West Ham United are set to sign Red Star Belgrade's towering striker Nikola Zigic for £7.1m in what will be one of the biggest deals of the January transfer window. They have also held discussions with Chelsea over the return of their former defender Glen Johnson, who has been told he can leave Stamford Bridge this month.
Talks with 25-year-old Zigic, who is an imposing 6ft 5in tall and who will go to the World Cup with Serbia & Montenegro, were due to take place yesterday. He will follow his countryman Nemanja Vidic, who has joined Manchester United for a similar fee, to the Premiership.
West Ham have long identified a striker as a transfer priority, but they also need a new right-back as they are resigned to losing Tomas Repka. The 31-year-old, whose contract runs out at the end of the season after five years at the club he joined for £5.5m from Fiorentina, has made it clear that he wants to return to the Czech Republic and is planning to sign for Sparta Prague. West Ham will not stand in his way.
Discussions took place with Chelsea over Johnson after Monday's Premiership match between the two clubs. The 21-year-old moved to Stamford Bridge for £6m in the first flush of Roman Abramovich's cash, but has struggled to make an impact and has not impressed Jose Mourinho.
West Ham want to take the England international on loan until the end of the season with a view to a permanent move though Chelsea would prefer an immediate sale and want £4m.
Zigic's arrival appears more clear-cut, with the striker jumping to the top of West Ham's targets after a string of impressive performances, especially in the Uefa Cup. He has in the past been linked to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and is expected to make a big impact in the Premiership with his power - especially in the air - and presence.
Zigic has been tracked by clubs in England and France for the past two seasons and has scored 55 goals in 77 games.
West Ham have already had a £5.5m bid for Andy Johnson rejected and fear that the Crystal Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, will not sell the striker at any price, while their interest in the Norwich City striker Dean Ashton has cooled. The asking price of between £7m to £8m is regarded as too high.
Ashton is still expected to leave Carrow Road but it is a deal that will probably go through at the end of the transfer window and West Ham do not want to wait. A more likely destination for the 22-year-old appears to be Wigan Athletic or Manchester City while Portsmouth are also understood to have registered their interest.
West Ham are no longer pursuing Porto's Benni McCarthy and have given up on Monaco's Emmanuel Adebayor, both of whom they tried to sign last summer. But they are considering a move for Cardiff City's prolific 19-year-old striker Cameron Jerome, who has scored 13 goals this season and who would cost up to £1.5m.
Norwich would also regard Jerome as an ideal replacement for Ashton if he leaves, while Sheffield United have lodged a bid, although Jerome's agent insists that he does not expect him to move this month.