'I brokered West Ham deal,' says Zahavi

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The businessman who delivered Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to West Ham for nothing last week told The Independent yesterday that his personal fortune would allow him to buy a Premiership club on his own with no outside help.

Kia Joorabchian, 35, made his claim as further details emerged about the Argentines' move and as speculation increased over the identities of the unnamed parties who are in "exploratory talks" about a takeover.

According to Pini Zahavi - a friend of Joorabchian and the agent who brokered the players' move to West Ham - Tevez and Mascherano have each signed five-year deals, and were advised to do so by him. West Ham paid no transfer fees.

"I'm the one who told them to go to West Ham," Zahavi told The Independent. "It's the best thing for them at this stage of their career, for them to stay together and play for the same team and not to have the pressure of being at a big club. Foreign players need time to adjust and are not always well treated.

"Secondly West Ham play good, attacking football and the crowd will love the two players. They will be heroes. They will be looked after, they will be made to feel welcome."

Zahavi denied that the players were hawked around to other clubs and then only placed with West Ham when other clubs would not agree to certain contractual demands, such as the pair appearing in every match.

"We looked at other clubs - Chelsea, Arsenal, Milan, Juventus - but the only club we [actually] spoke to was West Ham," Zahavi said. "You need to speak to West Ham about what the [contractual] arrangements are."

West Ham denied yesterday that Alan Pardew is obliged to play them in every game. Joorabchian said that anyone who offered the players to other clubs - such as Manchester United, who were offered Mascherano last week - did so with no authority.

Zahavi said that the arrival of the South Americans, who are owned and controlled by Joorabchian and/or his unnamed backers (Joorabchian has declined to discuss the details) had nothing to do with a potential takeover at Upton Park. Zahavi said he had no role in any takeover.

It is understood that Joorabchian wants to buy West Ham, and indeed he had lengthy - and failed - negotiations to explore doing so last year.

Under stock market rules, he cannot discuss the subject. He also played down reports that he is a small-time, unsuccessful businessman. "If necessary, I could finance the purchase of a Premier League football club on my own," he said. He claims he has substantial assets in various private investments. He says he no longer has any ties at all to Media Sport Investment, the company he co-founded in 2004. He is now seeking backing for future football-related ventures from a group of Middle Eastern businessmen.

There has been speculation that Joorabchian is backed by the exiled Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky and/or the Georgian multimillionaire, Badri Patarkatsishvili, who also have business links with each other. Joorabchian denies this is the case.

Patarkatsishvili said yesterday: "Reports about my plans to buy West Ham are not true. I'm just close to people who are thinking about buying this club. I know these people for a long time. Even if I wished to buy it [West Ham], I would not be able to as I own Dynamo [Tbilisi] and, according to Fifa rules, this would be prohibited."