West Ham United are delighted to announce the major signing of German international midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger.

The 28-year-old will officially join the club from 1 July following his departure from Italian side SS Lazio. Fittingly nicknamed 'The Hammer' in honour of his powerful left-foot, he is the first new recruit to arrive at the Boleyn Ground this summer with the club fending off competition from more than a dozen clubs interested in his services.

The highly-rated Hitzlsperger passed a medical on Saturday before putting pen to paper on a three-year contract that will see him return to the Barclays Premier League after five seasons away. A Bundesliga title-winner with VfB Stuttgart, he scored 20 goals in 125 top-flight appearances in Germany.

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Capped more than 60 times for his country at Under-21 and senior level, he played a key role in his country's qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup only to just miss out on a place in a Germany squad that is expected to be one of the favourites in South Africa this summer.

West Ham United chairman David Sullivan said: "I am delighted to welcome Thomas to the club. We had to move quickly to secure his services when he became available, especially as there was understandably so much interest in him from around Europe and back in Germany.

"I am especially pleased that he is excited by what we are trying to achieve here at West Ham. Thomas is a top-quality player who I know the fans will love - and not just because of his nickname. He is a whole-hearted midfielder with an eye for a goal who gives everything in every match.

"He is the first of many signings this summer. We are going to sign a mixture of exciting young talent as well as the very best senior pros who can add real strength to the squad like Thomas. He is still a young man but has massive experience."

Hitzlsperger began his career with Bayern Munich before joining Aston Villa at the age of 18 in 2000. The central midfielder was a fans' favourite at Villa Park, making 114 appearances and scoring 12 goals, before moving back to his homeland with Stuttgart in summer 2005.

The Munich-born player became an important member of the Stuttgart squad that won the Bundesliga title in 2006/07. He moved to Lazio in January 2010, finishing his Serie A career on a high with a goal in the 3-1 final-day win over Udinese Calcio.

A former youth international, Hitzlsperger made his full Germany debut in a 2-0 friendly victory in Iran in September 2004.

The fluent English speaker netted his first international goals in a 13-0 UEFA European Championship qualifying win over San Marino in Serravelle in September 2006, just a few months after appearing for Germany at the FIFA World Cup in his home country.

Hitzlsperger was a central figure in Joachim Low's squad at the 2008 European Championship, starting all three knockout fixtures as Germany finished as runners-up to Spain.