Jack Wilshere has signed a three-year contract with West Ham – the club he supported as a boy.
The 26-year-old midfielder made the emotional decision to leave Arsenal last month. Wilshere graduated from the Gunners’ academy and was considered the club’s best young player for many years, but injury plagued his development.
Fenerbahce made a huge offer to Wilshere, while Wolves and Everton were also interested in his signature. But after face-to-face talks with manager Manuel Pellegrini this week he opted to stay in London.
Wilshere, who missed out on a place in England’s World Cup squad despite a good season with Arsenal, will now fly out to join West Ham’s squad on their pre-season tour in Switzerland.
Although he has a long association with Arsenal, there are pictures of a young Wilshere, who was born in Stevenage, wearing a West Ham shirt. His father and brother are also West Ham supporters.
‘It feels good, it feels special,’ Wilshere told the club’s website.
‘Many people know that I’ve had a special bond with this club growing up.
‘People will have seen the picture of me in a West Ham shirt and I’ve got good memories of my childhood supporting West Ham, watching them at Upton Park. It feels good and of course my family and a few of my friends are West Ham fans so everyone’s buzzing.’
After years battling a succession of injuries, Wilshere proved he was able to retain his fitness last season. Although he convinced Arsene Wenger of his worth and won back his first-team place, it was made clear by new boss Unai Emery that he could not be guaranteed regular first-team football.
That brought to an end 17 years at Arsenal – Wilshere made his debut as a 16-year-old in 2008. He sealed his glowing reputation with a dominant display against Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona in a Champions League tie in 2011, while still a teenager.
Injuries, however, restricted his development and eventually saw him sent on loan to Bournemouth in 2016. He remained a fans’ favourite and won his Arsenal place back, but he was not happy with the club’s contract offer, which was incentive-based because of his injury record, and would have meant a cut in his basic pay.
Wilshere pinpointed Pellegrini’s faith in him as a big reason why he chose West Ham over his other options.
‘I think it was a number of things,’ he said, ‘the manager being one and the way he wants to play and where he sees me playing.
‘The fans, of course – everyone knows how big West Ham’s fanbase is – and especially in this new stadium. Not many clubs could fill it week in, week out, and West Ham do.
‘I want to be playing here in front of the Hammers, and my bond I’ve had with the club over my childhood will make it even more special.’
West Ham director of football Mario Husillos added: ‘Manuel and I identified him as a target as soon as we joined the club and we are delighted to have succeeded in securing Jack’s signature above a number of other teams.
‘On the biggest stage, he has shown that he has game-changing abilities, as well as having the creativity and intelligence to make a real difference to our squad.’
West Ham are also very close to smashing their transfer record to sign winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio for a fee of nearly £40million.