Josh Cullen has returned to West Ham United after a loan spell at Charlton Athletic, but could he actually be utilised by the club next season?
The 23-year-old helped the Addicks gain promotion to the Championship, making 35 appearances in all competitions and playing 90 minutes in the 2-1 play-off final win over Sunderland.
A Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, he is making strides at that level too, sitting on the bench as the boys in green beat Georgia 2-0 in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday.
His senior debut cannot be far away – he has won 15 caps for the youth side – and he has also made a total of nine appearances for the Hammers.
They have been sporadic, though, and he last turned out for West Ham’s first-team in 2017/18, making five appearances in all competitions. Before that, he had four outings in 2015/16.
At the age of 23, the time is now for Cullen to step up under Manuel Pellegrini.
He is an assiduous central midfielder, capable of shooting from distance, while he is also strong in the tackle and a good distributor.
He has not played in the Premier League for any length of time but manager Pellegrini may be forced into it, depending on their summer dealings.
Declan Rice has been a beneficiary of the club’s policy of promoting young players to the first-team and has emerged as perhaps England’s finest defensive midfielder, but he needs help.
Currently, only Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang and Carlos Sanchez are able to provide support in defensive midfield and the latter two are more than likely to leave the club.
If no replacements are found, there is a high likelihood that Cullen could be the man drafted in.
He will, of course, need a good pre-season and he may have to catch Pellegrini’s eye there.
But if he manages to do that, he could end up saving the club a fair few quid.
They have been linked with the likes of Stanislav Lobotka, of Celta Vigo, and Barcelona’s Andre Gomes, but each would cost a pretty penny, pennies that could be spent on other targets if Cullen forces his way in.
Football FanCast understands that Pellegrini has been told that he only has £30m to spend – that can be topped up by player sales – and therefore it makes sense for the club to promote Cullen instead of splashing the cash.
It would, of course, be a gamble. But if it pays off, the Hammers may well feel like they’ve won the lottery.