West Bromwich Albion could be in for a new midfielder this month, but they face stiff competition from a couple of the Premier League’s elite as well as their nearest challengers for the Championship title.
According to Tportal, Ivan Lepinjica is subject to interest from the Baggies with Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United all vying for his signature too.
It remains to be seen how accurate these reports are, but it isn’t too far-fetched to envisage Albion boss Slaven Bilic dipping into his home nation for one of their rising youngsters.
The 20-year-old is a defensive midfielder who can also be deployed at centre-back, and he’s quickly become a regular for HNK Rijeka after featuring 17 times in all competitions this season, including the Europa League.
Last season he was part of the starting lineup as the Prva HLK runners-up on the Croatian league cup by defeating Dinamo Zagreb 3-1, Lepinjica played a significant role in snuffing out the danger that Wolves and Barcelona target Dani Olmo possesses – he has made 15 goal contributions already this season.
The Croatian news outlet further claim that Rijeka will not allow the emerging talent to leave for less than €5m (£4.25m).
At 6 foot 2, Lepinjica offers a dominant presence in midfield, so it’s no surprise to see that he has the versatility to play in numerous defensive positions.
Bilic could well have an eye to the future with this one, especially as Jake Livermore isn’t getting any younger having hit his 30th birthday two months ago.
If the Baggies reach the top-flight come to the end of the season, then there will have to be questions asked over whether the veteran midfielder can still cut it in the Premier League, given he hasn’t been at that level for two seasons now.
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Even if he can, it’s still wise to look for his future successor now as the seven-time England international can become a mentor and mould him into a similar style of player.
It’s clear to see that the 30-year-old is the more defensive-minded midfielder as he averages two tackles and 1.7 fouls per game in the Championship this season, via WhoScored.
The Albion boss could help him settle too, but that’s only if they can convince him to come to the Hawthorns rather than either of the two top-six chasing elite.