West Ham United’s utility man Valon Behrami has expressed a wish to return to Italy, citing his families’ inability to adapt to London life. The ex-Lazio player could return to the Stadio Olimpico but with fierce city rivals Roma. His desire to move resembles the recent comments of Javier Mascherano who stated that his wife had failed to settle in Liverpool. Previous transfer windows have associated Valon Behrami with moves to Palmero and Juventus. But is the unsettled midfielder’s reason for leaving adequate or is it a convenient digression to exit Upton Park and play Champions League football?
Behrami was signed by Alan Curbishley two summers ago for a fee of £5 million. He was initially deployed at right-back but was soon more commonly found either in right or central midfield. His first season ended prematurely as he sustained a serious knee injury in the club’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City but he had won over the fans with his tireless work ethic. Other Hammers players can be described as having this attribute but not to the extent of Behrami who ceases to stop running throughout an entire match. He is extremely effective at breaking up opposition attacks by using this energetic, rambunctious style. It is a surprising statistic that in 27 Premier League appearances last season he did not receive a single yellow card.
The Kosovo born, Swiss international did not find World Cup referees as lenient this summer as he was handed a straight red in his side’s group stage defeat to Chile. Regrettably Behrami’s incessant running often translates into a rushed and wild approach to the game. His passing is invariably inaccurate and for a pacy player who can go forward he has only scored one goal in each of his PL seasons. However, he took his goal against Hull this year comfortably after playing a quick one-two with Guillermo Franco. The number 21 could have added two more that day but was denied by the outstanding athleticism of Boaz Myhill.
Regardless of his flaws, a player who exhibits such hard work and can adapt to a variety of positions will entice the interest of other clubs, the latest being Roma. Their apparent interest is strengthened by his family feeling unsettled. “My daughter Sofia is now 18 months old and it is not easy to bring up a child in London. Besides Elena (his wife) does not have a big circle of friends here.” The player who once fervently celebrated in front of the Lazio ultras after scoring the winner in the Rome derby, says he would have no problem turning out for the Giallorossi. But are his comments a poor excuse for wanting to leave Upton Park? The location of the east London club and its Essex training base mean there are plenty of options beyond living in the city. Being fluent in English, Albanian and Italian he has previously helped players such as, Alessandro Diamanti adapt to their new club. Surely the former Verona player would be more believable if he admitted to the lure of playing alongside Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi in the Champions League under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri.
Leaving the speculation surrounding his motivation for a transfer aside, Behrami is arguably a player West Ham can afford to lose. It is questionable whether he would be shifted to back to defence and the likes of Mark Noble, Scott Parker and Radoslav Kovac and Thomas Hitzlsperger can operate in a similar midfield role. A fee of around £8 million would help West Ham financially after a busy summer of spending. This potential move may make sense for all parties but the Sensi family who have owned Roma since 1993 are looking for buyers, having struggled to contain the club’s debt. Funds are scarce and therefore Behrami and his family may have to redouble their efforts to acclimatise to English life.