10m fee to sign Brescia's German striker Savio Nsereko as they move quickly to bolster their squad following the departure yesterday of Craig Bellamy to Manchester City for £14m, with the club vowing never to sell one of their leading players to Tottenham Hotspur ever again.
The scale of the deal for Savio will cause some surprise, given that he is only 19 and is currently playing in Serie B, but he is highly rated by the West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola and technical director Gianluca Nani, who was previously at Brescia. The fee beats the previous club record, of £7.5m, paid for Bellamy in July 2007.
West Ham have also been in talks to take another young striker, 23-year-old Daniel Pablo Osvaldo, on loan from Fiorentina until the end of the season, with an option to acquire the former Italian Under-21 international, who was born in Argentina, for around £7m in the summer. He has worked with Zola previously.
West Ham face competition to sign both players, mainly from Italy, but hope to conclude deals in the next 48 hours. They decided to move for Savio and Osvaldo after also considering Mario Balotelli, who is unsettled at Internazionale, and Giampaolo Pazzini before he moved from Fiorentina to Sampdoria earlier this month.
West Ham have acted after striking a deal to sell Bellamy to Manchester City for a fee that could rise to just under £14m. The 29-year-old travelled to Manchester on Sunday evening and underwent a medical yesterday after agreeing personal terms.
City will be Bellamy's eighth club and his departure from West Ham has been acrimonious after he demanded a move to Tottenham Hotspur and was left out of the squad for Sunday's victory over Fulham.
West Ham, who rejected six bids from Spurs and City for Bellamy, then received a final offer from Tottenham of £13m on Sunday evening but also knocked that back because the club had decided it would not allow the player to move to White Hart Lane. Scott Duxbury, West Ham's chief executive, told The Independent yesterday: "I'll go on record and say I want to avoid selling any of our best players to Tottenham ever again. I don't want to. Why should I? They are our local rivals. It would be a slap in the face for our fans. I want to finish above Tottenham. We did it last year and want to do it this year and every single year. It's nothing against Tottenham."
West Ham had valued Bellamy at £15m but agreed a deal slightly below that to ensure they could get replacements in as quickly as possible and after it became apparent that it would be impossible for the Welsh international to play for them again. Contrary to claims, Bellamy did not refuse to play on Sunday, but was excused from duty, and training, because he said his "head was not right" to be included.
West Ham will hope that by agreeing deals for the two young attacking players they are fulfilling their promise to Zola that funds raised by selling one of their star players, beyond a list of fringe candidates such as Matthew Etherington and others for sale including Calum Davenport and Luis Boa Morte, will be reinvested in the team.
The scale of the Savio deal also demonstrates, West Ham hope, that they are not in a financial crisis and, following the arrival of Valon Behrami and Herita Ilunga last summer, are building for the future with a more imaginative, widespread scouting network.
Savio, in particular, is an interesting target. Born in Uganda, he started his career in Germany with 1860 Munich and came to prominence playing for the German Under-19 team, where he was player of the tournament in last summer's European Championship. He has previously caught the eye of Liverpool and Napoli while West Ham have been concerned that recent interest shown in Savio by Milan could scupper their proposed deal.
West Ham also hope to open contract talks this week with Scott Parker, who was also the subject of a bid at the start of the transfer window from manchester City when they offered £15m for the midfielder and Bellamy. In the end, City have been forced to pay close to that fee for Bellamy alone.
West Ham have, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that they are interested in signing Cardiff City's Joe Ledley, who is, nevertheless, attracting interest from a host of Premier League clubs and may be sold this month.
Fab Sav: Vital Stats
*Born 27 July 1989, Kampala, Uganda.
2004-05 1860 Munich (youth).
*Early form interested Liverpool.
*Has played for German Under-19s.
*Voted best player at European Under-19 Ch'ship.