West Ham were yesterday close to completing their first major signing of the summer, with the £5m acquisition of the highly-rated Swiss international Valon Behrami from Lazio. However the deal was over-shadowed by a public admonishment for Robert Green after the goalkeeper said he felt "completely undervalued" and intimated that he wanted to leave after not being awarded a pay rise.
Such is West Ham's anger over Green's comments – he further went on to say that the club "doesn't care about me" – that they are examining whether he can be fined and disciplined. They are insistent that they will not enter into negotiations over a new contract - especially as a new five-year deal was only signed last summer.
Although West Ham have yet to receive an offer for the 28-year-old - Fulham have shown some interest - and said yesterday that they do not want to sell, such is their annoyance at his behaviour that it remains feasible that he could go if the right bid is made.
In a statement, chief executive Scott Duxbury said: "Less than a year ago Robert Green entered into a five-year contract. The club were delighted to recognise his status as our number one goalkeeper and rewarded him with a long-term deal. At the time the player entered into a new contract, he requested a mechanism to review the terms in summer 2009. This was and remains the appropriate time to review. We value Robert Green very highly. That is why we gave him a five-year deal less than 12 months ago. We have no intention of selling him."
Green is believed to earn around £26,000-a-week and, in the interview published yesterday, said: "If you put the strongest West Ham XI out, I'd be the lowest earner by a long, long way. I do not even want to be close to the top earner at the club. I would just like some parity." That top earner is Fredrik Ljungberg, who is paid £85,000-a-week in a deal that contributed to Eggert Magnusson's downfall as chairman. West Ham would be keen to sell Ljungberg but have not had any offers.
West Ham are already in the market for a new goalkeeper but are looking for a young, promising player who could become Green's under-study rather than a new first-choice. A shortlist of five keepers has been drawn up by manager Alan Curbishley in consultation with the club's new technical director Gianluca Nani.
It's clear that Nani has been instrumental in West Ham's transfer dealings and has played a major role in the arrival of Behrami, a 23-year-old of Kosovan descent who can play at right-back or on the right of midfield. He started all three of Switzerland's games in the recent European Championships and had attracted interest from other Premier League clubs, as well as those in Germany and Italy, after deciding he wanted to leave Lazio following three seasons in Rome.
His arrival will raise question marks over the future of Lucas Neill - although West Ham are keen to stress that both Behrami and the their captain can play in a number of different positions and are not vying for the same role. Nevertheless Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is trying to persuade his new club to make a bid for Neill and it's understood that West Ham may sell if an acceptable bid for the 30-year-old is made.
The City hierarchy, however, are reluctant to sanction a move for Neill who earns £60,000-a-week and whose form has suffered dramatically in the past year. West Ham are also aware that Neill can play at left-back and despite rejecting a bid of £4.5m for their first-choice George McCartney from Sunderland, the Wearsiders are expected to come back with a higher offer that may be too good to refuse.
Having sold Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil to Fulham for £6.3m, West Ham are looking to trim their squad and reduce a hefty wage bill. At the same time West Ham are also in the market to improve their squad and insist there is more money available to Curbishley to strengthen the team although the biggest challenge for them at present is to make sure all the players they bought last summer are finally fit.
There is a general feeling at West Ham that they are moving in the right direction and can improve on last season's 10th place finish which makes Green's intervention all the more irritating for them.