Reports by Corriere dello Sport, via Sport Witness, earlier this week claimed that Lazio are weighing up a potential summer swoop for West Ham defender Fabian Balbuena, which David Moyes cannot block without risking a major blunder.
The Serie A outfit are said to be considering a host of centre-back options to improve Simone Inzaghi’s squad, as he prepares to lose both Wesley Hoedt and Matteo Musacchio.
Hoedt is expected to return to Southampton once his loan deal expires after failing to establish himself at the Stadio Olimpico, while Musacchio is likely to be released just five months on from his arrival from AC Milan.
Balbuena is claimed to have previously been a player Lazio have targeted to add depth to the centre-back group in Rome, and he could be the subject of future efforts should he leave West Ham at the end of his contract in June.
The Paraguayan is expected to have desires of testing himself in a new environment after three years at the London Stadium following a £6.5m move from Brazilian side Corinthians during Manuel Pellegrini’s maiden transfer window at the helm with the Irons.
He has been linked with a potential return to South America with a move to Flamengo touted, along with rival interest from Internacional, a Saudi Arabian side and a team from Major League Soccer.
Balbuena’s agent Renato Bittar also confirmed last month that he was already “talking with several teams” with a focus on securing a move to a European club, but the centre-back had rubbished speculation of previous interest from Lazio.
“I have never received anything from Lazio. I only read the rumours on social media,” Balbuena told Versus Radio, via quotes shared by La Lazio Siamo Noi, in February.
It remains to be seen whether Lazio’s interest in Balbuena is genuine this time around, but Moyes cannot block him from leaving West Ham either way, with the 29-year-old having fallen heavily out of favour at the London Stadium in recent months.
However, the Hammers’ 3-2 win over Leicester City last Sunday was the first time that Balbuena had been seen on the field for a Premier League fixture since December 27, having come on to replace the injured Aaron Cresswell early in the second half.
Balbuena had stated that he has been fit throughout his time on the fringes, but he was overtaken by Craig Dawson in Moyes’ pecking order and overlooked when Angelo Ogbonna sustained a high ankle sprain in February.
To now try and retain a player clearly out of favour would be seen as a huge blunder by Moyes, by locking West Ham into paying potentially another £2m in wages to a £40,000-per-week outcast seemingly fifth-choice in his central defensive pecking order.
With Moyes also on the hunt for additional options despite loanee Dawson triggering a £2m permanent move from Watford and Frederik Alves being backed for a senior role next term, the Paraguayan could even be the sixth or seventh-choice at the London Stadium.
Balbuena may feel he can still regain a prominent role at West Ham if he sticks around for another season, but Moyes should be directing him towards the exit door and urging him to join Lazio if the chance arises.