West Ham have decided to cut their losses on Marko Arnautovic and sell him for €25m (£22.4m) to a Chinese Super League club, believed to be Shanghai SIPG, after Manuel Pellegrini told the board to let the Austrian forward leave.
Arnautovic informed West Ham this week that he wanted to be allowed to move to China and, although the club initially told him to honour the contract extension he signed in January, they have since come to the conclusion that keeping him would have a negative effect on squad morale. Pellegrini is furious with the 30-year-old and the player’s teammates believe it would be better if he were sold as soon as possible.
West Ham rejected a bid in the region of £19m for Arnautovic on Tuesday, deeming that figure insulting, and initially hoped to take a hard line with a player who has scored 11 goals in each of his two seasons at the club. Yet there is an acceptance that Arnautovic, who was signed for an initial £20m from Stoke City two years ago, has become a disruptive influence in the dressing room and West Ham are expected to accept Shanghai’s improved offer of €25m.
West Ham feel badly let down by Arnautovic’s behaviour in agitating for a transfer six months after they refused to grant him a move to a club in China, thought to be Guangzhou Evergrande, where he was offered a four-year contract worth more than £40m. Arnautovic ended up signing a new deal, saying that he wanted “to put a stop” to the speculation over his future. The agreement included a pay rise, with Arnautovic’s wages of £120,000 a week making him the squad’s second-highest earner, and in a gesture of goodwill West Ham agreed to insert an annual £40m buyout clause.
West Ham have a fractious relationship with Arnautovic’s brother and agent, Danijel, who stoked the flames with provocative comments on Tuesday. “He’s not a cow or a horse which you bring to market,” he said. “He’s a highly talented footballer who is simply being used by West Ham. He’s just a number to them.”
The decision to let Arnautovic leave will force West Ham to accelerate their search for a new striker, especially as they have already sold Lucas Pérez to Alavés and released Andy Carroll on a free transfer. They have targeted Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gómez, Porto’s Moussa Marega and West Bromwich Albion’s Salomón Rondón.