Birch steps up Ben Haim exit attempts

Tal Ben Haim has held talks with Pompey administrator Trevor Birch over his future
Tal Ben Haim has held talks with Pompey administrator Trevor Birch over his future

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Trevor Birch has step-ped up attempts to thrash out Tal Ben Haim’s Pompey future.

But he fears there may be no quick resolution to remove the club’s highest earner ahead of any Fratton takeover.

The Israeli international’s reported £36,000-a-week salary is a massive sticking point for any prospective owner, with Balram Chainrai currently closing in on a return to the club.

Birch held telephone talks with Ben Haim on Wednesday as he attempts to solve the problem.

The administrator made his latest move in a bid to negotiate the former Bolton defender’s much-needed exit.

Ben Haim currently has 12 months of the four-year deal he signed in August 2009 remaining.

If he stayed next season, it would cost Pompey just under £2m.

The situation remains one of the biggest headaches for the Pompey administrator as he attempts to move the club forward and deliver a £5m League One wage bill.

Birch insists there have yet to be any approaches for Ben Haim, despite agent Pini Zahavi last month claiming clubs were pursuing his client.

Regardless, he is urgently seeking a swift resolution to Ben Haim’s future.

Birch said: ‘I spoke to Tal on Wednesday. I am currently talking to him about what is going to happen, whether he wants another club or a compromise agreement at some stage.

‘For anyone to buy the club it is obviously going to be an issue. I have to say it is a very big issue.

‘Tal is just waiting, though. For him it is a waiting game.

‘He is just not playing his hand at the moment and, unfortunately, we have not got the cash to offer him. We have not got a terribly strong hand in this case at all.

‘Tal is very much his own man in terms of he will do the negotiations himself. I have not spoken to Pini Zahavi.

‘There is nothing at the moment I can do, nothing I can give to him. At some stage, the players have to weigh up whether it is worth having something spread over time as opposed to liquidation and nothing.’

Zahavi last month told The News his client would not be prepared to play in League One and would quit Fratton Park.

He also claimed there was interest from other clubs, including some outside of England.

But Birch said: ‘I have not had any offers or interest put to me.

‘Whether it has gone directly to his agent I don’t know but that is how it stands at the moment.’