West Ham £7m Ashton deal in the balance

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The Independent Football

West Ham United were last night waiting to hear whether they have been successful in a £7m bid for the Norwich City striker Dean Ashton. The Premiership club are, however, closing in on a loan deal for Barcelona's 26-year-old midfielder, Gabri.

West Ham have long tracked Ashton and are understood to have submitted several offers for the 22-year-old before finally meeting Norwich's apparent valuation. However, they now fear that the Championship club will not sell at any price and that the deal may be dead. Negotiations are described as "delicately poised".

Ashton, who has attracted interest from a host of Premiership clubs, including Manchester City and Portsmouth, is understood to be keen to move to Upton Park and restart his Premiership career which began so promisingly this time last year with his £3m transfer from Crewe Alexandra. A complication for Norwich is that Crewe are due 20 per cent of any sell-on fee.

West Ham have made no secret that they want to buy a striker this month and have failed in a £5.5m bid for Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson and an offer for the 6ft 5in Nikola Zigic who appears likely to stay at Red Star Belgrade until after the World Cup. West Ham may take the Marseilles striker Habib Bamogo on loan or even revive their interest in Porto's Benni McCarthy.

They are also pursuing a new right-back with Tomas Repka's impending return to the Czech Republic. The manager Alan Pardrew was in the Netherlands on Sunday to watch Ajax's Nigel de Jong. The Dutch international is available for £1m but, he wants to run down his contract, which expires this summer. There is no shortage of suitors.

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