A deal that is extraordinary in every way

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The Independent Online

The biggest transfer sting of this window, and perhaps any other, was delivered to West Ham supporters over their breakfast this morning like some kind of football miracle. The acquisitions of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano for a club whose original summer targets were the rather more modest Steed Malbranque and Damien Johnson were delivered like a gift from the football gods.

For a club whose supporters are notoriously demanding, where every man, woman and child considers themselves defenders of the great tradition of "the Academy" the delight will be mixed with disbelief and not a little scepticism.

How did Argentina's two most promising players, both of them variously linked with lucrative moves to Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, end up in a Docklands hotel in east London yesterday awaiting their Home Office work permits?

The pair have been the most coveted players in this summer's transfer window. A defensive midfielder, Mascherano was Sir Alex Ferguson's first choice to fill the void left by Roy Keane; Jose Mourinho travelled to Brazil at the end of last season to watch Tevez play for Corinthians. But yesterday both players had been signed on what were described as "permanent deals" at Upton Park.

The train of events that led to their arrival begins in December 2004 when an Iranian financier with a British and a Canadian passport struck a deal with the Brazilian club Corinthians: he would invest £50m in the club over the next two and a half years for 51 per cent of profits. His name is Kia Joorabchian, 34, who is registered at Companies House with two separate birth dates and as a director of eight companies.

Joorabchian is poised to become one of the most famous names among the powerbrokers of English football. He already is in São Paulo where, as a driving force, he paid £11.2m to acquire Tevez from Boca Juniors and a further £8m to buy Mascherano from River Plate. Yesterday it was still unclear whether it was Joorabchian who was the owner, rather than Corinthians, of the two players' registrations, although the club did confirm that he was acting as their agent and negotiating the deal in London.

So why West Ham when the very best in the Premiership were interested? There is little doubt at Upton Park that these two stars are not planning to stay long. The club fully expect them to make the most of their opportunity to convince the biggest clubs in the Premiership - and Europe - that they are worth investing in.

There is no doubt that the move to Upton Park is a platform for the big money transfer that those involved hope will take place next summer. West Ham have denied that Joorabchian is interested in investing in their club although it is unclear whether that is in fact the case. He has been linked with such a move in the past.

The deal was negotiated with very few at West Ham in the loop - it is understood the chairman, Terry Brown, and managing director, Paul Aldridge, were the only men in the know until yesterday, although another individual who played a key role was Pini Zahavi. The Israeli agent, whose influence over English football has grown remarkably over the last 10 years, was at Upton Park yesterday with Joorabchian.

Unlike Zahavi, Joorabchian is understood not to be involved any longer with Media Sports Investments, a company that has handled a number of major transfers. However, Zahavi, who is closely linked to Alexandre Gaydamak's regime at Portsmouth, will have been central to advising where the two players went.

Tevez and Mascherano, who will be presented to the media on Tuesday, have not left Corinthians on good terms. Tevez left without permission for Buenos Aires shortly after playing what now seems to have been his last game for the club on 22 August. Mascherano was sent off against Gremio on Sunday and there have been allegations that he did so deliberately to get a suspension that would release him for international duty.

Both are now in London with the Argentina squad for the match against Brazil at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and while West Ham may not be a famous name in Argentina it is unlikely that either player is concerned. Their European journey is just beginning.

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