At 17-years-old, Reece Oxford is hot property.
It has been rumoured over many weeks that both of the Manchester clubs are willing to spend as much as £15m on the young defensive midfielder, but behind the scenes, West Ham are not willing to see a prized asset disappear that easily.
The Hammers youngest ever player and the second youngest Premier League starter has the potential to be one of the best players in many a generation.
Having made 12 appearances in the claret and blue, the tall, gangly youngster uses the ball well, has pace and seems exceptionally calm.
His first competitive Premier League match against Arsenal at The Emirates last August underlined that quality.
From here on, the player will need to develop carefully and his next choice of whether to stay or to leave West Ham will shape his future.
Here are five reasons why it would be better to stay in East London…
Oxford led the club’s Development Squad to the U21 Premier League Cup and was named West Ham’s Young Hammer of the Year last season.
He is currently playing for the England U19’s and is likened to another West Ham youth product, Rio Ferdinand.
“He’s definitely going to be a big player,” said Bilic after the victory at Arsenal. “He is still a risk, still 16. As he’s 16 he’s going to have ups and downs.
“We have to manage him now not only on the pitch but off it too.”
And that’s where West Ham could win. He’s developed because of the youth system at The Hammers, he knows the coaches and the club and they will guide his every step to the first team as only West Ham do.
At West Ham he won’t stagnate.
The club and the player are both extremely ambitious and the one fly in the ointment might be that the young player wants too much too soon.
When the likes of Manchester City or Manchester United come calling with all they have to offer, heads will turn, but it will be up to Bilic to keep Oxford grounded and show him a definite career path with The Hammers.
The youngster will need to see that the club’s ambitions match his own.
Oxford rejected a new contract at West Ham at the end of last season, with his current deal still carrying him through to 2018.
One look at the size of the potential suitors means that his star status at West Ham will mean very little amongst so many proven stars within those sides. If he fails to develop for whatever reason, he will simply become an expensive forgotten man.
At West Ham he already commands a lot of respect for his ability and the club see him as part of their future. Oxford also needs to ask himself why young players are leaving these teams to come to West Ham.
Martin Samuelsen left Manchester City last year and Ashley Fletcher has recently joined from neighbours United. The grass isn’t always greener.
West Ham fans do not want to see another talent coming through the Academy only to see the player disappear elsewhere.
The Board need to sit down with the youngster and negotiate a deal that suits all parties and end the speculation. The Hammers have seen such quality end up at rivals before. Frank Lampard, who had made nearly 150 appearances before he left for Chelsea, Joe Cole, also in the 100 club before Chelsea cherry-picked him from a relegated side, Glen Johnson too and Rio Ferdinand, who was already the finished article when Leeds made him both the most expensive British player and the world’s priciest defender ever.
West Ham are in a stronger position now than they were with those previous departures and need to sort out a deal soon. The money, the will and the future of the club are all in place to make this happen.
The player, although still not proven, has all the potential to become a long-term Hammer and a club legend.
The status that he would receive at the club and with the fans would be beyond any kind of acclaim that he would receive elsewhere. At another club, he would play a while, then be usurped by a bigger name costing more and receiving a better deal than Oxford.
Then he’d be off somewhere else trying again, whereas at West Ham they love their own in a way unique to the club. If he wants adulation and total praise, then The Hammers will give him something not matched elsewhere.