Dan Coker's Match Preview

With England playing Switzerland in the Nations League Third-Place Play-Off tomorrow, here’s my look at the Hammers’ Swiss Connections…

Valon Behrami

Valon Behrami was born in Mitrovica, Yugoslavia (now Kosovo) on 19th April 1985 but moved to an Italian-speaking village in Switzerland when he was five. He began his career with Lugano in 2002 before moving to Italy a year later, signing for Genoa. An all-action midfielder who could also play at right-back, he spent the 2004/05 season on loan at Verona before joining Lazio permanently in 2005, initially in a co-ownership deal which was made outright in January 2006. Behrami also made his first appearance for Switzerland in 2005.

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In July 2008, the 23-year-old Behrami was signed in a £5m deal by Alan Curbishley as West Ham’s main summer purchase. He made his debut at right-back in a 2-1 home win against Wigan on 16th August 2008, the opening day of the 2008/09 season. Curbishley left the club just four matches into the campaign and was replaced by Gianfranco Zola – Behrami, now a fixture in midfield, scored his first goal under the Italian’s tutelage in a 1-0 win at Sunderland on 23rd November 2008. His only other goal in his first campaign came in a 2-0 FA Cup fourth round win at Hartlepool on 24th January 2009. His season was ended in March 2009 when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a home match against Manchester City – the injury would keep him out for six months.

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The Hammers struggled against relegation in 2009/10 with Behrami scoring just one goal, a crucial early strike in a 3-0 home win over Hull on 20th February 2010. Behrami was part of the Switzerland squad which exited the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at the group stage – he was sent off in a 1-0 defeat to Chile. He made just eight appearances in the first half of the 2010/11 season under Avram Grant but scored two goals – the first in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham on 6th November 2010, with his final goal for the club coming three weeks later in a 3-1 home win over Wigan. Behrami made his last appearance in claret and blue in a 5-0 defeat at Newcastle on 5th January 2011 – he had scored five goals in 60 appearances for West Ham United. These five goals can be viewed in my video below.

Behrami left West Ham for Fiorentina in late January 2011 but departed for Napoli the following year. He moved to Germany, joining Hamburg in 2014, before returning to the Premier League with Watford in 2015. He returned to Italian football in 2017, signing for Udinese – now 34, Behrami is captain of the Serie A side. He has won 83 caps for his country, scoring twice.

Fabio Daprela

Fabio Daprela was born in Zurich on 19th February 1991. He started his career with Grasshopper, coming through the youth ranks before making his senior debut in 2007. A left-back, the 18-year-old Daprela moved to Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham United in 2009 – he had already represented Switzerland at Under-17 and Under-19 levels. He made his debut on 3rd January 2010 in a 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup third round and made three consecutive starts in March 2010 – the Hammers lost all three matches against Chelsea (4-1), Arsenal (2-0) and Wolves (3-1). Daprela made three substitute appearances in April 2010, including crucial home victories over Sunderland (1-0) and Wigan (3-2), the latter securing survival in the Premier League. His eighth and final appearance in claret and blue came on the final day of the 2009/10 campaign as Daprela played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 home draw with Manchester City on 9th May 2010, a game which would also be Zola’s last as manager at the club.

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Daprela joined Italian side Brescia in August 2010 and spent three years with the Lombardy-based club before moving to Palermo. Daprela had represented the Swiss Olympic team at London 2012, and would win the Serie B title with his Sicilian club. He joined Carpi midway through the club’s debut season in Serie A in January 2016 but could not halt the club’s slide towards relegation. He signed for Chievo Verona later that year but swiftly joined Bari on loan. Daprela returned to Switzerland in 2017, signing for Lugano – now 28, he is still with the club.

Edimilson Fernandes

Edimilson Fernandes was born in Sion on 15th April 1996. He started his career with Sion, coming through the youth system and making his debut in 2013. He played every minute of Sion’s Europa League campaign in 2015/16 before the club were knocked out by Braga in the last 32; he also made his debut for the Swiss Under-21 side during this season. He signed for Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United in the summer of 2016 for a £5m fee at the age of 20.

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The cousin of both Gelson and Manuel Fernandes, Edimilson made his debut in a 1-0 League Cup third round win over Accrington Stanley on 21st September 2016. His only goal for the club came in the next round of the competition, and proved to be the winner in a 2-1 triumph over Chelsea on 26th October 2016 at London Stadium. The goal can be viewed in my video below.

Fernandes made 32 appearances in 2016/17, 12 of which were starts. He made his debut for the senior Switzerland side in November 2016. Mainly at home in a central or attacking midfield position, Fernandes also played on both flanks during his time in claret and blue – the 2017/18 campaign saw him make 16 appearances, 11 of which were starts. He played particularly well at Wembley as the Hammers defeated Tottenham 3-2 in the League Cup fourth round.

Fernandes spent the 2018/19 season on loan at Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A and signed permanently for German club Mainz last week. He had made 48 appearances for West Ham United, scoring one goal. Now 23, he is currently a member of Switzerland’s Nations League squad.

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