Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Barclays English Premier League
Hammers seal Boa Morte deal

West Ham on Friday began the process of strengthening their squad for the fight to avoid relegation from the Premiership with the capture of Fulham captain Luis Boa Morte.

The Portuguese forward, who had played 250 games for Fulham, switches from west to east London for a fee believed to be in the region of five million pounds.

Boa Morte, 29, is the first major signing for new Hammers boss Alan Curbishley and he is joining a squad badly in need of new blood following a dismal first half of the season which has left them mired in the relegation zone, four points from safety.

A delighted Curbishley said he had signed Boa Morte because of his experience and ability to adapt to different positions.

"I like players who are versatile, and Luis can play on the left, on the right, through the middle as a centre-forward, and even as an attacking midfielder," the former Charlton manager said.

"He is also very experienced, which is something I think we need and have been endeavouring to bring in. We have some very exciting young players, but I just felt we needed more experience in certain areas to help them out.

"The signing also puts other players under pressure, and that is what football is all about. Luis has great pace, a fantastic left foot, and he makes and scores goals."

Fulham boss Chris Coleman admitted he was unhappy to lose one of the lynchpins of his squad.

"Luis has been a great servant to the club and we all wish him well," said Coleman.

"However, I have always said that if a player is not happy playing for this club and expresses a desire to go, then I would be prepared to let him leave; and this was the case with Luis.

"Having discussed this with the chairman and the managing director, we believe it is in the best interest of the club to invest in players who are prepared to commit their future to us."

Coleman added: "We will continue to add strength and depth this window and, if necessary, the next, to ensure that we have a strong enough squad of players for the future to enable us to push on as a club, which remains our ambition."

Boa Morte, 29, scored 54 goals in more than five years at Fulham after joining from Southampton in a 1.7-million-pound deal. The Lisbon-born player began his Premiership career with Arsenal.

Curbishley meanwhile has reportedly made an offer for Birmingham centreback Matthew Upson and is in negotiations with Chelsea aimed at bringing Shaun Wright Phillips to Upton Park.

He admitted: "We are currently juggling a lot of balls in terms of the players we have targeted in this transfer window, and they haven't all come down yet, but this is a good start and I am sure Luis will make a big impact for us."