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West Ham target £9m Bellamy as striking solution

West Ham target £9m Bellamy as striking solution

By Jason Burt and Andy Hunter

Published: 06 July 2007

West Ham were in talks with Craig Bellamy over a £9m move to Upton Park last night as the ramifications of Fernando Torres' arrival at Anfield and Manchester United's pursuit of Carlos Tevez began in earnest.

The Wales captain is surplus to requirements at Liverpool following their £26.5m acquisition of Torres and has emerged as the next candidate in Alan Curbishley's desperate search for a new striker. The West Ham manager, who lost out to Tottenham in the duel for Darren Bent, is prepared to pay a club record fee for Bellamy and may help Liverpool recoup more of their outlay on the Spanish international by pursuing a deal for Djibril Cissé.

West Ham have touted an exchange deal for Cissé with Yossi Benayoun, the Israel midfielder who has rejected a new £50,000 a week contract at the club and has been the subject of Liverpool bids of £2m and £4m. The swap, however, rests on the France international's willingness to move to London - Benayoun is anxious to join Liverpool - and the forward has so far refused to countenance any club other than Marseille, where he spent last season on loan, but who are unable to meet Rafael Benitez's £6m valuation.

Bellamy's move would be a straight cash deal by West Ham and could proceed today, although the two clubs have yet to reach agreement on the fee. Liverpool exploited a get-out clause in the 27-year-old's Blackburn contract last summer that allowed him to join a Champions League club for £6m but, with Benitez needing to sell in order to finance his outstanding targets, they are seeking a substantial profit on a player who did not secure a regular starting role.

Benitez remains in the market for two wingers, plus a defender, following the capture of Torres this week, and admits the club record signing does not satisfy all the demands he placed on George Gillet and Tom Hicks in the aftermath of the European Cup Final defeat.

The Liverpool manager, who called on the new owners to display urgency and ambition in this summer's transfer market, said: "It has answered almost all of them. I said we needed to go two steps at a time this summer, so me and Rick Parry had meetings with the owners about how to progress, we were monitoring targets, Fernando was our first target and the new owners want to win trophies."

He added: "It was not difficult to convince the owners [about Torres]. We know this is big money, but we were prepared to pay this for a top-class striker. Now we are looking for other targets who are not as expensive. We have the money to buy a winger now if we could, but there are not a lot of top-class wingers about."

Benitez's decision to almost double Liverpool's record outlay on Torres - three years after Cissé arrived from Auxerre for £14m - will increase pressure on a manager who had bemoaned the club's inability to compete with Chelsea and Manchester United in the transfer market.

And the Spaniard, who had spent almost £100m at Anfield prior to this summer, has again preached his characteristic caution despite securing one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe.

"I felt we needed to sign a player of this level. We want to be contenders for the title," said Benitez. "I don't know what the other teams will do but I'm sure they'll try to improve. They [Chelsea and Manchester United] have been spending big money for years. Now we are spending some money. I don't know whether it will be enough but we have to do it and we are showing to other players that we want to win trophies."


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