West Ham to offer Zola sweetened deal

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The Independent Football

West Ham United are planning to offer Gianfranco Zola an improved new contract at the end of the season to reward the Italian for a highly promising start to his managerial career.

The Premier League club also want to fend off any prospective interest in the 42-year-old, and his assistant Steve Clarke, after they succeeded Alan Curbishley last September.

The new deal will reflect the central importance the pair will play in West Ham's future, with Zola (right) having embraced the idea of developing young talent at the club and making it more self-sufficient along the lines drawn up by the chief executive Scott Duxbury.

Zola is currently on a one-year rolling deal and given this is his first job in management, having been recruited from his role coaching the Italian under-21 side, he is not among the Premier League's highest paid managers. He can expect the terms to be improved.

The former Chelsea striker – who has been linked with a move back to his old club but has reassured West Ham he wants to stay with them – has indicated he would like to discuss a new contract and is grateful for the opportunity he has been given. However, no talks will take place until the summer.

West Ham, who face West Bromwich Albion in the league on Monday, are in seventh place and may well qualify for next season's Europa League – which replaces the Uefa Cup – after a strong second half to the season, during which Zola has improved the style of play as well as results.

In addition to offering a new deal to Zola, West Ham plan to negotiate new contracts with a host of first-team players including Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson and Robert Green. Several others – including Scott Parker and Carlton Cole – have already signed long-term deals this season.

West Ham have also agreed, as revealed by The Independent yesterday, a compensation package with Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair. West Ham will pay the Blades compensation spread over the next five years for fielding Tevez, whose deal at the club was in breach of so-called third-party ownership rules.

The settlement, the terms of which will remain confidential, is understood to be more than West Ham had hoped to pay but far less than the £45m being demanded by the Blades who have agreed to drop any further legal action. By paying it over five years, West Ham, however, can afford the settlement.

West Ham still face one piece of outstanding legal action with Curbishley demanding £3m in compensation from the club after he walked out claiming there had been interference in his transfer dealings.

However, West Ham insist Curbishley is entitled to nothing and remain adamant they will vigorously defend any claim and, indeed, are considering a counter-claim. A hearing is scheduled for the end of this month.

West Ham’s owner, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, yesterday won a three month extension of a moratorium that prevents banks from seizing his assets and forcing the sale of the club.

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