Five things you didn’t know about West Ham man Mauro Zarate

Jack Beresford dishes the dirt on the latest South American sensation set to touch down in the Premier League with West Ham United.

Previously linked with moves to Liverpool and Sunderland, it would now appear that 27-year-old striker Mauro Zarate is nearing a move to the Premier League.

Reports suggest the forward, who has just scored 19 goals in 29 games for Velez Sarsfield, is close to completing a transfer to West Ham United, as Sam Allardyce looks to bolster his attacking options for next season.

But as the following five stories show, the Hammers could yet come to regret the move.

1. Mauro Zarate’s reputation as a bad boy was forged at Velez Sarsfield – the club where he started his career. Criticised as lazy and selfish by coaches at the Argentine club, things came to a head during one game when Zarate was benched by his manager, who was annoyed at the striker’s bad habit of always going it alone with the ball rather than passing the ball.

Brought on as a substitute, Zarate exacted the kind of petty revenge you could only dream up: dribbling past a number of opposition players and rounding the keeper before refusing to score.

2. The forward rose to prominence as part of the successful Argentina youth team that captured the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, with the 27-year-old scoring in La Albiceleste’s 2-1 victory over Switzerland in the final.

The other Argentine goalscorer that day will be familiar to many – Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero - while the starting 11 that featured in that final included former Valencia favourite Ever Banega and ex-Liverpool defender Emiliano Insua. Angel Di Maria, meanwhile, was an unused substitute.

3. After the tournament Zarate, who had just finished as Velez Sarsfield’s joint top-scorer in the 2006 Apertura, was hot property. Linked with a series of big-money moves to Europe, the youngster took up a rather unusual offer, moving to Qatari League side Al-Sadd on a two-year contract that saw Velez Sarsfield pocket a hefty $22 million transfer fee.

But after just six games and four goals, Zarate wanted out, ending up on loan at Premier League strugglers Birmingham City, where he scored four goals in 14 games before returning to Qatar. Another loan move, this time to Lazio followed, with the deal eventually made a permanent one, with the Rome side paying €20 million.

4. Mauro Zarate generated many negative headlines at Lazio, with one incident seeing him famously decide to take advantage of an international break back in April 2013 and go on holiday in the Maldives.

The only problem was that he hadn’t bothered to get permission from his Rome employers, instead presenting a doctor’s note claiming he needed time off to go back to his native Argentina to receive treatment for a fatigue-induced skin condition.

The club was suspicious – the forward had been training apart from the first-team for several months at this point – and they were proven right when a fan, holidaying in the region, called a Rome radio station to report that the Argentine had been spotted snorkelling.

5. In an attempt to endear himself to the Lazio ultras, Zarate would often take to the stands of the Stadio Olimpico to watch games alongside these avid and notoriously pro-fascist fans.

However he landed himself in hot water during one game back in March 2010, after being photographed during a loss to Lazio giving what appeared to be fascist salute to the team.

A spokesman later claimed that the striker was unaware of the "significance" of the gesture and that he was not even aware of who Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler were.

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