West Ham United have agreed to sell Matthew Etherington to Stoke City for £4m and Calum Davenport to Bolton Wanderers for £3m in deals, expected to be completed today or tomorrow, which have major ramifications for the attempts by other clubs to prise away some of their prize assets such as Craig Bellamy, Scott Parker and Matthew Upson.
The £7m West Ham will receive for Etherington and Davenport, who have been deemed surplus to requirements by the manager, Gianfranco Zola, will alleviate pressure on the club to sell anyone else in the January transfer window. Any savings that had to be made have now been completed.
It means West Ham would need a bid of around £15m to persuade them even to consider selling any of their in-demand players – or others who have been attracting attention such as the goalkeeper Robert Green or Valon Behrami. Even then the chief executive, Scott Duxbury, has promised any final decision on a sale will rest with Zola.
West Ham are delighted with the deals to sell Etherington and Davenport, who are on a list of fringe players compiled by Zola in conjunction with Duxbury and the technical director, Gianluca Nani. The Hammers would sell Julien Faubert, and there has been interest from Nantes, although the French club have balked at his wage demands, and Luis Boa Morte along with Nigel Quashie, but only if the deal was right.
The money gained from such transfers will be ploughed back into the running of the club, which is up for sale after its owner, the Icelandic businessman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, was been hit hard by the world economic crisis, which has particularly affected his own country.
Gudmundsson is keen to sell before a court-set deadline of March although despite interest from a number of parties, no one has yet met his asking price, which is probably closer to £150m rather than the £250m quoted.
All of this had appeared to place West Ham in a vulnerable position, although the club have been quick to stress that they are well run and a viable concern, not in need of funding from Gudmundsson. West Ham have also been angered by suggestions that they will conduct a fire sale this month to try to stave of a suspected financial shortfall.
To back that up Duxbury has already rejected a £6m bid from Tottenham Hotspur for Bellamy and a £15m offer from Manchester City for Bellamy and Parker, and has strongly maintained that West Ham do not need to sell. The club deny they have been offered £11m by Aston Villa for Upson – who also interests Newcastle United and Arsenal – but are adamant that any such offer for the central defender would be rejected.
Upson has held talks with West Ham and has told the club that he is happy to remain at Upton Park, where he has forged an impressive partnership with the Welsh international James Collins. It is partly because of that, and the recall from loan of the promising James Tomkins, that Davenport, 26, who arrived from Tottenham for £3m in January 2007 soon after the Icelandic takeover, has been sold to Bolton.
Similarly Etherington, 27, who was also signed from Spurs, in 2003, in a cash-plus-player deal involving Frédi Kanouté going to White Hart Lane, has been identified as a player who can leave because West Ham have cover in his position even though he has made 15 appearances this season. Stoke have long tracked the left-winger, who was also the subject – two years ago – of interest from Wigan Athletic.
West Ham are keen to hold on to both Bellamy and Parker, although it is understood that the players have been interested in talking to their suitors. Parker, in particular, would like to hold talks with City but has been told he will be staying put.
The agent of Herita Ilunga has claimed that the left-back is close to signing a permanent contract at Upton Park, where he is on loan from French club Toulouse. Ilunga has been a huge success since he was signed last summer to replace George McCartney, who was sold to Sunderland for £6m.
Daniel Striani, one of the 26-year-old Congolese international's representatives, said yesterday: "What I can tell you is that West Ham intend to use their buyout clause, but I can't tell you on what day or what time. He could commit his future to West Ham in January."
Under the Hammers: How West Ham have cashed in on the Premier League's bidding war
* West Ham have a commendable record in maximising profits on players. Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Glen Johnson were all products of the Hammers' youth system sold for high amounts. Ferdinand joined Leeds United for £18m in 2000, five months after Lampard's sale to Chelsea garnered £11m. Cole (£6.6m) and Johnson (£6m) also both moved to Stamford Bridge, in 2003
* After paying Charlton Athletic £1.4m compensation for Jermain Defoe, the Hammers sold him to Tottenham Hotspur for £7m in 2004. Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood raised a combined £11.5m in moving to Aston Villa in 2007, while Bobby Zamora joined Fulham for £4.8m last summer.
* George McCartney was re-sold to Sunderland for £4.5m, two years after costing the Hammers just £600,000. Anton Ferdinand also joined the Black Cats, for a cool £8m.
* They don't always get it right, though... Michael Carrick was sold to Spurs for £2.75m in 2004, who then sold him for £18.6m to Manchester United two years later.