West Ham in for Ljungberg as Arsenal line up Dutch star
Tuesday 09 January 2007
West Ham United last night made an audacious bid to sign Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg. No fee has been discussed so far for the 29-year-old Swedish international, although Arsenal do appear prepared to sell him and West Ham have the funds available.
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has lined up Ajax's Dutch international left winger Ryan Babel as Ljungberg's replacement. The 20-year-old is keen to join Arsenal although no deal will be done before the end of the season as Wenger wants to look at other targets. Babel was recently described by the Netherlands coach, Marco van Basten, as having the potential to be the "new Thierry Henry".
If West Ham sign Ljungberg, they will shelve their interest in Shaun Wright-Phillips, who remains reluctant to move to Upton Park despite a £10m bid being lodged, with the winger also offered the same £50,000-a-week wages he earns at Chelsea. Indeed, it is thought that the bid is now close to collapse.
West Ham are confident that they will also be able to match Ljungberg's personal terms - which means he could earn an astonishing £70,000 a week - but although the midfielder is keen to stay in the Premiership, they are unsure if he will want to join a relegation-threatened club.
It is likely that Ljungberg, who is now captain of the Swedish national team, may insist on an exit clause should West Ham be relegated. West Ham could also try to revive Arsenal's interest in their midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, who wants to leave the club after a traumatic season, and offer him in a possible swap deal.
Wenger was interested in signing Reo-Coker last summer as was Sir Alex Ferguson. It is thought that he has cooled on the player since but is still looking for young central midfield talent which would raise question marks over the future of Gilberto Silva as well as Ljungberg. Arsenal have also, in the past, shown interest in Yossi Benayoun although West Ham are adamant they want to recruit players not sell them.
Ljungberg, who has two years left on his contract at the Emirates Stadium, joined Arsenal in 1998 for £3m from the Swedish club Halmstad and has been a key member of Wenger's squad. However, the signings of Alexander Hleb and Tomas Rosicky have limited his opportunities this season and, although he had a fine Champions' League campaign last season, it is believed he is not central to Wenger's plans.
If West Ham manage to sign Ljungberg, it would represent a huge coup. They also believe it will help them in their attempts to secure their other transfer targets.
West Ham's potential bid for Ljungberg once again shows the determination and ambition of the Icelandic consortium which took control of the club last autumn. The chairman, Eggert Magnusson, promised that money would be spent in the transfer window and West Ham have been busy lining up a number of targets. They have already signed Luis Boa Morte from Fulham for £5m and last night completed a move for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Nigel Quashie. The 28-year-old Scottish international has joined on a three-and-a-half-year deal for an initial £1.5m with a further £250,000 payable if West Ham avoid relegation. He may start against Fulham on Saturday.
West Ham are also in the hunt for Alexei Smertin, who is set to leave Dynamo Moscow. They also want Bolton Wanderers defender Talal Ben Haim, although his advisers may still try to secure a move to Chelsea, and they have not given up hope of signing Middlesbrough's Mark Viduka.
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