Given that they have overseen West Ham United’s emergence from financial difficulty, relegation to the Championship and bouncing straight back up, establishment as a top-half Premier League team and move to a new 60,000 seater stadium, it is difficult to be critical of David Gold and David Sullivan. There is however, something unedifying about their public pronouncements and social media statuses detailing how much money they want to spend in the transfer window. Like Victorian children, owners and chairmen are best seen and not heard, and there is nothing worse than the overbearing owner who seeks to deflect attention from the manager and his players (Tony Fernandes, we’re looking at you).
Telling the world how much money you have at your disposal seems a strange negotiating tactic. On the other hand, the abundant wealth of Premier League clubs is such public knowledge it might be foolish to pretend otherwise. High on their shopping list has been a striker, with moves for Jamie Vardy, Alexandre Lacazette, Carlos Bacca and Theo Walcott all been mooted. West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium means the idea of big-name striker makes sense from both a football and marketing perspective. However, it seems their biggest outlay up front will be Andre Ayew, for whom they paid a club record £20m fee. Argentine striker Jonathan Calleri is also set to join.
After a summer of great promise, Hammers fans have a right to feel a touch underwhelmed by Ayew’s arrival. The former Swansea and Marseille striker has a fairly broad skill set; he is a sharp mover, good in the air and was the Swans top goalscorer last season with 12 goals. There was much talk of Diafra Sakho and Antonio Valencia leaving the club, but they have stayed. Slaven Bilic therefore, has a crop of mobile forwards who are willing runners in behind defences, suited to the counter-attacking style that earned West Ham some landmark away wins last season.
Bilic may be contemplating the possibility of Ayew linking up linking up with his former Marseille team mate Dimitri Payet, who played together at the Stade Velodrome from two years between 2013 and 2015. In their final season in the south of France, Payet scored eight league goals while Ayew got 10. Incidentally, the 12 goals Ayew scored for Swansea last term was the highest season tally of his career which is hardly a ringing endorsement.
On his relationship with Payet – who mytopsportsbooks.com believe is odds-on (1/9) to stay at the Olympic Stadium this season – Ayew told West Ham’s official website: “I know him and he knows me and I’m happy to be back playing with a great player like him, because I know what he is capable of doing.
“I know what he did last season and he can do even more, so now I’m back with him we’re going to work together with the whole team and do everything possible to make things right.”
Despite Bilic’s claim that Ayew is a ‘big time marquee player’, he has yet proved himself to be a reliable goalscorer across an entire season and has more often been deployed in roaming frontlines where he is not the main striker. There are also questions to be asked about both his temperament and his motives. As a player with a continental-wide reputation, he opted to go to Swansea City on a free when his Marseille contract had expired, with the hefty signing on fee and big wages that entails. By the January transfer window, he and his agent were agitating for a move to Sunderland; a move that made little sense in football terms, but would have doubtless carries financial inducements.
Such agitation brought accusations the Ayew is something of fly-by-night merchant, a reputation that is perhaps unjust given that he stayed at Marseille for five years. Ayew must shake off this reputation, and prove himself to be the ‘marquee’ singing that West Ham fans were promised.
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