Reports this morning indicate that the attempted hijacking of Marko Arnautovic by Shanghai SiPG has gone into a higher gear as the club have reportedly increased their £39 million bid to a whopping £45 million for the 29 year old.
With Oscar and Hulk already on their books, they are looking for another high profile signing to boost their profile. Arnautovic headed to Austria after Saturday's victory over Arsenal, with the intention of celebrating the Serbian New Year with his family. Hammers fans would probably prefer to hear that he is spending time with the likes of Mark Noble to steady his head rather than with his brother Danijel who seems to be the main energy driving the career-ending move.
Arnautovic has realised his best ever form at West Ham and would perhaps benefit from observing how Dimitri Payet's stratospheric rise came to an end when he moved back to Marseille under somewhat similar circumstances. Arnautovic has struggled with inconsistency during his career and really only found regular form since being switched to a central attacking role by David Moyes just over a year ago.
Many seasoned observers would feel that he will be wasting the most productive period of his career if he moves to the Chinese League which is regarded by many as second rate at best. Of note, Arnautovic himself has had no formal comments and much of the media speculation is surmised from his brother's comments and their reading of his body language.
Manuel Pellegrini has handled the episode quite differently from Slaven Bilic, who seemed to feel compelled to be seen to be strong with Payet and relegated him to training with the kids (including none other than Declan Rice!). Pelle has played down the affair as something that may well just blow over. One senses that Marko is quite a different person to Payet and that he is more prone to impulsive behaviour, while Payet seemed dead set on a move at any cost.
In reality, while Arnautovic has won the hearts of Hammers fans, the side has started to gel under Pellegrini to the point that fans have a handful of stars to sing about, including Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop and Declan Rice. Given the treacherous nature of the January window, maybe West Ham should bank the money and use it to prepare for a serious assault upon the Premiership next season?