David Moyes must boot summer free-agent Fabian Balbuena out of West Ham United as interest begins to build in the outcast defender.
According to Portuguese transfer expert Pedro Almeida, Balbuena is attracting interest from clubs from around the world ahead of his potential release at the end of the season.
The centre-back has just three months remaining on the £40k-per-week contract signed upon his arrival in 2018, when bought from Corinthians for £6.5m by Manuel Pellegrini and former Irons Sporting Director Mario Husillos.
After playing a bit-part role last season, Balbuena was a fixture of Moyes’ line-up at the start of the current campaign – opening 12 of 15 Premier League games – but has only been seen on the field for 90 minutes across all competitions since December.
Almeida claims that four teams are now lining up summer moves for the 29-year-old, who would prefer to secure a return to Brazil after his two years at Corinthians.
Rio de Janeiro-based Flamengo are one of the clubs thought to be keen, along with Internacional, a Saudi Arabian outfit and a team from Major League Soccer. No Portuguese side is currently considering an offer.
Flamengo’s interest has been long noted, with South American football journalist Jorge Nicola claiming in November that they may attempt to sign the £7m-rated titan at the end of the season should he leave West Ham as a free agent.
It was thought earlier in the campaign that Balbuena’s future would be at the London Stadium, but the picture changed drastically over the winter as he fell further down Moyes’ pecking order.
Irons insider ExWHUemployee suggested in December that a new deal was set to be agreed imminently, yet rumours surfaced on Deadline Day last month that the Hammers were open to offers for Balbuena as they sought to retain Liverpool target Issa Diop.
In the end, both remained in east London, but only Diop has been given a chance to feature while Angelo Ogbonna is sidelined with a high ankle sprain, as Craig Dawson has locked down the other centre-back role after taking the position from Balbuena.
It would appear that Balbuena has now given up hope of securing a new deal as he looks for a return to Brazil, having claimed recently that he will sit down with the Hammers hierarchy to discuss his future as the club hold an option to extend his current contract.
From a financial point-of-view, it would make sense for West Ham to take up that option and look to recoup some of the fee paid to Corinthians, given the 29-year-old still holds a £7m TransferMarkt valuation, but Balbuena is simply stealing a living just being left on the bench, with the manager unwilling to select him.
The Irons would also be locking themselves in for at least another £2m in wages if they fail to sell the centre-half, given Flamengo’s long-standing position has been to sign the 16-cap Paraguay international only if he becomes a free agent.
So, unless West Ham can guarantee that one of his suitors will swoop with an offer in the summer, it may be time for Moyes to boot Balbuena out of the London Stadium and do so for free, rather than gambling on a sale after activating their option to extend his contract.
AND in other news, West Ham are monitoring an “outstanding” £18.5m titan praised by Jurgen Klopp…