Chinese Super League clubs “fell in love” with striker Andy Carroll when scouting the Premier League this season, says manager Slaven Bilic.
But Bilic says there was “no way” West Ham were going to sell the 28-year-old in the January transfer window.
The former Newcastle and Liverpool striker has scored six times in 12 Premier League appearances for the Hammers despite an injury-hit campaign.
“He is one of our best players and we want to keep him,” said Bilic.
“Chinese clubs send their representatives over to investigate. They were watching other players, but they fell in love with Andy. The club didn’t try to sell him.”
Bilic says Carroll heard about the interest and was no doubt “flattered by it”, but that it had not been discussed.
Bilic ‘not bothered’ by new contract
Former Hammers defender Bilic rejoined the club as manager in 2015 and has 18 months to run on his current deal, but cited ex-Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri as an example when suggesting he was not stressing about his contract at the minute.
He said: “The way I see it. I’m very happy. I have a contract and I am very happy. I don’t think that much about it.
“I wouldn’t lie, yes, it would be nice but I have a year-and-a-half contract and there’s no difference when you consider what happened to Ranieri. The biggest one and the best one.
“Who has the safest job? We would all say Ranieri. Everyone would have said that. Ranieri. And then what happened with that? So I’m not that bothered about that to be fair.”
Second season syndrome?
West Ham finished seventh in Bilic’s first season in charge, but a move to London Stadium and the loss of influential playmaker Dimitri Payet to Marseille have contributed to a difficult second term.
Bilic said: “Well it was a hard season, but every season is hard. I consider this season as a great season for me individually for the team and club.
“This season we experience negative things, we moved the stadium, the training ground, a very strange pre-season. And then we were hit of lots of injuries, some positions we didn’t have any players.
“To come out of that in such a good way, of course we want to improve but it looks pretty good now. It makes you stronger. It’s different if you are eighth, ninth and 10th and stay there. This way you enjoy it and it gives you more experience for the future.”
‘Chelsea can still slip up’
West Ham face Premier League leaders Chelsea on Monday, having knocked them out of the EFL Cup in October. And Bilic is a fan of Blues boss Antonio Conte.
He said: “I’m surprised how good they have been. I was expecting him to have a strong impact because he had it at Juventus.
“I watched Juve quite a lot and I was studying his game. I didn’t know because no-one knows.
“I expected him to do great long term and it is a surprise they are 10 points clear. Conte is a great manager, he done it at Juve, he done it with Italy. A brilliant manager of course.
“It [the title race] is still very open. Many, many points. If they slip up, which you can in every game, other teams need to be ready.”