Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Barca interest in Anton

* Champions League heavyweight Barcelona FC have reportedly drawn up a shortlist of three defenders, seeking a partner for Charles Puyol, and Anton Ferdinand is at the top of the list. The Catalan club has sent scouts to the last couple of West Ham's games, and are rumoured to be lining up a £5.5 million opening bid for the England U21 star. No doubt such a derisory offer would be immediately rejected by the West Ham board and manager, but it remains to be seen whether a more credible offer (in the region of £15 million or more) would be considered. Of course, many West Ham fans are still scarred by the £18 million sale of Anton's elder brother Rio as the start of the club's downfall that ultimately led to relegation, and will be loathe to sell the arguably more talented younger brother, whose 21st birthday is a few days away. However, a decent offer, which may include former West Ham target Gabri as a makeweight in the deal, might be too good for the board to refuse, and this would be seen by most fans as a big mistake. West Ham are a rising club and not a single one of the current crop of talented youngsters should be sold at any price: it is exactly these type of players that the really huge clubs - Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester United, for example - are constantly chasing in order to keep their place at the pointy end of their respective leagues, and if West Ham were to sell, then it would be a statement of intent that the board are satisfied with running a mid-table Premiership club. But if the board, and Pardew, stick to their guns and refuse to sell, then the club has the opportunity to build on its current success and become a stalwart of the top European sides.

Incidentally, Barca are also keeping an eye on 21-year-old Felipe at Udinese. The third player on their shortlist is as yet unknown to outsiders.

* Meanwhile, Anton has put teammate Nigel Reo-Coker's name in the hat for the England senior team. "I am egging Nigel on to get into the World Cup squad," he said. "He has a realistic chance because he is one of the best at his job as a Premiership youngster. His hunger and determination is like no other. To be 21 and be captain of a club like West Ham shows the character he has and he can bring that to England. History shows there is always one surprise member that makes the squad and my fingers are crossed for Nigel." Fans will remember the last-minute selection of Trevor Sinclair into the 2002 squad as a makeshift left-sided midfielder due to injuries to other players. After his initial run off the bench, Sinclair proved his worth and became a regular in the side during the tournament.

* Ex-Wolves goalkeeper Paul Jones has been training with the West Ham squad. "I've been training with the Hammers and might help out for a month or so to give them another option," the 38-year-old Welsh veteran said. "It's been good to train with the Welsh boys - Danny Gabbidon, James Collins and Carl Fletcher - at West Ham, so we'll see how that works out. As for Wales, I'm still keeping myself fit and available if needed. Helping out on the coaching side with our young keepers has been fantastic, so if I can pass something on to them and maybe pick up another few caps that's great."

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