Free kick specialist signs on dotted line

IT HAS been the talking point among West Ham fans since the final day of last season – who will Gianfranco Zola sign to bolster the Hammers attack? – writes DAVE EVANS. There have been so many names in the frame. Eidur Gudjohnsen (as usual), Luca Toni, Ma

IT HAS been the talking point among West Ham fans since the final day of last season - who will Gianfranco Zola sign to bolster the Hammers attack? - writes DAVE EVANS.

There have been so many names in the frame. Eidur Gudjohnsen (as usual), Luca Toni, Mancini, Mario Balotelli, Marouane Chamakh, but the club never seemed to be able to close out the deal for any of them.

He may have been fourth or fifth choice, but West Ham finally got their man at the end of last week when Italian striker Alessandro Diamanti signed a five-year deal with the Hammers, thanks to money advanced from club sponsors SBOBET, who made the deal possible for the Hammers in their current financial situation.

The 26-year-old Livorno striker will wear the number 32 sported by David Di Michele last term, but West Ham fans will be hoping that he makes a bigger impact than the tricky Torino forward.

Diamanti trained with the team for the first time on Friday morning, but had not been given international clearance to make his debut at Blackburn last Saturday, but manager Zola is delighted to have the Italian on board.

"He is one of those players that is a classical number 10," confirmed the boss. "He is a very talented player and he can play in the hole, or on either side of a striker.

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"He is an offensive player and very skilful, but where I play him I don't know yet. I have some ideas, but I am waiting to see how he will fit into the team."

West Ham fans will hope that he fits in alongside Carlton Cole up front, something that the team has been crying out for all season.

Diamanti is certainly in the Craig Bellamy mould of striker. He is quick and plays well off a big man, but he is also a specialist free kick taker, effective with his left foot in much the same way as Luis Jimenez has proven already.

West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green is certainly pleased to see a front man arrive at the club: "We've doubled the striker tally now," said the Hammers goalkeeper slightly sarcastically.

"He has trained lightly, but I was not really with the rest of the squad on Friday, but perhaps, come Tuesday we will see what he has got."

Zola is confident that the player can make a real splash in the Premier League, despite the fact that he has spent most of his career in Serie B and C in Italy.

He scored 16 goals for Livorno last season as he helped them to promotion to the top flight in Italy via the play-offs.

"Potentially, he can be a superstar," said Zola, "But it depends on him.

"I don't want to put pressure on him, he is now in a different environment and championship at a higher level and it's up to him to adapt to a new situation.

"As far as I am concerned, I will try and help him. I want him to make an impact as soon as possible."

The last player West Ham plucked out of Serie B was Savio and that turned into something of a disaster.

Diamanti has not got too much to do in order to impress more than the young German, while you would hope that Di Michele's tally of four goals will be another attainable mark.

But if West Ham fail to sign a third striker, either permanently, or on loan, the pressure will certainly be on a front man who has never played in the top flight in any country during his career.

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