The following article is a special report; all information presented has been gleaned from Football FanCast sources unless otherwise stated.
Marko Arnautovic has left West Ham United.
That will come as no surprise to any single Hammers fan, or anyone with a remote interest in West Ham’s affairs.
This has been a long-running saga and now we have finally reached the endgame; the Austria international has forced his way out of east London and is now heading to Shanghai SIPG.
The Chinese club have paid roughly £22.5m for the striker, sources understand, and it has been deposited straight into the Hammers’ coffers, with the club insisting they needed the funds to launch a move for Maxi Gomez, the Celta Vigo forward.
That deal appears dead in the water, however.
Gomez, sources believe, has chosen a move to Valencia; West Ham offered to pay the €50m (£44.9m) release clause in his contract and were also prepared to give him a weekly wage of £75,000 but he has instead opted to remain in Spain and play in the Champions League next season.
It paints a rather unhappy picture at the Hammers, who have been left with just Javier Hernandez and Jordan Hugill as their striking options.
Of course, Arnautovic and Gomez’s futures have always looked interlinked.
West Ham made a move to sign the Uruguay international in January, when Arnautovic first looked to depart the club.
Back then, he informed West Ham of his desire to move to China after a bid of £30m was tabled.
The Hammers, though, wanted £45m as they looked to, you guessed it, do a deal for Gomez. The money received was to be reinvested wholesale into the signing of the Celta forward.
That increasingly looks like a foolish decision, particularly when one considers that Gomez will not be the man to replace the Austrian.
Yet, at the time, co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan asked manager Manuel Pellegrini if he wanted to keep the forward at the club. Pellegrini responded that he was happy to work with the striker and Arnautovic was convinced to stay.
Those within the London Stadium believed that they had pulled off a masterstroke. A clause was included in the deal that would allow Arnautovic to leave for £45m this summer. They anticipated that there would be a major offer from the Chinese Super League in this transfer window.
And yet, the player downed tools. The club have mistrusted Arnautovic’s brother, Danijel, who is also his agent, throughout his spell at the club and there was a feeling, per sources, that his sibling had got into the forward’s ear.
He went 11 games without a goal in the Premier League after the saga at the turn of the year. With two games of the season left, and the transfer window looming, he netted three times across the 180 minutes. Looking back now, it feels as though one should have seen his departure coming.
At the beginning of the summer, as Pellegrini initially sketched out his plans for recruitment with Director of Football Mario Husillos, he identified Gomez as a potential target because he could play alongside Arnautovic.
The manager was confident that the latter would stay in east London due, in large part, to the fact that he endured such a poor ending to the campaign.
Both Lucas Perez and Andy Carroll were subsequently allowed to leave.
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Indeed, as soon as the bid from China came in, sources told FFC that “Arnie’s playing up again”.
There was an expectation that this could happen if another bid came in but West Ham, in January, were hopeful that there would be an offer approaching his clause.
Instead, here was a bid, worth around £19.7m, that would rob the Irons of the chance to receive any sort of profit from the £25m they paid to sign him from Stoke City.
Arnautovic immediately requested that the offer be accepted but the Hammers initially told him that he would have to see out his contract or hope that a club matched his clause.
Both Gold and Sullivan, though, consulted with Pellegrini over the reception of the bid, and the former Manchester City boss told them to cash in. Both the Chilean and the club’s dressing room had grown sick of Arnautovic’s antics. Sources have suggested that players were consulted too.
The club still stood firm in their belief that the forward was worth more than £20m but when Shanghai tabled an offer of £22.5m, they told the Hammers that it was a take-it-or-leave-it bid.
On Pellegrini’s say-so, they took it.
It remains to be seen who West Ham can find to replace him; Gomez is off to Valencia, Salomon Rondon has been heavily linked with a move to the Chinese Super League and Aleksandar Mitrovic has signed a new contract at Fulham.
Perhaps they will be better off without the Austrian, though, regardless of the remainder of their summer activity, one feels that they could really do with a forward who doesn’t consistently ask to leave.