Wenger ready to change tack and target West Ham's £6m Parker
Age no barrier as Arsenal manager sees 30-year-old as key Emirates recruit
The West Ham United midfielder Scott Parker is a key target for Arsène Wenger this summer, with the Arsenal manager finally prepared to break his self-imposed restriction on signing older players to long-term contracts.
Parker, 30, will be sold this summer as West Ham, who were relegated to the Championship on Sunday, divest themselves of their highest-earners. While Wenger has a policy of not buying players in their thirties apart from exceptional short-term signings, he is understood to be given to reconsidering after another season in which his squad's lack of experience was telling.
Parker, who was voted player of the year by the Football Writers' Association this season, lives in Surrey and would be amenable to a move to Arsenal. He is expected to be sold for around £6m and would want a three-year contract at the very least, given that his current West Ham deal has three years to run.
Among Wenger's current group of midfielders, he is expected to sanction the sale of Denilson and Tomas Rosicky this summer. Ideally, Parker would play alongside Jack Wilshere in midfield, reprising their successful partnership for England against Wales in March's Euro 2012 qualifier. Interestingly, it would appear that Cesc Fabregas's much-anticipated move to Barcelona is by no means a certainty, with the Spanish champions exerting nothing like the interest they did last summer.
The interest in Parker, whose potential arrival would put most pressure on the place of holding midfielder Alex Song, represents a changing attitude from Wenger towards his squad. Tottenham had a £7m bid for Parker rejected in January but they are less interested now because of the recent progress of midfielder Sandro.
West Ham, having sacked Avram Grant in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's 3-2 defeat to Wigan Athletic, want Paul Lambert, the man behind Norwich City's return to the top flight, to oversee the revival of the club. The Scot is West Ham's first choice, but if he rejects their advances the former England manager Steve McClaren is next on the wanted list. Others set to be considered include Gus Poyet, Neil Warnock and Chris Hughton.
Lambert, 41, has earned back-to-back promotions with Norwich, and West Ham face a struggle to tempt him away from Carrow Road for another season in the Championship. Nevertheless, West Ham's co-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, believe there is a chance that he might be persuaded to leave if he is not entirely happy with the situation at Norwich.
McClaren, 50, was approached by West Ham a year ago, following his success with Twente, but turned down their advances and went instead to Wolfsburg. He was sacked as manager of the Bundesliga club in February.
Former Middlesbrough manager McClaren, who led England in 16 games in 18 months before he was sacked in November 2007, is understood to be keen on a return to England but would prefer a job in the Premier League.
West Ham may well have to broaden their search to include Brighton & Hove Albion manager Poyet, and Warnock, the Queen's Park Rangers manager. They are likely to find these candidates will also be hard to recruit.
Poyet, 43, is understood to be unwilling to work for Sullivan and Gold because of the way they sacked his close friend Gianfranco Zola a year ago. Warnock, 62, is also unlikely to be tempted, having led QPR to the Championship title this season. However, his future is not certain and last weekend he responded to speculation that he might be replaced by either Marcello Lippi or Claudio Ranieri by insisting he would remain at Loftus Road. Should he become available, West Ham would be interested.
Other potential candidates for the job include former Newcastle United manager Hughton, Cardiff City manager David Jones, Malky Mackay of Watford and former Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce. West Ham hope the possibility of leading the club in their move to the Olympic Stadium in the summer of 2014 will prove attractive to potential managers.
Co-chairman Gold said yesterday that West Ham would not rush into making a decision. He said: "The sooner the better because there's lots of work to do, enormous work to do. But at the same time we mustn't be rushed. This will be a very important appointment."
In the frame to replace Grant
Paul Lambert (20-1)
Has led Norwich to the Premier League and would need to be convinced to sacrifice that immediately.
Steve McClaren (4-7 fav)
Has succeeded in Holland but failed in Germany. There are doubts whether he would take a Championship job.
Chris Hughton (4-1)
Has experience of reviving a big club, having won promotion with Newcastle.
Sam Allardyce (10-1)
Available, but West Ham fans previously voiced concerns over his style.
Neil Warnock (8-1)
Should QPR replace him, the Championship-winning promotion expert would be a perfect choice.
And not to be ruled out: Paolo Di Canio (16-1)
Club legend who would love the chance to return to West Ham.
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