Hammers pursue Barca defender

January 30, 2006

West Ham have 24 hours to thrash out a transfer deal for Barcelona defender Gabri.

Empics / AdamDavyGabriel Garcia De la Torre

The Spain international, 26, is believed to have travelled to London for a medical and could sign a three-year contract on Tuesday if the clubs can agree a £1.5million fee.

Gabri - full name Gabriel Garcia De la Torre - has also attracted the attention of Middlesbrough but West Ham, who spent £7million on striker Dean Ashton from Norwich last week, need cover for Tomas Repka who has gone back to the Czech Republic to be with his family after four years in London.

Gabri has suffered with form and fitness this season, making only a handful of starts for the Catalan giants.

But he has been loyal to Barcelona for many years, and after expressing his wish to play in the Premiership, it seems the club have no intention of standing in his way.

After lengthy talks with West Ham officials, Barca spokesman Toni Ruiz announced that everything would be done to ensure the deal was done as smoothly and quickly as possible.

'Barcelona are looking to help him,' Ruiz explained.

Gabri is likely to fill the void left by full-back Repka's departure to Sparta Prague but can also operate in midfield.

West Ham are likely to want an initial loan deal before offering a full contract but nobody at the club was available for comment this afternoon.

They play Arsenal at Highbury on Wednesday and Ashton, who has recovered from a groin injury which kept him out of Saturday's FA Cup win over Blackburn is available for his debut but manager Alan Pardew admitted: 'He might have to wait for his chance.

'We look forward to seeing his first game for us but my teams already play in style and always score goals.'

Pardew left top scorer Marlon Harewood out of the starting line-up on Saturday when Teddy Sheringham made his return after missing 10 games with a calf injury.