Bilic vows not to sell Payet on the cheap

LONDON: Manager Slaven Bilic kept his cards close to his chest but insisted West Ham United will not be pressured into selling unsettled midfielder Dimitri Payet for a cut-price fee.

Bilic went public about Payet's desire to leave West Ham last week, outlining how the French fan-favourite had gone on strike in an attempt leave the club.

Payet, who signed a five-year contract last February, has been strongly linked with a return to French side Olympique de Marseille by the British media.

"His departure is not inevitable. I like to solve situations in house to protect the team. I said everything then and what has changed now? Nothing," Bilic told reporters on Thursday.

"It is not a good situation for the club, it is not good for football in general. We took our stand very clearly and it stays the same. We aren't going to sell our best players on the cheap just because somebody wants to sign them."

Bilic dismissed media reports suggesting that Southampton defender Jose Fonte was having a medical at West Ham but suggested the club will soon be announcing a new arrival.

"(Fonte is) not having a medical today," Bilic said.

"We are not talking about transfers, we are working on some though. There are one or two players we need, it won't be easy, but we are trying. Hopefully (we'll) have something to announce in 24 hours."

Michail Antonio has been in fine form this season, scoring eight times in 28 appearances, and Bilic is eager for the club to tie the winger down to a new contract.

"He's a player we want to keep. He has improved and is a real player for the future. Let's give him a chance to show that he is one of our most important players," the manager added.

"We are in a position to offer a new deal and he deserves it. Negotiations have just started, I will leave that to the chairman. I hope it gets done."

West Ham, in 12th, continued their slow climb up the Premier League when they beat Crystal Palace last weekend and Bilic said he was not expecting an easy match against 16th-placed Middlesbrough on Saturday.

"They don't score a lot but they don't concede a lot either. We will have to be on top of our game. We need to prove we have turned a corner," he said.