Marko Arnautovic is set to face a rough ride at West Ham after the club rejected a bid from big-money offer from Shanghai SIPG — but the 29-year-old still expects to play against Arsenal on Saturday.
Arnautovic risked the wrath of supporters when he told the club he wants to leave and challenge for titles after the Chinese club saw an offer — believed to be closer to £28million — rejected by West Ham, who told their star to honour his contract.
He still hopes to play when West Ham resume their Premier League campaign at the London Stadium on Saturday — despite his brother and agent Danijel demanding he is allowed to leave after a contract offer worth more than £250,000 a week.
MARKO ARNAUTOVIC'S CAREER RECORD
- 59 games, 14 goals
nter Milan (2009-10 - loan)
- 3 games, 0 goals
Werder Bremen (2010-13)
- 84 games, 16 goals
- 145 games, 26 goals
West Ham (2017-present)
- 52 games, 19 goals
- 77 caps, 20 goals
West Ham expect another offer of around £40m and know the 29-year-old Austrian will push to go. Arnautovic, who has scored eight goals this season and is the club's record signing, is a favourite with supporters. But many were left shellshocked on Thursday as his brother featured on talkSPORT radio underlining his desire to quit.
'West Ham bought Marko for peanuts. They paid £20m for him, which is nothing in the current market,' said Danijel in a statement.
'They bought him to keep them in the Premier League last season and he did that. He took every award at the club — best player, signing of the season and the players' award.
'Now West Ham have a fantastic offer. It is close to double what they paid for him. He wants to go to a new market and challenge for titles. This is what he wants.
'It is his great desire that West Ham accept the offer from China.'
In a plea for supporters to accept Arnautovic's decision, he added: 'He knows the West Ham fans love him and he has a special connection with them, but things move on, this is the world of sport and he hopes they can understand.
'Marko is professional and is preparing himself for the Arsenal game. He will give 100 per cent for West Ham. That is Marko. He will never change. He hopes the fans can respect his wishes.'
Within minutes, a clearly irked West Ham responded by simply saying: 'Marko has a contract and we fully expect him to honour it. He is not for sale.'
West Ham signed Arnautovic for a fee that rises to £25m from Stoke City in July 2017. He was made West Ham's highest earner and signed a five-year contract.
The club sense a similar saga to the one that saw Dimitri Payet force a move to Marseille in 2017. The Chinese Super League transfer window remains open until February 28.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini, who worked in China with Hebei China Fortune, said: 'I talk with all of the players, always. Especially with big players. But we need to hear also what the player wants, what the club wants and I'm not talking about Marko Arnautovic, I'm talking in general.
'To try to grow as a club we need to keep our good players. But in some moments every club can sell some players, bring in another one and it's part of the process that you are doing to grow, so we cannot just talk about one name.
'We know Marko is a very good player so maybe a lot of clubs will want him to play for their team but at the moment he is a West Ham player and we want to keep him. But you never know what can happen in the future.
'I am sure his head will be in the game against Arsenal. I don't think he will leave.'
The Arnautovic camp clearly have their sights set on an exit. While the promise has been made that the player will remain professional in his approach, his temperamental nature could yet prove divisive if he doesn't get his wish.
Therefore the club have had to make contingency plans to replace Arnautovic if forced to sell.
They have earmarked Bournemouth's England international striker Callum Wilson as a potential target.
Wilson, 26, has a better strike record than Arnautovic and Chelsea are also interested in him. He is valued at close to £50m.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere will step up his fight for full fitness next week. The 27-year-old midfielder signed for West Ham on a free transfer from Arsenal in the summer.
Since the move, he has had surgery on one ankle but then endured another enforced lay-off because of pain in the other ankle.
Now he is set to resume light training on Monday and could be ready to play again in six weeks.
West Ham confirmed on Thursday that Paraguayan defender Fabian Balbuena is out for up to two months after surgery on a knee injury.