Spare a penny (or a few million pounds) for West Ham United’s troubles during this summer’s transfer market. Prior to the season start, given the constant question marks surrounding Andy Carroll’s long-term fitness throughout the course of a season combined with the uncertain futures of both Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho, signing an accomplished forward for a challenging season ahead was imperative. The clubs search for a proven goal scorer proved to be of paramount importance in order to allow West Ham United to flourish and match their success off the field, accomplished with an impressive and updated Olympic Stadium very much attracting all the headlines of late. As the club attempt to challenge on all fronts both in Europe through the Europa League as well as domestically in what still has the potential to be one of the most competitive Premier League seasons to date, if the rumours were anything to go by the club certainly desired a striker and were most definitely prepared to defy the odds and mark a new chapter of their history with a stellar, superb summer signing.
Whilst financial resources had not publically proven to be an issue with big money transfer negotiations for Alexandre Lacazette (Olympique Lyonnais) and Mauro Icardi (Internazionale) reportedly launched but subsequently rebuffed due to the individuals’ objection to the move, their search a talismanic attacker looked like it had at long last been concluded a fortnight ago. After the club failed to lure either one of the prolific Ligue 1 duo of Michy Batshuayi (Olympique Marseille) and Yasim Ben Yedder (Toulouse) to East London, as well as their somewhat protracted and later unsuccessful transfer saga and failed negotiations with Colombian international Carlos Bacca (AC Milan), any initial panic looked to have disappeared and seemed finally over after completing the signing of Andre Ayew from Swansea City for a fee of £20.5m. Despite initial ambiguity as to whether further attacking signings would follow given that their earlier acquisition of Ashley Fletcher has been largely viewed as one for the future alongside the wealth of heavily rumoured departures from Slaven Bilic’s side, the signing of Andre Ayew however seemed to placate disgruntled Hammers fans in the short term and was viewed widely as shrewd business in an increasingly inflated Summer transfer market.
Yet in typical fashion, nothing is ever as it seems in Premier League football as disaster struck a matter of days ago following Ayew’s debut against Chelsea in the seasons first offering of Monday Night Football. Whilst the stage was set for a ninety minutes full of action, competition and fierce rivalry, and that was just in the Sky Studios with Gary Neville’s making his long awaited return to MNF, in terms of beginners luck Andre Ayew appeared to have none of it. Leaving the pitch midway through the first half during his first competitive match in a West Ham shirt, it was later announced by the club through gritted teeth that the 26 year old Ghanaian forward may perhaps have needed thigh surgery and would be out for up to four months, which has later not proven to fully be the case. In the space of 35 minutes into Ayew’s debut, the Hammers fans optimism had transformed into understandable disappointment, for Slaven Bilic and his backroom staff a gradually growing injury list now had another recruit and for owners David Gold and David Sullivan it became suddenly apparent that their involvement in the first transfer window of the season was far from over.
Just when you think they had filmed all their scenes for this Summer’s hottest soap opera, the narrative changes once again and quickly it is lights, camera, action for West Ham United. Yet realistically with both little time and money remaining, compared to their performances at center stage earlier in the transfer window, it would seem that the club may have to step aside with a much lesser participation in the latest heavily and repeatedly re-drafted script. Whilst their next move may yet surprise the audience glued to the television at home, instead of splashing substantial money at another established striker in a similar vein to Andre Ayew, perhaps in much lesser supporting role this time around, it would seem that the club may be looking to build on their capture of Argentinean forward Jonathan Calleri with a further loan signing of a promising yet reputable striker. However at such a late stage, rather than simply writing West Ham United out of this seasons story after such a stuttering start, instead one has to ask who is both available and also willing to pack their bags and fill the void left by Ayew et al, to swap their current club for West Ham United.
