Hammers hoping for Gabri deal

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West Ham are reported to be closing on a deal for Barcelona's versatile defender Gabri.

Hammers boss Alan Pardew has been scouring the European market for a full back to replace Tomas Repka who has rejoined Sparta Prague in his native Czech Republic.

Lille's Mathieu Chalme, Rennes' Jean Perrier-Doumbe and Portuguese starlet Pele were all linked with the East Londoners, but it now appears that Gabri is the most likely candidate to arrive at Upton Park.

The Spain international, who also interested Middlesbrough and Bolton, did not train with his team-mates on Monday, and was instead in the club's Camp Nou offices talking with Barca and West Ham officials.

Barca spokesperson Toni Ruiz confirmed the news, stating: "The player has informed us of his desire to move to the Premiership in order to have more playing time.

"Barcelona are looking to help him (Gabri)."

The 26-year-old looks likely to consent to a loan move until the end of the season at which point he becomes a free agent and able to negotiate a permanent transfer.

Despite recent declarations that he was eager to move on to secure first-team football, it had seemed likely he would wait until the summer before leaving Barcelona where he came through the youth ranks.

However, it now appears that his brief substitute cameo in the 3-0 win over Mallorca on Sunday will be his last appearance in a Barca shirt.

Gabri, who can operate at full back or in midfield, has been plagued by injury problems over the past couple of seasons and is now someway down the pecking order at Camp Nou.