West Ham near Riquelme coup
Argentinian star tempted by 'Hammers' project'
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: June 15, 2010 7:11pm
Riquelme: Wants to make his mark
Sky Sports understands that Argentinian star Juan Roman Riquelme is on the verge of joining West Ham on a two-year deal.
The former Villarreal midfielder is ready to return to Europe after a three-year stint with domestic giants Boca Juniors.
Foootball agent, Barry McIntosh, has confirmed that no less than five Premier League clubs are interested in the 31-year-old, who retired from international duty after a fall-out with coach Diego Maradona.
Everton and Tottenham have enquired about Riquelme's availability in the last two years while Brazilian club Flamengo have already put an offer on the table.
But West Ham, who have already signed Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger on a free transfer from Lazio this summer, are leading the race to secure Riquelme's services.
"There are at least four other English clubs in the equation," McIntosh told Sky Sports News.
"But I think the location of London, the challenge at West Ham and working beside the likes of Scott Parker and Thomas Hitzlsperger have been very important factors in him considering the move.
"Right now, we think the best option, the most likely, and the one he's most interested in is West Ham.
"I think for a foreign player of the magnitude of Riquelme, the lure of London is always going to be a deciding factor over any other club.
"So unless Arsenal come in then I think the most likely destination and the one Riquelme would be most interested in is West Ham."
Riquelme began his career at Boca before leaving for Barcelona in 2002, although he had an unsuccessful year at the Camp Nou.
He then joined Villarreal, initially on loan, and helped them reach the Champions League semi-finals on their debut in the competition in 2005/06.
Riquelme returned to Boca on loan in 2007 after falling out with then-Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini and led them to the 2007 Copa Libertadores before making a permanent return home in 2008.
Despite ruling himself out of contention for this summer's World Cup, Riquelme has remained in top form in Argentina and feels it is time to again take on the challenge of leading one of Europe's lesser forces, as he did at Villarreal.
"[A move] was unlikely a few weeks ago because Riquelme's No.1 club, where he is an idol, is Boca Juniors," McIntosh added. "He played for them on very small financial terms to satisfy the fans.
Ready to move
"But it's come to the position now where he feels he may have to look at all the other options that are being offered to him because he doesn't feel like he's getting value for money in terms of staying at Boca.
"That has alerted a number of other clubs from Brazil to Europe and even in Qatar, offering multi-million pound deals.
"But I think he'd like to be a part of the project of West Ham, and what David Sullivan and David Gold have got in mind for the future for the club, including the new stadium.
"In precise words, Riquelme has said that in terms of going to a club like Manchester United, it wouldn't really be an attraction to him because if he goes there they could win the Champions League - they've already done it - or they win the FA Cup - they've already done it.
"He wants to go to a club where he's going to make a mark."