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'Complete nonsense!' - Arnautovic dismisses talk of rift with West Ham team-mates

15:00 EAT 29/03/2019
Marko Arnautovic West Ham 2018-19
The Hammers striker came close to a move to China but says it did not cause dressing room unrest and that he has tried to make peace with angry fans

Marko Arnautovic has dismissed talk of a rift in the West Ham dressing room caused by his aborted move to China as "nonsense".

Arnautovic has told disgruntled fans he will "shine again" after signing a contract extension following an angry reaction to his apparent eagerness to quit the London Stadium outfit.

The Austria striker was on the verge of a move to a Chinese Super League club - believed to be Shanghai SIPG - in January, with his brother and agent Danijel saying he was keen to take up a lucrative offer.

The move collapsed with reports claiming the club were unwilling to meet West Ham's valuation of the former Stoke City and Werder Bremen forward.

Arnautovic, 30, insists the decision to remain in London was his, and claims there is no bad blood with his team-mates following a situation which saw many Hammers fans turn on their hero.

"Complete nonsense," he told DAZN and Goal in an exclusive interview. "I did not have issues with any player.

"Every one of them knows how the football business works. People claimed I refused to play. But that is not true and a complete lie.

"I talked to my family and my agents for hours. It was totally our decision to stay.

"Of course, then you read the club did not want to pay the fee. But this is wrong. It is a matter of fact that I called the manager and the president to let them know about my decision.

"But everybody looks at social media and believes the things that are written there."

Arnautovic has, however, felt the wrath of West Ham supporters and has even phoned some of his detractors to explain why he was initially tempted by the big-money switch.

"I could not call 60,000 people, that would have taken more than two years," he added. "But I picked a few that sent me annoying messages on Instagram.

"I asked them for their number, to talk to them. I don't believe any player in the world has ever done that. They could not believe it at first either.

"I told them I was a human being just like them and I respected them. Therefore they should respect me, too. I told them: 'Now you can tell me all these bad things directly'.

"And I asked them 'What do you do, when you receive a better job offer? Do you turn it down immediately?' They said no and understood my situation."

Arnautovic says he in turn understands the passionate reaction of fans, but insists signing a new deal shows his commitment to the club.

And he has promised he will get back to his best after spending time out of manager Manuel Pellegrini's starting line-up since January.

"If things do not go well, people are quick to say 'Arnautovic does not want to play for us anymore'," he said.

"I turned from a fan favourite to a player they hated in no time. If I was a normal player at West Ham and wanted to join a Chinese club, nobody would have said anything.

"But since I was a leader at West Ham and thought about that offer, I was suddenly a bad man.

"One day your are top, next day your are flop – for everybody. That is why I was looking to make contact with the fans and even called them.

"It was the manager's decision to not call me up. But it was me who received all the abusive messages. Some wanted me out, some wanted me in the reserves. Others wished for me to break my leg.

"Okay, that is social media. I understand the emotions. They are angry because they love me."

Of his decision to extend his stay with the Hammers, signing a new contract days after the proposed China move fell through, he added: "I joined West Ham, because the club has a project and wants to rise. The club invested lots of money and will continue to do so next year. That is why I renewed.

"I will shine again. People think I am too old at 30. But that is just a number on paper.

"When people say I have a dip in form, that is nonsense. No matter which defenders are in front of me, they better be scared because of me. I don't have a crisis."

Arnautovic will be hopeful of making an impact when West Ham return to action following the international break with a home clash against Everton on Saturday.