Bilic discusses futures of Payet, Fonte and Antonio

Date published: Thursday 19th January 2017 12:34 - Matthew Stead

Dimitri Payet remains in limbo at West Ham but manager Slaven Bilic is hopeful of making a new signing within the next 24 hours.

Wantaway France midfielder Payet is still training with the under-23 squad while the Hammers hierarchy haggle with Marseille, the club he wants to rejoin for personal reasons.

The east Londoners are taking a tough stance after Payet refused to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday and have already knocked back two bids.

Bilic insisted last week that the 29-year-old, West Ham’s star player last season, would not be sold.

But with the end of the January transfer window looming Bilic has now told Marseille to pay the asking price if they want to land their man.

“Is his departure inevitable? I don’t know,” said Bilic. “What has changed? Nothing.

“Dimi took his stance clearly. We took our stance very clearly and it stays the same. We are not going to sell our best players on the cheap just because someone wants to sign them or even because they want to go home.

“I left it with the chairman and I’m sure he’s going to do the best thing. The ball is in Marseille’s court. They are the ones who expressed interest. Now they should act.

“I don’t talk about numbers. All I’m saying is we were very firm, we know the market, we know how good or great he is as a player. Like everybody he has his price.”

Meanwhile Bilic has been linked with a move for Southampton defender Jose Fonte, although he denied claims the Portugal international has already had a medical.

“Not a medical,” he added. “Look, I said a few times already I’m not going to talk about names.

“We are not looking for big numbers as I have strong belief in our qualities now in the dressing room, but we need one or two players.

“Are any deals close? Close is very relative in football. Many times something that looks close doesn’t happen. And sometimes something that looks distant suddenly happens. But in 24 hours, hopefully.”

Bilic is also keen to tie Michail Antonio to a new contract with Chelsea reportedly interested in the winger.

Antonio, 26, whose current deal expires in 2019, set up all three goals against Palace last weekend and has found the net eight times himself.

“When players play like that and are at a good age then they are attracting interest from other clubs, and that puts them in a good position for a new deal and definitely he deserves it,” said Bilic.

“It’s a club decision of course, but Mikey’s got a big time green light to sign a new deal. I leave it to the chairman but I hope it’s close. I hope it’s done to be fair.”

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