The immediate fate of West Ham contract rebel Winston Reid has been open to wide speculation since the summer.
The New Zealand skipper is yet to pen extended terms and although manager Sam Allardyce believes Reid can still be convinced to stay on at Upton Park, a move to Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool, be it this month or at the end of the season on a free transfer, remains a distinct possibility.
Thus, it’s time for the Hammers to consider some long-term replacements to the 26 year-old centre-back, and just in case they’re short on ideas, we’ve labelled FIVE players the East Londoners should be targeting. So without further ado…
Curtis Davies’ role as a captain of a Hull City side currently in the Premier League’s relegation zone is difficult to overlook, but the 29 year-old’s fantastic form last season was a significant factor in ensuring the Tigers’ top flight safety, not to mention their march to the 2014 FA Cup final, earning him the Player of the Season award at the KC.
Formerly of Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Brom, the 6 foot 2 centre-back boasts plenty of experience in the Premier League – 144 appearances-worth, to be precise – and at this point, his top flight credentials, in addition to his synonymous aerial dominance, remains undoubted.
Hull City certainly aren’t short of funds, courtesy of exuberantly rich chairman Assem Allam, so there’s no immediate obligation to sell their skipper this month. But threatened by relegation and with just 18 months left on Davies’ contract, he could well force a move if the right opportunity comes along. Failing that, a bid at the end of the campaign could be more plausible.
And what better next club for the former England U21 than West Ham? He was born and raised in nearby Leytonstone.
It won’t be the easiest task dislodging Ryan Shawcross from Stoke City; he’s been with the Potters since the start of the 2007/08 season, their Championship promotion campaign, and now serves as club captain.
But this rugged centre-back, a throwback to more attritional eras of the English game through his thuggish brand of defending and matching haircut, has Sam Allardyce written all over him and would arguably improve upon the quality of Winston Reid, having demonstrated a seemingly impenetrable consistency of performance throughout his 224 Premier League appearances.
He picked up Stoke’s Player of the Year award last term for his role in the Britannia outfit recording their highest finish of the Premier League era – a respectable ninth place – and although the one-time England international’s loyalty to the Potters remains undoubted, at 27 years of age he might feel it’s time to test himself at a higher level.
Of course, that will largely depend on where Stoke and the Hammers finish this season and what level of football West Ham can subsequently offer Shawcross. But price-tag remains the predominant issue; the Potters have rejected bids as high as £10million for their star defender in the past.
Arguably the desired choice of West Ham fans, Celtic centre-back Virgil van Dijk has attracted attention from Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, to name a few, since first turning out for the Parkhead club at the start of last season.
In addition to his defensive qualities – namely, the aerial dominance of his 6 foot 4 frame, a good reading of the game and relative pace – it’s the Dutchman’s ability and confidence on the ball, epitomised best by his lethality from dead ball situations, that’s particularly caught the eye.
The 23 year-old’s combination creates an embodiment of the modern day centre-half; athletic, mobile and contributory to build-up play. It’s not a style of defending Sam Allardyce is particularly synonymous with, but nonetheless one that appears to be taking the Premier League by storm.
The former Netherlands U21 will not be available this January, something made clear by both player and club in recent weeks, but a move to a bigger club now seems almost inevitable come the summer.
He’s already valued at £10million according to The Express however, whilst interest from four Premier League clubs (also alleged by the Express) could see his price-tag soar.
According to the Daily Mail, West Ham are one of three Premier League clubs, along with Aston Villa and Leicester City, considering a swoop for Lokomotiv Moscow centre-back Vedran Corluka this month.
That name will sound familiar for good reason; the 28 year-old has already represented Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the English top flight, totalling 119 Premier League appearances before moving to Russia in summer 2012.
Also boasting 80 caps for Croatia, Corluka’s quality remains without doubt. And in addition to boasting the 6 foot 4 stature of an imposing centre-half, he possesses the technique and pace to fill in at right-back when required.
The Mail claim he’s available for just £4million this month, but as previously stated, interest from Villa and Leicester could prove problematic.
An ambitious final suggestion, perhaps, but these are very ambitious times at Upton Park.
FC Basel prodigy Fabian Schar is amongst the finest defensive prospects in Europe, putting in some sensational Champions League performances over the last 18 months and impressing in a cameo role at the World Cup, and it amazes me that he’s yet to be picked up by one of the continent’s top clubs – especially with just six months remaining on his current contract.
In addition to some superfluously committed body-on-the-line defending, the 23 year-old’s quality in possession – his progressive, front-footed style, comparable to Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen – particularly stands out, and has resulted in links to Barcelona, Arsenal and the Lilywhites in the past.
The Swiss international – who has recently declared a willingness to move abroad – is reportedly valued at around £10million by Basel. But as of January 1st, the Hammers could secure his services for nothing in a pre-contract deal.