BEIJING - West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola believes he would be the first to know if skipper Lucas Neill was leaving the club and, so far, no news is good news for the Italian. The influential Australian defender did not accompany the rest of the squad on their trip to Beijing for the English Premier League's Asia Trophy amid media speculation he might be on the move to Manchester City or Turkey's Galatasaray. "Lucas Neill is talking to the club, there have been some negotiations between him and the club, I hope I can say that," Zola told a news conference on Tuesday. "His name is being linked to other clubs (but) last time I spoke to him, he was talking that if anything happened he would call me first, and he hasn't called me so I assume he's not going anywhere. "He was an important player last year, and our aim is to improve on last year and so ... I hope we are going to have him again this season." Zola also said striker Dean Ashton, another player at the centre of transfer speculation, and Valon Behrami had been left behind in England to continue treatment and rehabilitation. "Valon Behrami is training and doing very, very well," Zola said of the Swiss midfielder, who suffered a knee injury in March. "The only reason we haven't brought him is because he wouldn't be able to do the things here that he's been doing. "He's been working on the pitch, running, kicking the ball and he's looking very, very well. "Dean Ashton is for the same reason ... he's working on his own with the physio and he's progressing," he added. "I'm waiting to have a word with him..." West Ham play Tottenham in their opening Asia Trophy match on Wednesday with the winner going on to play either Hull City or Beijing Guoan in Friday's final. "We know that if we want to get fit for the season we have to play real games ... we didn't come here for an exhibition, we came here for a proper match," said Zola.
28 July 2009
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