Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Solid Signing for West Ham

West Ham sealed their first major signing of the summer today, bringing in 23-year-old Switzerland international Valon Behrami from Lazio for $10 million.

Though clearly not to the same extent as Chelsea in their acquisition of Deco earlier this month, West Ham got away like bandits with what they paid for Behrami. He'd been originally valued at $22 million by Lazio, according to England's Daily Mail, but because his contract was expiring and could've soon left without the club receiving compensation, the Italian side opted to take what they could get.

He's a young 23, meaning that for his already relatively young age, there's not a lot of mileage on his legs like there is with some other wingers in the same age bracket -- Cristiano Ronaldo, David Bentley, Ashley Young, and Behrami's Swiss teammate, Tranquillo Barnetta, are just a few well-known examples who have significant first-team experience under their belts.

He's a very versatile player, something that West Ham can't have enough of given their horrific injury record in recent seasons. Behrami can play at right back if necessary, but is a natural winger and capable of playing both on the left, where he can cut inside with his right foot, and the right, where it's easier for him to serve balls into the box.

At 6'1", a rather tall height for his preferred position, Behrami is quicker on the ball than one might expect. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't have the fast-footed, change-of-direction moves like a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Robinho, but he can get down the field in a hurry if given the opportunity. He's also adequate with his left foot, so he'll demand more space from Premiership full-backs than someone who basically only uses one foot for everything.

If you saw him play for Switzerland, for whom he has 15 caps since making his debut in 2005, in Euro 2008 this summer, you had to have come away impressed. He started all three games for the Swiss opposite Barnetta, and along with Hakan Yakin, those three players really stood out for a country that had very little to offer going forward after the loss of Alexander Frei to a knee injury.

Behrami will bring his Champions League experience with Lazio to East London, where his new club has been starved for success in Europe for years now. West Ham has done absolutely nothing outside of England since 1999-2000, when they were joint-Intertoto Cup winners and reached the second round of the UEFA Cup, where they bowed out to Steaua Bucure┼čti. Now with Behrami, Freddie Ljungberg, and Craig Bellamy on board, the Hammers hope to make a serious push to get back into European competition.

The one major knock on Behrami is the fact that, like Ljungberg and Bellamy, he is injury-prone. There is a reason he hasn't played as many first-team games as the players I mentioned earlier and isn't because Behrami doesn't have the talent, it's because he's had a problem staying consistently healthy. If the "Swiss David Beckham" can get over that hump, he's going to be a very good player for Alan Curbishley and West Ham.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Behrami was key to Inter winning the Scudetto in Italy last season.

You may ask, "why he plays for Lazio?" Well go back and take a look at Lazio's derby matches against Roma and you'll discover why. Good acquisition by the Hammers