West Ham closing in on £1.5m Emerton

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The Independent Football

West Ham United are closing in on a deal to sign Brett Emerton from Blackburn Rovers and will take the Ghanaian international John Pantsil on their pre-season tour to Sweden which starts today.

Their manager, Alan Pardew wants to keep strengthening his squad ­ with a Premiership and European campaign next season ­ and is attracted to both players because of their versatility. West Ham have also enquired about the availability of the Switzerland midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta. A bid is thought to have been lodged although it falls short of the £4m-plus that Barnetta's club, Bayer Leverkusen, want for the 21-year-old who was a star at the World Cup.

Emerton, who played for Australia in Germany, has just 12 months left on his contract at Blackburn. His manager, Mark Hughes, is keen to extend his deal but interest has also been shown by Middlesbrough, Everton and Fulham. West Ham, however, are believed to be in pole position and are prepared to offer around £1.5m for the 27-year-old.

Pardew is particularly interested in strengthening the right side of midfield and has also looked at Newcastle United's James Milner. West Ham have, however, given up on Steed Malbranque, whose wage demands have proved excessive. Fulham accepted a bid, thought to be around £4m, for the Frenchman but he refused to move to Middlesbrough. Indeed, it is thought Malbranque's behaviour since submitting a transfer request has deterred a number of suitors, including Newcastle and Liverpool.

Fulham, in turn, are close to signing the Boro left-back Franck Queudrue for around £1.8m.

It has been a busy summer for Pardew, who has already signed Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Spector and Tyrone Mears. Pantsil will also join the squad as it flies to Sweden ahead of a proposed £700,000 transfer from Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv. "Hapoel have given the player permission to come on tour and it will be an ideal opportunity to have a good look at him," Pardew said.

He will not, however, be selling Dean Ashton. Pardew dismissed speculation linking the striker to Newcastle, and suggestions that Ashton, who signed for £7.25m in January was unsettled, as "absolute rubbish". He said: "There is no truth in that. Dean has settled in well and just bought a house. I can guarantee he will be going nowhere." Newcastle said they had no intention of bidding.

Gianluca Zambrotta's agent has confirmed Chelsea's interest in the Juventus defender ­ but added that the player would prefer a move to Milan. "Zambrotta's wish is to stay in Italy but not at Juventus," said Guiseppe Bonetto. "Should Juve fail to reach an agreement with Milan then Zambrotta will consider the other alternatives."

Lilian Thuram, a target for Arsenal and Barcelona, will decide his future when he returns from holiday in South Africa next week.

* Bolton have cancelled the friendly against Rangers next week on the advice of Greater Manchester Police, who have a shortage of available officers.

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