Football: West Ham capture Hartson for pounds 5m

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The Independent Online
West Ham United, fighting to preserve their Premiership status, signed John Hartson from Arsenal for pounds 5m yesterday.

They offered the Welsh international striker a five-year contract 10 days after signing Paul Kitson from Newcastle United for pounds 2.3m. Both make their debuts at Derby County today.

Peter Storrie, the Hammers managing director, had promised West Ham supporters another player who would be able to "spin off" Kitson. The spin-off for Hartson was another nice little earner. Given that players can usually expect to collect 5 per cent of their transfer value as a signing on fee, he should have been looking at adding another pounds 250,000 to the pounds 125,000 generated when George Graham spent pounds 2.5m to sign him from Luton Town two years ago.

Hartson, described by his new manager, Harry Redknapp, as "the centre- forward for this club way into the foreseeable future" needed little persuading to move, having played second fiddle to the Bergkamp-Wright partnership.

"Although I enjoyed it at Highbury and learned a lot, I can't really say I am sorry to leave. My time there was a bit up and down," said Hartson, who has scored four goals in 18 starts this season.

He added that West Ham, who have linked the fee to appearance and goals, have a "great future" and can stay up. "I know it's down to me to get the goals to make it happen."

West Ham's previous record fee was pounds 2.4m for the Romanian striker Florin Raducioiu, who has since returned to Espanyol, Barcelona's other club.

Although England fans will not thank him for it, Chelsea's Ruud Gullit is to make another bid for the Italian captain, Paolo Maldini. Gullit was quoted a world record pounds 17m by Milan a month ago, but he believes that recent acquisitions have left Milan with a top-heavy squad.

"If that's the money they're still talking about it's out of the question," said a cautious Gullit, who will broach the subject when Chelsea visit Milan in a friendly next week.

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