Michail Antonio is once again rumored to want to be on the move, as the winger chases down a bigger paycheck from Chelsea or Manchester United or wherever else he is linked with at the moment. West Ham United and Antonio have been negotiating in the press over a new contract that will reportedly double his wages from £35k a week to £70k a week.
The Times is reporting that Antonio is frustrated with the wages being offered because Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte, signings in the January transfer window, are apparently on higher wages than what was offered to Antonio. They are also reporting that Antonio is upset because he felt rushed back from the injury he suffered against Leicester City that caused him to miss yet another England call-up. After playing twice after coming back ahead of the original timeline, Antonio had to leave the win against Swansea City after being injured in the first half.
Now, a report from Sky Sports has come out that the club will refuse to sell Antonio in the summer transfer window, and keep him at the London Stadium (or whatever it will be called next season) even if he refuses to sign the new contract.
West Ham refusing to sell Michail Antonio even though he's turned down double-your-money £70,000-a-week contract— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) April 28, 2017
So where does that leave the club? The last time the club got into a dispute with a player that wanted to leave, Dimitri Payet was sold to Marseille for £25 million pounds, a price that most pundits believed was below the price that West Ham could have commanded the previous summer or if Payet would have entertained any other options besides a return to the French club that he transferred to West Ham from.
This might all be Antonio’s agent attempting to leverage the board into an improved deal, since rumors of Antonio being on the move have been afoot for months. Lending support to the theory that all the smoke is from an agent fire is Hammer blogger Ex-WHU Employee, who says that this is all normal tactics by an agent to get the best deal possible for his client. It was also reported that the Antonio’s agent said that Antonio had not turned down a £70k a week offer, which is very specific wording. Might that offer have been less than the £70k a week that has been reported then?
Of course, the new “wrinkle” to the rumor is the unhappiness over the injury situation that prevented Antonio from playing the rest of the season and kept him out of an England call-up. As BTH’s injury update indicated, hamstring injuries are often tricky and extremely easy to re-injure. It is unsurprising that Antonio is claiming that he was rushed back, given the importance of the games and West Ham’s position in the table, and if he feels the medical staff is putting him at risk of further injury, he might be very wary of signing an “improved” deal if it has a lot of “playing bonuses” that he might never see.
While Antonio has been an important part of this season, and his goals have been tremendously important, it might be in the best interest of the club to sell him if the relationship between him and the board is beyond repair. The board cannot afford to back itself into another corner and get a cut-price transfer fee if it wants to compete for anything other than mid-table mediocrity or celebrate reaching 40 points. If the relationship can be repaired and Antonio is willing to stay, then the board needs to pony up and pay the man his money. If West Ham are to attract the kind of player the team needs to take a “leap forward” they should be looking to pay market wages, not refuse to go over £70k a week for their leading scorer while simultaneously looking to sign out of contract, aging right backs for £80k a week.