Bilic delighted by Antonio news
Slaven Bilic has expressed his delight at seeing Michail Antonio agree a new long-term contract and backed the 27-year-old to enjoy a brilliant future with West Ham United.
The 2016/17 Hammer of the Year was at London Stadium on Friday afternoon to sign a four-year deal, and the news was a huge boost for his manager, who admitted that Antonio’s talent had not surprisingly attracted rival clubs.
“It’s great news for us,” said Slaven. “To be fair, I have always been confident Mikey would sign, but it is still a great feeling to have one of our top players to commit himself to us for the long term.
“The Chairman has worked very hard to get the deal done because, to be honest, it’s not just paper talk – there have been a lot of big clubs interested in him, so it is great for the club to do this before the end of the season.
“He appreciates that we have done a lot for him as a club, and he sees his future at West Ham, which is brilliant.”
Signed from Nottingham Forest back in September 2015, Antonio has enjoyed a scintillating first two years in the claret and blue. After making his debut as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Manchester City later that month, he broke into Bilic’s side two months later and hasn’t looked back since, with nine goals in each campaign.
“His progress has been incredible,” said the Hammers boss. “He was raw material when he played in the Championship, but he has now improved tactically, as a team player, and has kept that amazing physical ability.
“Of course, like any player, there are still things he can work on and continue to improve, but now he is much more complete.
“He represents the real modern day player. He can play up front, on the wings, or he can defend, he has pace, he has power and he scores goals, which of course is the most important thing in football. He’s a great asset for us.”
Having broken into the full England squad at the start of the season, Antonio was all set to make his international debut in March before injury ruled him out. However, Bilic firmly believes that the former Reading, Southampton and Forest star will force his way into Gareth Southgate’s team next season.
"Yes I do,” he said. “England have some good players in attacking positions but if Mikey continues to show the form he showed this season then he will be in the running.
“He got into the squad at the start of the qualification early in the season, and I expect him to push on and stay involved. Because not many players can do the kind of things he is doing on the pitch, week in, week out.”