West Ham United can’t say they didn’t see this coming.
Marko Arnautovic is a troublemaker and he’s tried to leave the club once before, in January, as he attempted to engineer himself a move to China.
That deal fell through, however, and he was persuaded to sign a new contract at the London Stadium. It contains a £45m release clause.
And yet, here we are, once again analysing Arnautovic’s words as he looks to leave the club.
This time, he has yet to hand in a formal transfer request, despite reports to the contrary.
What has happened instead is this: According to Football FanCast sources, a bid came in from an unnamed Chinese club for €22m (£19.7m) and Arnautovic asked the Hammers to accept it. They didn’t and they don’t intend to; the clause in his contract is not there purely for banter.
And yet, one has to feel that this will be yet another saga involving the Austrian and the club who, really, might well be better off rid of him.
Indeed, it seemed like the Hammers were getting rather a good deal in January. They wanted to sell Arnautovic and buy Maxi Gomez from Celta Vigo. It would have worked out perfectly.
The deal, as stated, didn’t happen, though, and they were saddled with a white elephant, a player with a penchant for the dramatic and the ridiculous, both on and off the pitch.
He is a talented player, there is no doubt about that, and he scored 11 goals in all competitions last season. He also went 11 games without scoring after the transfer kerfuffle and ended the season with three goals in two games, just in time for the window to reopen. Coincidence?
He is volatile and his agent, who is also his brother, simply cannot resist shopping him around.
That has certainly happened.
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And yet West Ham should, really, have known this was the endgame. Yes, he signed a new deal in January, but even then this writer wrote that the move weakened the club’s hierarchy, as they gave the striker a pay rise while effectively agreeing to sell him in the summer.
This is not the time, then, for David Gold and David Sullivan to act indignant at the fact that another bid has come in and, shock horror, Arnautovic wants to go.
It is fair to say that the offer isn’t high enough; the bid in January was £30m.
Perhaps the Hammers would do business at that sort of price, but this offer feels like it is designed to turn Arnautovic and his brother’s heads.
They appear to be after a get rich quick scheme and a move to the Chinese Super League would almost certainly see the Irons’ star’s pay packet increase, with Oscar and Graziano Pelle’s respective moves to China underlining the beaming financial incentives for moving East.
The conclusion, though, is that the club brought this on themselves. They had the chance to cash in at the turn of the year and they opted against it.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on West Ham United.