Few Premier League clubs acquitted themselves in the summer transfer market in a better fashion than West Ham.
The likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini have already justified the efforts the Hammers went to to lure them in, with their performances having been key in the club’s stunning form, which leaves them in fourth spot, ahead of the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs, and in the driving seat, for now, for the sought-after fourth Champions League qualification spot.
The majority of Irons supporters are not getting carried away just yet, but the longer Slaven Bilic can eek out the level of performance he currently is from his players, the more and more likely going a step further than last season – where a top four push seemed on until the winter period – becomes.
January offers a welcome re-fuelling stop for West Ham, with the chance to get in some fresh bodies and take advantage of the club’s position as being, arguably, more attractive then it’s ever been to potential signings to boost their hopes.
With that in mind, here are FIVE rumours that we feel are entirely realistic heading into 2016…
Not so long ago a move for a player of Honda’s calibre would have been a pipedream at Upton Park, but the increased TV money in English football, the club’s on-field fortunes and a looming move to the Olympic Stadium make the Hammers an attractive proposition, and with suggestions that the Japan international is available for around £5m with his role at AC Milan in doubt, who knows what’s possible in January?
With 77-caps at international level and Champions League experience, the 29-year-old playmaker – who also has a reputation as being a set-piece demon – could be just the sort of mid-season injection of quality needed at West Ham to maintain their top four push, which was sorely lacking in 2014/15 as the Irons slipped away under Sam Allardyce.
Standing at 6ft. 5”, Ranocchia appears ideally suited to the demands of the Premier League, and luckily for West Ham he’s grown discontented at Inter Milan. The Italy international was the Nerazzurri’s captain until manager Roberto Mancini stripped him of the armband earlier this year, and since then the former Manchester City tactician has bombed him out of the first-team.
Although this doesn’t bode well for a potential West Ham move, Ranocchia is a seasoned professional who could compete with the likes of Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna and James Collins for a starting berth.
Linked with a summer move from Juventus to West Ham despite having only signed for the Old Lady a matter months earlier, Zaza could be available come January. Despite being one of the Turin giants’ arrivals following the exit of Carlos Tevez, the 24-year-old has been used sparingly in Serie A action, with only 278 minutes of action under his belt so far this term.
With EURO 2016 looming large the six-time Azzurri forward will be aware that he needs game time to stay in the hunt for the trip to France, which he’s more likely to achieve in east London than northern Italy.
A player Bilic coached at Besiktas and recently talked about in the same breath as Mesut Ozil, Ozyakup is a genuine talent. A wiry playmaker, the 23-year-old has been impressing in his homeland since leaving the Arsenal youth system in 2012, and he performances for the Istanbul giants have been enough to earn him 12 caps at international level.
Bilic, of course, knows him well from their time working together, which could be a factor in winning the battle for his services.
Even though any move for the Brazilian would be a HUGE gamble, West Ham are understood to be ‘favourites’ for his signature as interest from Europe heats up. Pato was considered to be one of the very best emerging strikers on the planet during the mid to late 2000s, but a series of injuries derailed his career, forcing him to leave AC Milan and head back to his homeland.
Corinthians gambled on him, and when things didn’t work out they shipped the now 26-year-old to Sao Paulo, where he has shone. But despite this they’re looking to cash in with an ambitious fee of £18.6m having been put out in the open, but realistically a player with his fitness record will surely go for closer to 50% of that sum.
High risk, high reward, Pato could add that star quality the Hammers may need to stay in the top four race.