Young Gunner on Hammers hit-list

West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola is reportedly weighing up a summer bid for Arsenal's Spanish starlet Fran Merida.

The 18-year-old has been a Gunner since 2005 after joining from Barcelona's youth side, and has steadily progressed to the fringes of Arsene Wenger's first-team, attracting comparisons with, Arsenal captain and fellow countryman, Cesc Fabregas in the process.

Merida, a midfielder who can operate on both the left-flank or centrally, has yet to make his league debut for the club, taking part in six Carling Cup matches, starting three of them, as well as being loaned out to Real Sociedad in 2008.

But Zola, who is keen for his players to play attractive football at Upton Park, is believed to have already seen a loan move for the youngster rejected in January and is now plotting a bid to sign him permanently in the summer.

Whether Wenger will even entertain the thought of selling one of his most promising youngsters to a league and city rival, though, remains to be seen.

Speaking about Merida, Wenger told the club's official website: “Being compared to Cesc is a big task as well but I think he has a similar talent.

“You see in training and in the first team, he is always an asset. But at the moment in the Premier League you need power and I feel Fran is a late developer physically, but I do think he will come on."

While the player himself has expressed his delight at being able to develop his talent with the Emirates Stadium outfit.

"I’m delighted to be here," he said. "I arrived at the age of 16 and settled pretty well. My loan to Real Sociedad was a good experience and I feel like I’m improving day by day.

"Honestly, my plans are only short-term ones, like going to training tomorrow. What I want to do is have fun, improve and learn. And one day I want to succeed at Arsenal."

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