West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has expressed his admiration for Southampton and England striker Charlie Austin – and admitted he was a transfer target for the Hammers during the summer.
Austin recently completed a cut-price £4million move to the Saints from Championship outfit QPR after the east Londoners were initially linked with a £12million for Austin in August.
The switch never happened and the east Londoners looked elsewhere for strike power but not before a Twitter spat between co-chairman David Sullivan and Austin over his injury status.
Sullivan tried to set the record straight in programme notes before the recent Villa match. Sullivan wrote: "Contrary to reports, he is a player I have always greatly admired and his climb through the divisions is inspiring. I once said at £12million he was a gamble, with his injury record.
"However, if his financial demands are reasonable, Southampton have got fantastic value at £4million."
Bilic said: “I know he’s a good buy for them because I spoke with the chairman in August and Charlie Austin was one of our targets. Both David Gold and David Sullivan spoke very highly of him.
“He scored on his debut and it looks as though he will start his first game in front of his home fans. He was on our list but then we got some other players and other players stayed so I decided that we didn’t need that kind of player.”
One striker who has joined West Ham is Emmanuel Emenike from Turkish side Fenerbache on loan for the rest of the season.
The Nigerian international has recently spent some time in the UAE with Al Ain – but Bilic has previous encounters with Emenike from his time as Besiktas and Spartak Moscow boss.
“I know him well. We were both in Russia and Turkey at the same time in our careers so I’ve been in the same town and same league as him but not the same club,” said Bilic. “He’s very strong, quick, pacy, powerful, hard worker, goal scorer, very direct so he’s a top player.
“The last half of the season he played in a league that is not on a level of the Premier League but Lanzini came from the same league and has done brilliantly. I watched him closely when he was at Spartak Moscow and Fenerbache and he was really good. I’ve liked him for a long time.”
West Ham play Southampton at St Mary's in the late kick-off on Saturday (February 6).
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