Rather than ending on a cliffhanger, with the hope of putting an end to Slaven Bilic’s drama in this summer’s transfer market, @ASelbyInfo provides five sensible striking solutions to hopefully ensure that the Hammers are highly successful going forward in more than ways than one this season. Watch out for the Hammer rating too ranked from 1-5 hammers (1 = poor signing vs 5 = highly rated)
1) Islam Slimani
Current club: Sporting CF
Estimated value: £20m-£25m
As we have seen time and time again in modern football, an unexpected absence from training rarely ever means a player is genuinely unable to get to the training complex or participate. Instead one has often come to expect that such a no-show is followed up by a subsequent transfer request and public desire to leave their current club for pastures new. After an enormously successful season during 2015/16 in which Slimani netted 27 league goals only to be bettered by Brazilian forward Jonas at SL Benfica with 32 goals scored in the Primeira Liga, whether it be through his agent or through the rumoured abundance of European clubs eager to secure somebody quite as deadly in front of goal as the Algerian international, clearly Slimani is a wanted man.
With the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Everton and even Arsenal rumoured to be chasing his signature this Summer, a deal with West Ham United may perhaps be the best move for all parties – allowing Slimani to continue developing in a club that aims to be competitive in every competition but one who can guarantee goals at the highest level, if his track record is anything to go by. It could yet be a matter of waiting till January to sign Slimani permanently with only a matter days remaining in this Summer’s transfer window but with somebody of both his class and calibre, it could may well be worth it in the long-term.
2) Wilfried Bony
Current club: Manchester City
Estimated value: £15m-£20m
After joining Manchester City back in January 2015, manager Manuel Pellegrini expressed his excitement at having ‘four top-class strikers’ and how much he was ‘looking forward to seeing them work together’. However the true extent of such competition for starting positions has proved significant for Bony’s chances in the first-team, making few appearances off the substitutes bench and even fewer in the starting line up itself. In addition with the emergence and how quickly Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho settled into life in the Premier League during the 2015/16 season, the writing has arguably been on the wall for some considerable time for the former Swansea City striker with an impending exit compounded by Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the club this Summer.
Whilst Bony has failed to find his feet and subsequently match his goal-scoring exploits that originally had earned the Ivory Coast forward a mega money move, both to Swansea City initially from Vitesse Arnhem and later up north to a title challenging Manchester City, either on a short-term or season-long loan deal or even a permanent transfer in the region of £15-20m, a fully fring Wilfried Bony is certainly a force to be reckoned with and West Ham United seems a perfect. With opportunities aplenty, a willingness from both parties to make the move happen as well as a team that is more structured more so than City to utilise a target man such as Bony, do not be surprised to see Wilfried Bony swap sky blue for claret in blue in the upcoming days.
3) Vincent Aboubakar
Current club: FC Porto
Estimated Value: £10m-£15m
Alongside Islam Slimani, another player that looks set to depart the Portuguese Primeira Liga is Cameroonian centre-forward Vincent Aboubakar after completing two seasons with FC Porto. Although it has been a gradual rise to prominence for the 24 year old striker in recent years following a move to the Portuguese top flight costing only a mere £3m back in 2014, Aboubakar was handed the difficult task of filling the void left by the prolific Jackson Martínez who left to join Atlético Madrid after a successful season with 32 goals to his name in all competitions. Despite the initial pressure as to whether the forward had both the capability and talent to fill such shoes and lead the line for FC Porto, Aboubakar did not disappoint and ended the 2015/16 season as Porto’s top goalscorer with a tally of 18 goals in all competitions. Although arguably compared to Martínez’ impressive record of the previous season one could question whether Aboubakar’s return can be seen as somewhat underwhelming or not, not only given the weight of expectation on such young shoulders but also the intense competition across the Primeira Liga last season, his achievements should not therefore be understated.
However in an attempt to challenge for the title once again and immediately return to winning ways, new manager Nuno Santo has acted quickly in bringing both Laurent Depoitre from KAA Gent for an undisclosed fee and 25 year old Zé Manuel from fellow Liga NOS side Boavista as well as the promotion of promising forward André Silva from the youth setup to the first-team squad, alongside handing the hot prospect the number nine shirt for the season ahead. For this reason, whilst I am confident that FC Porto would love to be able to give Aboubakar the time necessary to develop and match the accomplishments of his predecessors, with the pressure on to achieve instant success and an exit looks on the horizon. In this specific case, time is most certainly money and Premier League duo Everton and Leicester City have been rumoured in recent weeks, therefore expect West Ham United to come into the fold before the transfer window slams shut.
