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By ESPN Staff

Benayoun agrees new five year deal at Upton Park

Yossi Benayoun has pledged his future to West Ham by agreeing terms on a new five-year deal.

The Israel captain was linked with both Arsenal and Liverpool during the summer transfer window after an impressive debut season in the Premiership.

But Benayoun insists he never considered a move away from Upton Park and he is set to complete the formalities on a new contract later this week.

'I never said I wanted to leave the club. It is normal to have speculation in the press, and Liverpool and Arsenal are two big names, but I am happy at West Ham and I will sign a new contract in the next few days,' he said.

'Everything has been agreed and I will sign for five years. It shows I am very happy at the club and that the club are happy with me.'

With a potential takeover bid in the pipeline a great deal could change at Upton Park in the next five years - and Benayoun is excited by the prospect.

West Ham have outlined plans to be challenging regularly for Champions League qualification by 2011.

That timescale could be reduced dramatically if potential new owners bankroll signings of the same quality as the two new arrivals Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

'Of course if somebody comes in with a lot of money of course it will help the team,' said Benayoun.

'They brought two world class players so I think this club is going to make a big step forward.'

Benayoun believes that process begins in earnest on Thursday night at Upton Park, when West Ham return to European competition for the first time in seven seasons.

The Hammers face a first round, first leg tie against Sicilian side Palermo, who finished eighth in Serie A last season and reached the Italian Cup semi-finals.

West Ham struggled to find their usual rhythm in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Sunday but Benayoun is confident it will come right under the lights at Upton Park.

'This is a new thing for us now but we have a lot of confidence. If we play well we go into the UEFA Cup group stage and build ourselves for the next few years,' he said.

'The team as it is now, must work hard because we all want to take the club on to bigger things and I believe we have the right quality of players here who can do this.

'I watch a lot of the Italian league and I have seen them play against teams from Israel in the UEFA Cup.

'It will a hard game and they are a strong side but I believe in my team and I think we are going to win.

'I think we can reach the group stage and even more than that.'