Barcelona sound out James as Hammers reject bid for Cole

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The Independent Football

David James is a surprise £2m target for Barcelona and could secure a move from West Ham United in the next few weeks.

The signing will come off if the Barça coach, Raddy Antic, keeps his job at the end of the Spanish season. Antic has made contact with the England goalkeeper's advisers in the past few days to register his interest and the country's new No 1 is thought to be eager to take the opportunity.

James's performances in the Premiership have attracted Antic, a former Luton Town player who took over from Louis van Gaal in mid-season. But both James's fate and Antic's future are out of their hands in the close season, when the Barça presidential elections are held.

If Antic is backed by the club then James will be the keeper of his choice and the move from Upton Park can go ahead. But the vote is still uncertain and Antic will not know whether he is in charge on a permanent basis until next month, leaving James to sweat on the move.

Signing a new keeper is seen as a priority at Barcelona, with one of the presidential candidates claiming he can deliver Real Madrid's Iker Casillas in a potential vote-catcher.

Meanwhile, West Ham have turned down Chelsea's £5m bid for Joe Cole, signalling the the start of what threatens to be a bitter transfer fight. The Hammers' chairman, Terry Brown, yesterday confirmed the report that Chelsea, who have released Jody Morris and Ed de Goey, had tabled a low opening offer for their captain and playmaker. Brown told shareholders at the club's EGM that he had turned down the offer as "derisory".

Chelsea's approach was an attempt to test West Ham's resolve over Cole following their financially crippling relegation from the Premiership. However, the Hammers are trying to hold on to the England international - and most of their best players - in the hope of a swift return to the top flight.

Brown had to admit the story was true and West Ham fans, who blame the chairman for much of the club's current state, will watch developments with interest. Chelsea are expected to make another bid, but they are unlikely to go much beyond £7m or an exchange deal worth that much.

The Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, wants a player of Cole's imagination in his team. He is also under some pressure to buy British, but there are alternatives. Blackburn's David Dunn is a possibility, valued at around £5m if the money is up front. A bigger bid, based on instalments, was made by Birmingham City only to be rejected.

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