4) Simone Zaza
Current club: Juventus
Estimated Value: £15m-£20m
Despite making a name for himself for all the wrong reasons after a calamitous penalty miss in the quarter final stage of this year’s EURO 2016 competition, Simone Zaza is a name that has been linked regularly to West Ham United. During a professional career that now spans eight years, the Italian international has to date played most of his domestic football in the Serie A, making his way up the ranks in the top tier of Italian football. After successful loan spells at Viareggio and Ascoli between 2012/13, his goalscoring prowess at his next club Sassuolo was quickly noticed by a poaching Juventus who in 2015 exercised their option to sign Zaza for €18 million from Sassuolo – a club in which Zaza quickly achieved a domestic double alongside vital experience playing in the UEFA Champions League.
Likewise in spite of regular first-team opportunities in recent times at Juventus with the Argentinian trio of Paolo Dybala, Carlos Tevez and more recently Gonzalo Higuain dominating the front line for the current Italian champions, Zaza’s quality has not been unnoticed and the 25 year old forward is now widely considered as a regular inclusion in the Italian national side, as reflected in this year’s European Championship. Meanwhile with regards to Zaza’s style of play, his versatility is one of many strings to his bow as Zaza is fully capable of playing both as a lone centre-forward or alternatively alongside another forward as a second striker. Similarly due to his powerful and offensive attacking style combined with his all round physicality, Simone Zaza has been likened to the likes of Christian Vieri and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Whether he can go on to reach his full potential and the dizzy heights obtained by the former players remains to be seen but with both Southampton, Everton and Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg rumoured to be monitoring the promising forward, could this summer finally put an end to the rumours linking him with a move to West Ham? We’ll have to wait and see.
5) Bas Dost
Current club: VFL Wolfsburg
Estimated Value: £10m-£15m
With the fewest letters in his name than any of my other choices, alongside both a much easier name to print on the back of a shirt or simply to say out loud, Dutch forward Bas Dost could be the answer to Slaven Bilic’s prayers this summer. After four years at the Bundesliga outfit starting in the 2012/13 season, it was not until exactly midway through his time with VFL Wolfsburg which can be considered his breakout season for the club. At the peak of his powers, Bas Dost became the first player in 102 games to score two goals against Bayern Munich, netted nine goals in ten Bundesliga matched in February 2015 and in the space of seven days scored an impressive eight goals in three matches. Consequently after Wolfsburg defied the odds and won their first German Cup competition in May 2015, Bas Dost’s efficiency in-front of goal and record-breaking form has been largely considered one of the catalysts of his team’s success. For this reason Dost officially earned the title as the most efficient striker in Europe that season, scoring 18 goals from 54 shots.
Although greater competition upfront following the arrivals of Max Kruse and Julian Draxler in Summer 2016 alongside a broken foot suffered in early 2016 has certainly hindered Dost’s chances of achieving anywhere near his prolific best, Dost continues to be touted as one of the most underrated target men in European Football and could easily step into Andy Carroll’s shoes; both forwards offering a similar style of attacking play. With interest hotting up throughout Europe to secure the Dutch forward before the transfer window shuts, a move to the Premier League could again be therefore beneficial for both player and club. Despite making six appearances at international level for the Netherlands, you would think a move to a team such as West Ham United would not help the Hammers on the pitch but also Dost himself in his personal determination fill the void left by an aging Robin Van Persie at international level and subsequently secure such a coveted role up-front for many years to come. Likewise with the 2018 World Cup now only two years away, a fully firing Dost with a much greater amount of first-team football, whether that be at West Ham United or elsewhere could most certainly be a bargain buy at a reported maximum value of £15m.