Manuel Pellegrini Cools Marko Arnautovic Exit Talk Amid Chelsea Rumours

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2018

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Marko Arnautovic of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and West Ham United at John Smith's Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Huddersfield, United Kingdom. (Photo by William Early/Getty Images)
William Early/Getty Images

Marko Arnautovic remains happy and focused despite recent rumours the striker could leave West Ham United amid links to Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester United.

Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini has said Arnautovic "is a West Ham player because he has a contract here, he is happy here," per Metro.

Pellegrini is aware of reports of interest in his attacking talisman, but he maintained Arnautovic has not had his head turned: "Every player always wants to play in the biggest team but I don't think that Marko is thinking about that. He is thinking about West Ham and he tries to make his best performance in every game."

Pellegrini's words appear intended to cool the growing talk Arnautovic will move on. The talk has been futher fuelled by comments from both the player and his agent.

Pellegrini is confident Arnautovic wants to stay put.
Pellegrini is confident Arnautovic wants to stay put.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Arnautovic recently told Austrian publication Kurier (h/t BBC Sport) he is eager to test himself at a higher level.

Meanwhile, Metro noted how his agent and brother, Danijel Arnautovic, indicated the forward needs to step up a level and named Chelsea as one of those interested in signing his client.

United showed interest in the summer, and Arnautovic played for Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.

The player shunned questions about his future when he spoke to Sky Sports (h/t The Independent) after Austria beat Northern Ireland 2-1 in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday: "I don't want to talk about that. I concentrate on West Ham and we have a big game against Manchester City on Saturday and I am only thinking about this game and the following games."

Arnautovic also posted a message on Instagram (h/t Football.London's Sam Inkersole) urging Hammers supporters not to believe every rumour printed about his future.

Arnautovic continues to be linked to a host of Premier League suitors, including Chelsea.
Arnautovic continues to be linked to a host of Premier League suitors, including Chelsea.Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Even so, he would be an asset at either Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.

Arnautovic has matured somewhat with the Hammers, particularly under the guidance of Pellegrini and previous manager David Moyes. The 29-year-old has gotten used to leading the line as a lone centre-forward.

He's shown the power to play with his back to goal, as well as the technique to link well with runners from midfield. Those qualities have helped Arnautovic become the goalscoring and creative fulcrum of Pellegrini's team.

He's scored five times and provided an assist in 10 league starts so far this season, although not everybody is convinced Arnautovic can cut it at a higher level:

Squawka Football @Squawka

@muhammadbutt .@muhammadbutt on Marko Arnautovic: "Arnautovic simply isn’t good enough. There’s a reason he spent four seasons at Stoke. And there’s a reason that only West Ham were willing to sign him from Stoke." https://t.co/wSJrQl9kjk

United may disagree after injuries and goal droughts have wrecked the start of Romelu Lukaku's second campaign in the red half of Manchester. Chelsea have their own issues at centre-forward, where neither Olivier Giroud nor Alvaro Morata has been consistent enough for a team mounting a title challenge.

Pellegrini knows how important Arnautovic will be to helping West Ham finish comfortably above the drop zone and challenge for a European spot. He'll also know how hard it will be for the Hammers to keep their prized asset if the big clubs get serious about trying to tempt Arnautovic away.