Stoke City forward Marko Arnautovic has handed in a transfer request after the Potters rejected a £15 million bid from West Ham United, report The Daily Telegraph.
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic stepped up his pursuit of the 28-year-old Austria international, who wants to leave the Bet365 Stadium, but is currently sidelined with a knee injury that could scupper a move.
Arnautovic met with Stoke boss Mark Hughes last week, telling the Welshman that he wants to leave, which he subsequently confirmed with a written request.
West Ham have identified him as an ideal signing, chairman David Gold stating publicly last week that the club wants a centre-forward and an attacker who is versatile enough to play as a wide man.
However, Stoke have no desire to sell the player, whose contract runs until 2020, but need to decide on their next move.
Any potential deal has also been clouded by Arnautovic suffering a knee injury during a pre-season friendly in Switzerland.
Before he suffered the injury playing against Neuchatel Xamax, the Telegraph predicted that West Ham will make a second bid of around £20 million as they try to tempt him away from the Midlands.
Stoke chairman Peter Coates confirmed that the initial offer had been turned down and that he and Hughes are working to find a way to keep Arnautovic at the club.
“We have received a bid from West Ham for Marko and it was turned down,” he said.
“Mark is planning to meet with the player and hopefully he can find a positive resolution, as he did last year.
“We will only sell Marko if the terms are right but he’s not a player we want to lose.”
Bilic reportedly wants to sign Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez and play them both alongside Michail Antonio.
While the latter signed a new contract last week, West Ham may struggle to meet the Mexico international’s wage demands.
He can leave Germany, provided the Hammers stump up £12 million and match his wages, which would make him the highest earner in their history.
Arnautovic will cost West Ham more in terms of a transfer fee but less in wages and the Telegraph claims that Bilic may offer players as well as cash in exchange for the Austrian.
He fits the bill for a West Ham team that Bilic wants to see playing attractive, attacking football.
Bringing with him a goal threat – as a record of netting 48 times in 244 appearances shows – he also has a reputation for petulance and being a difficult character.
That is something Bilic would need to handle to get the best out of him – if the injury does not force West Ham to look elsewhere.