Does he have what it takes to move to a top-four team?
West Ham United’s Mohamed Diame might not seem like the most glamorous of January transfer targets, but given the calibre of clubs reportedly interested in snapping up the Senegalese, his move away from Upton Park could become one of the deals of the window.
With North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur reportedly considering a late swoop to trigger Diame’s £3.5million release clause, a move across the capital would cap a remarkable 12-months for the 25-year-old defensive midfielder.
Where as this time last year Diame was struggling to break back into Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic side following a disastrous African Cup of Nations with Senegal, he could potentially find himself playing in the Champions League should a move to Arsenal materialize.
Given the quality of his displays for West Ham United this season, perhaps it was always likely that Diame was going to rack up his fair share of suitors this month, but even so, going from staving off relegation to fighting for a top four finish marks quite the turnaround.
Yet for all his composed and domineering displays at the heart of Sam Allardyce’s midfield this term, does he really have what it takes to ply his trade for a top four team in this division?
Considering Diame recently went public in stating his happiness in East London, it’d be foolish to presume a move away from Upton Park this month is anything approaching a banker. But although you get the impression that the former Rayo Vallecano starlet would be more than happy to spend the rest of the term in Allardyce’s side, his reported lowly release clause may well catalyze a potential departure.
Although Hammers co-chairman David Gold didn’t mention a specific price when confirming the release clause last month, it’s been widely reported to sit around the £3.5million mark; a remarkably low price for one of the league’s most in-demand defensive midfielders.
And given the quality of the performances that he’s been putting in for West Ham this season, why wouldn’t you look to add Diame to the ranks for such a relatively paltry amount of money?
While his power and physicality are two of his most impressive traits, he has so much more to his game than simply mowing down the opposition’s midfield. The ex-Wigan man has resembled something of an unstoppable force during his displays for the Hammers and as we saw with his outstanding second-half display against Chelsea last month, even the very best midfields have wilted in the Senegalese’s presence.
Yet what sets him apart is his ability to create play rather than simply destroy it. He has a range of passing that few of his fellow defensive midfield peers possess and his willingness to drive his side on with surging, positive runs from deep have added a fantastic outlet to Sam Allardyce’s side.
But for all his midfield dominance in claret and blue, a move to either a Tottenham or an Arsenal represents a considerable step up in both quality as well as expectation. As naïve as it would be to write Diame’s talent off on the basis of his lowly release clause, it’d be equally as inept to purchase him simply on the basis of his bargain basement price tag.
Of course, for the likes of Diame’s more financially affluent suitors, £3.5million is little more than a deckchair off the Titanic and should his big move turn sour, you can’t imagine any club recouping too much less than what they paid for him. For the club, it’s a win-win situation yet for player, the grass might not necessarily lay greener on the other side.
Money talks in football and should a transfer to Arsenal, Spurs or a club of a similar ilk be on the cards, it’s going to be incredibly hard for Diame to resist their overtures.
Although you can’t help but feel that for both North London clubs, Diame represents more a measure of convenience, rather than one with long-term designs.
The recent season-ending knee injury to Tottenham’s Brazilian midfield enforcer Sandro has offered a bitter-blow to their push for a top-four finish, although as disappointing as his loss has been, it’s hardly as if they’re struggling for choice in the defensive midfield department.
With the trio of Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore in reserve, while Diame would perhaps offer an improvement on the latter two, would he really be offering much more than simply keeping the seat warm for the stricken Sandro? At £3.5million, maybe that wouldn’t particularly matter, although with time running out in the transfer window, Spurs have far more pressing issues to address in different areas of the pitch.
Similarly at Arsenal, Diame may seem like the sort of player they’re currently in dire need of, but is he really better than an up-and-running Abou Diaby? This is a club striving to push on towards a future Premier League title challenge. With the continued insistence from the Gunners’ hierarchy that the money is there to spend, is Diame really an investment that can take the club forward rather than move it sideways?
Let’s not forget, for all his barnstorming displays this term, it’s perhaps only within the last six months we’ve begun to see anything in the way of consistency from the big Senegalese. Similarly last season, Diame enjoyed a fantastic first-half of the term for Wigan, yet as the season went on, the all-action performances seemed to dry up. At 25, he’s a far more mature player than the erratic figure that arrived on these shores three-and-a-half years ago, but he’s still not quite the finished product.
Ultimately, at £3.5million, it’s difficult to pick the faults up in making a move for the French-born Diame this month. Yet for the player, where as a hasty move away this month might see him play the role of stopgap, should he hold on another six months, the rewards could be far greater – both from a footballing and financial perspective.