Mauro Zárate officially sealed his move to Barclays Premier League side West Ham United last week. After being linked with the Hammers for some weeks, he finally signed a three-year deal at the Boleyn Ground on a free transfer from South American side Vélez Sarsfield.
The Argentine spoke shortly after putting pen to paper. “West Ham is a very important club and we know all about them in Argentina,” told Zárate. “This is a beautiful club. I know English football from my time at Birmingham and I hope to play well and reach the highest possible level.”
Zárate started his career with Vélez Sarsfield in his native country, winning the domestic title in 2005. The striker then made a permanent move to Qatar, where he represented Al-Sadd in 2007. Six months later, he began his loan spell with Birmingham City, where he quickly became a fan favorite at St. Andrews, scoring four goals in 14 appearances.
Despite his impressive displays, The Blue’s suffered relegation from the Premier league in 2008. It was then confirmed that Zárate would be loaned out again, this time to Italian side Lazio. He went on to win the Coppa Italia with the Serie A side before making his switch permanent for a fee in the region of €20 million. Lazio then accepted a loan offer from rivals Inter Milan, where he spent a season on loan at the San Siro before returning. Upon leaving Lazio, he headed home to former side Vélez Sarsfield, where he was the top scorer in Argentina last campaign.
At the international level, Zárate has been capped 5 times by Argentina U20; he netted the winning goal as the Under-20 team won the 2007 World Cup Final.
In recent weeks, West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has been given the all clear to carry on his tenure. However, he has been told to make his team more entertaining and attractive to watch by the West Ham hierarchy. The former Bolton Boss will struggle with a low budget as he looks to try and strengthen the squad for next season. However, free transfer signings such as Zárate could prove to be a risk factor, but ultimately an investment if all goes well. Big Sam has a track record in the past of picking out a few gems, most notably from his time at The Reebok Stadium.
Zárate will add pace as well as a decent goal-scoring record to a near goal-shy West Ham attack, and fans will be intrigued to see a forming partnership with current king-pin Andy Carroll.
However, the 27-year-old is no stranger to controversy. In April last year, Zárate was spotted on holiday in the Maldives when he was meant to be in his native Argentina receiving medical treatment. Despite his injury, he didn’t figure in the first team at the time due to persistent disciplinary issues.
Back in 2010, the Argentine was serving a two-match suspension for insulting a referee in a previous game; he was photographed giving a fascist salute while watching Lazio being defeated by Bari in a group of ‘Ultra’ fans. A spokesperson later claimed the player was unaware of the significance of his actions.
One thing you could count on though, Allardyce has a job on his hands to keep his new signing’s feet firmly on the ground. Zárate could bring an air of excitement to the Boleyn Ground, whether it will be on or off the pitch remains to be seen.