As West Ham United wrapped up eight major deals during the summer window, one move that the Hammers opted against completing was a permanent swoop for midfielder Alex Kral, with the Czech Republic international moving on after a disappointing temporary spell at the London Stadium.
The defensive-minded gem had been signed from Spartak Moscow on a season-long loan deal last summer that included an option to buy, albeit with manager David Moyes ultimately opting against securing the player on a longer-term basis.
The former Everton boss had seemingly handled the 31-cap machine bizarrely during his time in east London, hardly giving the Slovakia-born gem a chance to impress after handing him just a solitary Premier League outing off the bench.
Even that rare taste of action came as a substitute in the final minute of the 4-1 thrashing of Watford back in December, with it having appeared somewhat odd that the Irons made the move in the first place, with Moyes clearly not valuing the 24-year-old highly.
The £4.95m-rated man was also restricted to just three appearances in the Europa League, despite the club’s lengthy run in the competition providing an opportune time for rotation, having hardly had a look-in, in truth.
The player himself must be wondering quite what he did to deserve such cold treatment from the Hammers boss, particularly when he had impressed early on with a solid display in the League Cup triumph over Manchester United back in September, having notably won the joint-most tackles of any player on the pitch for either side (five).
Quite why the 6 foot 2 brute wasn’t able to build on such a “superb” showing – as lauded by Premier League Panel – remains something of a headscratcher, with it having been no real surprise that Moyes and co had snubbed the chance of a permanent deal, such was their lack of trust in the player.
That decision has potentially backfired, however, with the club having since failed to truly bolster their defensive midfield ranks, with that proving a particular issue amid the current woes of regular starter Tomas Soucek, who faces an uncertain future at the club.
Keeping Kral could well have provided West Ham with the depth needed to take his compatriot out of the firing line, with the current Schalke man having notably showcased his quality while on international duty this week.
Amid defeat to Portugal on Saturday evening, the former Slavia Prague man was a rare shining light in the centre of the park, winning 100% of his ground duels and completing 100% of his total dribbles, while also recording two tackles and two interceptions on his way to earning a 7.3 match rating.
Soucek, by contrast, endured a far more difficult outing alongside his former club colleague, winning just 25% of ground duels and attempting no dribbles, while also making just one tackle and two interceptions, having been dribbled past on three occasions as he earned a 6.5 rating.
Equally, Kral has also showcased his ball-winning quality at club level in recent times as he ranks in the top 3% for interceptions made among those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues, while the current Hammers man ranks in just the top 37% in the same metric.
It may well appear that Moyes has made the wrong call in both failing to provide the former loanee with the chance to shine last term as well as in letting him depart at the end of last season, with the 59-year-old potentially set to be left to rue that decision should Soucek’s recent struggles continue.