Sunday 25 March 2018

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic reveals admiration for Wilfried Bony and Simone Zaza

Wilfried Bony has been linked with a move away from Manchester City
Wilfried Bony has been linked with a move away from Manchester City

West Ham could add either Wilfried Bony or Simone Zaza to their squad as the search for another forward drags on with the transfer deadline now in sight.

The Hammers have been looking to recruit a new striker throughout the summer, but their need has grown after injuries to three of their current attacking options.

Diafra Sakho, who failed a medical at West Brom and remains at West Ham, is not fit while Andy Carroll's injury woes continue as he could miss up to six weeks with a knee problem.

Club-record signing Andre Ayew was injured on his debut at Chelsea in the opening Premier League game of the campaign and faces a four-month lay-off.

Manager Slaven Bilic takes his side into the Europa League play-off clash against Astra Giurgiu of Romania on Thursday night with the tie finely poised at 1-1 following the first leg.

And he revealed in the build-up to the meeting at the London Stadium that Manchester City's Bony is of interest.

Bony has struggled for game-time since a big-money move to the Etihad Stadium in 2015 and was recently omitted from Pep Guardiola's Champions League squad for the qualifier against Steaua Bucharest.

Asked about a potential move for the former Swansea man, Bilic replied: "He is a good player. He is an option because he plays in the position where, even before the injuries, we tried to sign a player - he is a centre-forward."

But he added: "I don't negotiate. I'm just the manager. I just say to the chairmen and (chief scout) Tony Henry, we talk and then they do it."

Co-chairman David Sullivan, who plays a key role in bringing in new players, is currently recuperating having undergone heart surgery on Tuesday.

The Premier League club confirmed to Press Association Sport that the operation was a minor, routine procedure.

The 67-year-old went under the knife for planned surgery, with his son David Sullivan Jr tweeting a picture of his father lying in his hospital bed on his mobile phone after coming round.

In his tweet, Sullivan Jr went on to suggest his father was in fact already back to negotiating the arrival of new players at West Ham, with the transfer window closing in a week's time.

''Dad's just had heart surgery woke up from operation and is straight back on the phone to sign more players,'' he said.

While Bony is an option, Zaza, whose father was quoted on Tuesday as saying the player is "seriously considering" a move to West Ham, is a long-term target of Bilic.

The Croatian would not be drawn on whether a deal for the Italy international was close, but again stressed the importance of bringing in more attacking players.

"I'm not going to tell you the details, but we have been linked with Zaza last year also, last summer," he said.

"He's a top player and I like him. I was here last year so it tells you everything and we were in contact with him last year - it didn't happen. We will see if it does this year in the next few days.

"We have a couple of players that we are going to try to do a deal for. But we are in the period that a lot of our players, especially the offensive players, are out injured.

"Some of them long term, some of them short term, and now in this very moment we're going to be short of numbers and short of quality. But then after that we have the international break and after that some of them should be back, so in terms of signings we are not panicking."

With a spot in Friday's Europa League group-stage draw hanging in the balance, Bilic insists he will pick his strongest available side for the tie against the Romanian champions.

Astra knocked a young Hammers team out of the Europa League in the earlier qualifying rounds last year but Bilic is ready to play his key men this time around - although that is unlikely to include Dimitri Payet.

"We played on Sunday so we will wait and see who is going to play on Thursday," he said.

"We will put out the strongest possible side because for us the game is top priority and we want to qualify.

"We are just one game from the group stages and we are not thinking about the Manchester City game (on Sunday) and resting players. But we have to see who will be available."

Asked whether Payet, or Manuel Lanzini, may play, Bilic said: "It is difficult.

"Maybe one of them will be on the bench, but it is more likely they will be fit and will participate in part of the game on Sunday."

Press Association

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