West Bromwich Albion were today locked in a battle for Salomon Kalou after triggering his £2.6m release clause and offering the striker a deal in excess of £40,000-a-week.
The Baggies have activated Kalou’s escape clause at French club Lille and held talks with the Ivory Coast international as they bid to make him among the highest-paid players at The Hawthorns on an annual wage of more than £2m.
But they face competition from a host of clubs including West Ham, Trabzonspor and Valencia.
West Brom and Premier League rivals West Ham have lodged £2.6m bids, with both clubs automatically given permission to open negotiations with the player.
The Baggies have pushed the boat out by putting a bumper deal on the table but the Hammers have also made the versatile former Chelsea forward an attractive offer, while Turkish side Trabzonspor are waiting in the wings.
And bookies last night slashed the odds on Valencia clinching his signature after late interest from the Spanish club.
Albion insist the ball is now in Kalou’s court, although they could still return to the negotiating table if the player expresses a desire to move to The Hawthorns, where he would link up with former Stamford Bridge team-mate Nicolas Anelka.
The Baggies and West Ham have opened talks with alternative targets, with both clubs interested in Udinese hitman Matej Vydra and the Hammers linked with a move for Liverpool wideman Raheem Sterling on a season-long loan.
But both still regard Kalou as a leading target.
Upton Park manager Sam Allardyce confirmed at the weekend that Kalou’s desire to play as a central striker could prove a stumbling block to a move to London.
The Hammers refused to offer assurances over Kalou’s position and the Baggies are likely to adopt the same stance but sources close to Kalou insist the issue will not make or break any transfer.
Vydra’s future remains in the balance amid suggestions the Hammers are considering a big-money offer to sign the Czech Republic international permanently.
Albion have submitted a loan bid for the former Watford loanee, whose agent, Ondrej Chovanec, told the Express & Star: “He is preparing for the season with Udinese and there is no news.”