“We have followed a process that is progressing entirely to plan and are now very close to reaching an agreement following a thorough and strategic process that has identified the best possible candidate.”
West Ham chairman David Sullivan slightly overdid his attempt to sound professional and competent in his recent comments on the club’s manager search, instead leaving an impression of wild-eyed panic and denial.
But if reports emerging from Santiago are to be believed, we now know that this “strategic” process involved Sullivan targeting a 64-year-old manager currently placed 11th in the Chinese Super League because he won the Premier League a few years ago. It’s Manuel Pellegrini.
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Chilean newspaper Pauta has “exclusivamente” claimed that the Hammers have “agreed” a deal with the Hebei China Fortune gaffer and he will be officially unveiled on Monday. The slight delay presumably because Sullivan booked Pellegrini a flight back to London but he found a cheap deal on Bestflights.com that goes via Islamabad and Frankfurt.
Pellegrini has endured a tricky couple of seasons in Hebei – despite being able to call upon the lavish talents of Javier Mascherano and, um, Gervinho – but remains fondly remembered in England for his largely successful spell at Manchester City.
Or maybe Pellegrini’s unveiling is being delayed because Sullivan’s first choice is actually Rafa Benitez. The Express says the Newcastle manager has “outlined his terms” to take over at the London Stadium – specifically a £100m transfer budget and a £6m-a-year salary.
The Telegraph reckons Rafa would “prefer” to stay at Newcastle but only if the Magpies also meet his demands – described as more modest £50m transfer budget. However, the Spaniard has allegedly been left “infuriated and exasperated” at Mike Ashley’s failure to commit to this.
Chelsea target Martial and Seri
Chelsea have already drawn up a shortlist of transfer targets for their new manager, whoever he is. The Mail says Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Nice midfielder Jean-Michael Seri are among the players Antonio Conte’s successor will be encouraged to sign, with Luis Enrique and Maurizio Sarri thought to be the front-runners to replace the Italian at Stamford Bridge.
Mikel Arteta is reportedly “closing in” on the vacant manager’s post at Arsenal (Telegraph), and one of first tasks will be to make a decision on Aaron Ramsey’s future. The Sun says the Gunners are “ready to sell” the Welshman this summer if he fails to agree a contract extension.
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Chelsea, Man Utd and Juventus are among the clubs said to be interested in the £40m-rated midfielder, who has just one year remaining on his current Emirates deal.
Maybe he will be more likely to stick around if Arsenal appoint Thierry Henry as manager, which Sky Sports claims they are considering doing – with “talks” with the French legend reportedly pencilled in for “early next week”.
Elsewhere, Man Utd are to begin discussions with Monaco about signing of their French international full-back Djibril Sidibe (LeSport10), Leicester have agreed a £17.5m fee for the Porto right-back Ricardo Perreira (Leicester Mercury) and Chelsea are trying to persuade Borussia Dortmund to sign 2017 marquee signing Alvaro Morata instead of former Blues outcast Michy Batshuayi (Mirror). Essentially, Batshuayi is now the Blues’ first-choice centre-forward.