David Moyes may have West Ham United’s next defensive titan already in Ajibola Alese, as Fabian Balbuena reportedly prepares to leave the Premier League club in the summer.
Balbuena is nearing the end of the three-year contract awarded upon the Paraguayan’s £6.5m arrival in 2018, and appears to be focusing on a future away from east London.
The centre-back’s agent, Renato Bittar, confirmed as much to Versus Radio earlier this week, having stated that talks are already underway with potential suitors.
Balbuena has been linked with clubs from around the world with his £40,000-per-week deal due to expire in June, with Flamengo, Internacional, a Saudi Arabian outfit plus a team from Major League Soccer previously said to be weighing up offers.
Flamengo have held a long-standing interest in Balbuena’s potential availability as a free agent, but Bittar adds that his client is currently considering a longer stay in Europe despite speculation of desires to return to Brazil after his two years at Corinthians.
“We are talking with several teams but nothing in particular,” Bittar said. “There are several options for Fabian.
“For now, he will not continue at West Ham, but [he] will continue in Europe.”
Balbuena has played 59 times in three seasons at the London Stadium but has only stepped foot onto the field for 90 minutes since December 27, having fallen out of Moyes’ Premier League plans and only been called on to feature against Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup.
The 29-year-old leaving the Irons in the summer could leave Moyes’ centre-back options at Angelo Ogbonna, who turns 33 in May, Craig Dawson, should he be kept after a season-long loan from Watford, Issa Diop and the highly-rated 21-year-old Frederik Alves.
Moyes is claimed to be keen on signing another senior option to supplement his centre-back group next season, but may already have his sought-after depth in the West Ham academy.
Alese penned a new contract at the London Stadium on Tuesday, one that keeps the 20-year-old tied down in claret and blue through to the summer of 2023, with the option to extend the terms by a further year.
The academy starlet has been with the Irons since the age of seven and is currently away on loan with League Two side Cambridge United, where the England U20 international is gaining valuable first-team experience as the U’s strive to secure the fourth-tier title.
He has so far only featured twice under Mark Bonner since his arrival at the Abbey Stadium on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window but has impressed West Ham coach Kevin Nolan, who closely worked with Alese before the loan transfer was finalised.
“It’s fantastic that Aji has become the latest young player to commit his future to the club,” Nolan said on Alese’s new contract. “He is one of a talented group we hope will go on to break through and establish himself in the first-team in the future.
“We did a lot of work with Aji on the training field last year when he came back from his loan spell at Accrington. He’s a great lad, with a very good attitude towards his development, and he took a lot on board, in terms of what we expect from him and the targets he needs to set himself.”
An impressive run in the Cambridge side as they fight for promotion into League One could be enough for Moyes to begin bedding Alese into the West Ham first-team upon his return, with the Hammers set to be boasting a somewhat different defensive unit next season.