Arnautovic ‘desperate’ for Far East move
Marko Arnautovic has told West Ham United he wants to move to China this month – with the club immediately responding by issuing a statement that the striker “is not for sale”.
West Ham have rejected a £35million bid from a Chinese Super League club, believed to be the champions Shanghai SIPG, for the 29-year-old Austria international.
Arnautovic’s agent and brother, Danijel, has issued a statement claiming that West Ham bought him for “peanuts” and should let him leave.
“West Ham bought Marko for peanuts. They paid £20million for him, which is nothing in the current market,” he said. “They bought him to keep them in the Premier League last season and he did that. He took every award at the club: best player, signing of the season and the players’ award.
“Now West Ham have a fantastic offer. It is close to double what they paid for him. He wants to go to a new market and challenge for titles. This is what he wants. It is his great desire that West Ham accept the offer from China.”
The statement, issued to radio station Talksport, went on: “He knows the West Ham fans love him and he has a special connection with them, but things move on, this is the world of sport, and he hopes they can understand.
“Marko is professional and is preparing himself for the Arsenal game. He will give 100 per cent for West Ham. That is Marko. He will never change. Until he is no longer a West Ham player, he will give everything to the club. He hopes the fans can respect his wishes.”
Within minutes of the statement being released West Ham responded. “Marko has a contract and we fully expect him to honour it,” a spokesperson said. “He is not for sale.”
West Ham signed Arnautovic for a fee that rises to £25 million – £20 million was the initial payment – from Stoke City in July 2017. He was made West Ham’s highestearning permanent player – at that time on-loan goalkeeper Joe Hart was paid more – and signed a fiveyear contract.
It is understood that Arnautovic is being offered a substantial pay rise to go to China, possibly as much as double his current salary. Shanghai SIPG are the 2018 champions, whose squad includes former Chelsea midfielder Oscar and another former Brazil international, Hulk. They have another Brazilian, Elkeson, and would have to move a player on should Arnautovic sign, as they have already filled their allocation of three foreign players.
There is scepticism from China experts that such an offer could be funded, but West Ham have taken it seriously and are adamant that he will stay, at least until the end of this season. They are braced for the possibility of an improved offer.
West Ham are determined not to have a rerun of the saga that led to Dimitri Payet, a talisman like Arnautovic, forcing a move to Marseille in January 2017, which derailed their campaign under Slaven Bilic, who signed Arnautovic as, effectively, Payet’s replacement.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, who coached Hebei China Fortune before joining the club last summer, said he was not surprised by the interest in Arnautovic, whom Jose Mourinho was keen to sign before he was sacked as Manchester United manager.
“We know Marko is a very good player so maybe a lot of clubs will want him to play for their team, but at the moment he is a West Ham player and we want to keep him,” he said, ahead of the Premier League fixture at home to Arsenal.
Unsettled: Marko Arnautovic could double his wages if he was to move