Zole eyes Neill deal but wages are stumbling block

Gianfranco Zola has promised to re-appoint Lucas Neill as West Ham captain in a bid to keep the defender at Upton Park

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Gianfranco Zola has promised to re-appoint Lucas Neill as West Ham captain in a bid to keep the defender at Upton Park.

Neill left the Hammers last month after rejecting a deal to remain at the club on reduced terms and the Australia international is currently a free agent.

But Zola is desperate for the 31-year-old to re-sign with the Hammers, according to Neill's agent Paddy Dominguez .


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And Dominguez has revealed that the Neill has been re-offered the club captaincy in discussions with the West Ham manager.

"Zola has been speaking with Lucas and, from his point of view, he not only wants him at the club next season but to remain as the captain of the club," Dominguez said.

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"It has always been the preference of Lucas that he wants to remain at West Ham. But it is up to the club administration to execute that.

"The ownership has changed a number of times since Lucas has been at the club. Now it's different because [the new owners] are bankers.

"We are giving them every opportunity to reach agreement but there are other Premier League and continental clubs in the mix."

Yet West Ham's hopes of keeping Neill could be scuppered by the defender's wage demands, which remain a key stumbling block in discussions between the two parties.

Neill is unwilling to accept a substantial pay cut, but Hammers chief executive Scott Duxbury has warned that the club will not match the terms of his previous deal as West Ham look to cut back on big-money contracts.

"The ethos of the club is to try to stop paying the ridiculous salaries that got us into so much trouble," said Duxbury.

"We have offered Lucas a good contract which will make him one of the top earners at the club, but I understand Lucas's position.

"He's a great player and that's why we have given him a great contract. It is his choice whether he wants to do it.

"It's more than just money. It's about his desire to play for Gianfranco, his desire to be part of what we are trying to achieve. The player has to want to be a part of that. It's very much down to Lucas now.

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