Manuel Pellegrini must target FC Nante’s right-back Enock Kwateng to replace Pablo Zabaleta as the Argentinean defender nears the end of his Premier League career.
Zabaleta recently announced to Arab News that his days in the top flight of English football are numbered, and could move abroad when his current contract at West Ham expires in the summer.
Possible destinations for the 33-year-old are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Supposedly, the right-back has developed a keen interest in the Gulf region over the past decade and has suggested he could end his playing career over there before moving into coaching.
“My heart tells me I would like to play forever, but I will be 34 in January and I need to listen to my body,” he told Arab News.
“If I carry on playing in Europe, Italy is one of those leagues I haven’t played, but I have always been thinking about the Middle East. I first went to the UAE for the Under-20 World Cup in 2003 and have seen how much the region has changed.”
With Zabaleta’s days in England numbered, Pellegrini must steal a march on replacing the former Manchester City ace with FC Nante’s Kwateng. The 21-year-old is currently valued by TransferMarkt at £2.25million but would likely fetch a grade more.
The young French right-back of Ghanaian descent represents a perfect replacement for Zabaleta and should be the defender the Irons target. His impact in Ligue 1 has been key this season, impressing both offensively and defensively on the right of the Nantes backline.
He emerged out of the club’s academy in 2015 and has represented France at each junior level between the Under 16s and 20s.
Nante’s number 25 has since cemented his position in the side this term and before last weekend, he’d completed the most interceptions of any player across Europe’s top five leagues with 37.
Many predicted Ryan Fredericks would come into the side and succeed Zabaleta after arriving from Fulham in the summer, but it just hasn’t happened and at 26 years of age, you have to wonder whether the former Spurs youngster is capable of making the leap up to Premier League level.
Kwateng, already performing well in a top flight at a younger age, offers everything Fredericks was supposed to bring to Pellegrini’s squad.