Manuel Pellegrini has landed a number of exciting players this summer for West Ham but the best may be to come in Thiago Maia.
The Sun states that the Hammers are closing in on the services of the 21-year-old Brazil midfielder from Ligue 1 outfit Lille, in a £20m deal that would present a bargain price for a player with a whopping £50m release clause.
Lille’s precarious financial situation has left the door wide open for West Ham to swoop for Maia and, while he may not be a match winner like new signings Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautovic, he would solve a huge problem for Pellegrini’s side.
During a campaign last season where the Hammers flirted with relegation and struggled for consistency, the biggest problem area was found in the middle of the park where West Ham did not have any protection to their defensive line.
The Hammers finished with the joint-worst defensive record in the Premier League alongside relegated Stoke City and Pellegrini has worked hard to rejuvenate his ranks at the back in recent months – signing Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Those new acquisitions bolster the depth and strength Pellegrini possesses at the back but it does not solve the weakest area of West Ham’s squad, which can be found in a deep midfield role where nobody has managed to shine.
Maia, part of the Brazil side that won Olympic gold medal in 2016, is the sort of no-nonsense defensive midfielder who would thrive in front of West Ham’s defence and, crucially, would allow Jack Wilshere to push into the final third to spark additional creativity.
“What I felt most difficult about the adaptation was with food and language. Because my mother did not go with me at first, and then I had to eat what I had there, I got used to not eating rice, beans, meat and not having it was difficult for me.”
With the signings of Anderson, Wilshere and Yarmolenko to go alongside already established stars Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini, West Ham have a very attacking side and need the blanket protection that Maia can offer.
An additional benefit is that Maia is expected to develop further in the coming years and West Ham could earn significant profit on the youngster if a sale is to take place in the seasons ahead – and the Hammers do not to look any further than N’Golo Kante.
Signed for Leicester City from Caen in 2016, nobody knew much about the Frenchman but he developed into a crucial part of the Foxes side that won the Premier League in 2016, lifted the title again with Chelsea the following year and topped it all off this summer by starring in France’s World Cup success.
We are not saying that Maia will help West Ham win the Premier League but the youngster’s rise in the coming years could follow a similar path – and it is an opportunity the Hammers cannot afford to snub.