West Ham United have secured the signing of the highly regarded Switzerland international Valon Behrami in a £5m deal from Serie A giants Lazio.
The versatile performer, who can play at right-back and across midfield, was coveted by some of Europe's leading clubs but chose to switch to the Boleyn Ground. He has already passed a medical and agreed a five-year contract. The deal follows on from the club securing England striker Dean Ashton on a new long-term contract, welcoming back players like Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer from injury, and the arrival of promising Iceland Under-21 defender Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson.
Speaking this morning, a delighted Behrami, who will wear the No21 shirt next season, said: "I am very happy to last be able to sign for West Ham. For me it is a dream come true to play for the club and in the Premier League. I am very much looking forward to becoming part of the team here.
"After the European Championships, I spoke with West Ham who expressed their interest in me coming here. It was important for me to talk with everyone here and, when I did, I was very pleased to see what they wanted from me and what the plans are now and in the future for the team. It was something that enabled me to make my decision very quickly and now I can't wait to train and play for West Ham."
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West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said: "We are delighted to have signed Valon. We beat off a lot of interest from other clubs to get him and we are very pleased to now have him here at West Ham United. He is a player who will be a valuable addition to the squad as we aim for a successful season ahead."
"Valon's signing is also an indication of the club's positive ambitions and shows that, contrary to some reports, we are firmly committed to strengthening the playing staff. There will not be a mass exodus and fans can be assured that we are working hard as always to ensure high-calibre competition in all areas of the team."
The 23-year-old, who played all three games for his country at the Euro 2008 finals earlier this summer and now has 15 caps, has risen to prominence since signing for Serie A giants Lazio in July 2005. A fans' favourite, he played 64 league games for the Roman club, scoring four goals, and played four times in last season's Champions League.
Behrami, who wore the No85 shirt for Lazio, previously played for Genoa and Verona having moved across the border in 2003 from Lugano, a town in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. The Kosovo-born player had also attracted attention at international level for Switzerland, having been capped at various youth levels.
For his country's senior side, he featured at the 2006 World Cup after scoring a crucial goal in their qualifying success against Turkey. That then set him up for the memorable experience of this summer's European Championship on home soil where he again showed his promise to a global audience. He is set to meet his new team-mates for the first time when they return from the North American tour at the weekend.