West Ham United insider ExWHUemployee claimed earlier this week that the London Stadium natives were in talks with Joao Mario’s agent over a potential return to the Premier League, which could see David Sullivan acquire superb midfield depth for David Moyes.
The Irons are expected to strengthen their engine room in the upcoming off-season, to add numbers to a unit currently featuring just Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice and veteran captain Mark Noble.
Mario may emerge as an option for the east Londoners as he will enter the final year of his Inter Milan contract this summer, and is currently on loan with Liga NOS giants Sporting CP.
The Leoes are keen to retain Mario beyond his temporary spell, with reports by O Jogo last month stating that discussions were already underway after Inter Milan let it be known that the 28-year-old is available for a fee of €10m (£8.5m).
There is confidence at the Estadio Jose Alvalade that Mario will stay at the club, and it is believed that he is likewise keen to secure a permanent move following the performances of Ruben Amorim’s side this season.
But Irons insider ExWHUemployee has claimed that Mario’s agent has been in touch with the London Stadium natives to sound out any interest in a return to the Premier League, following a loan spell for the latter half of the 2017/18 season.
A return is expected to hinge on whether or not Moyes feels Mario can still perform in the English top-flight, yet word of a potential reunion has excited some supporters.
Moyes was at the West Ham helm when Mario moved to England in the final days of the 2018 winter market, and was left impressed by the 46-cap Portugal international’s performances over the following months.
“I think Joao Mario has done well since he came in,” Moyes said that April. “He brings a little bit of flair, he’s good on the ball, and a bit of natural talent. What goes unnoticed is that he’s actually a really hard-working boy as well.”
Mario only scored twice and offered one assist over his 14 appearances in claret and blue, but his importance on the pitch helped the Hammers to stave off the threat of relegation after arriving with the club just four points clear of the bottom three.
A return to Inter Milan only saw him start 12 of 20 Serie A outings before a move to Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow and later Sporting CP for the current term, where the midfielder has been a mainstay missing just two Liga NOS fixtures and starting 19 of 22 appearances.
His creativity has again been lacking for the Leoes with two goals and one assist to date, but the hard-working £88,000-per-week maestro has offered a box-to-box presence that could offer Moyes superb depth if signed this summer.
Mario has offered Sporting a higher average volume of shots from central and holding midfield positions per 90 minutes (0.9) this season than West Ham have seen from Rice (0.8) in the Premier League, and records 1.4 tackles to the Englishman and Soucek’s 1.9, per WhoScored.
He further carries possession up the field more successful with 2.1 dribbles per 90 to Rice (0.9), Noble (0.8) and Soucek (0.4), and provides more key passes (1.3) than each of the Irons trio (0.7 Rice, 0.5 Soucek, 0 Noble).
Mario may not prove to be a ground-breaking signing if brought back to the London Stadium, but Sullivan would add experienced depth capable of delivering when needed if he convinces Moyes to accept a summer transfer.