West Ham: Irons could sign new Payet in Ward-Prowse
Every day that passes is a moment closer to the gut-wrenching departure of Declan Rice from West Ham United.
The club captain will be looking to end a nine-year association with the Irons and lead his side to its first European trophy since 1965.
Behind the scenes, the Hammers hierarchy would have undoubtedly already kickstarted their search for Rice’s replacement, with a reported fee of up to £120m being touted for the 24-year-old.
One player who could potentially fill this void is Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. In a recent report, West Ham, Aston Villa, and Tottenham Hotspur were all rumoured to be tracking this gifted technician.
However, the east London outfit must fight their way to the front of the queue and his signing would be an intelligent investment.
Why should West Ham sign James Ward-Prowse?
Since making his Saints debut in 2011, the Englishman has made 408 appearances for his boyhood club and has established himself as the most influential and productive player within the side.
In a desperately poor season that has seen Southampton suffer relegation, the 11-cap international has been the only shining light and deserving of a move to stay in the top flight.
The skipper has featured in every league game this season and has registered 12 goal contributions and the highest average rating (6.93) in the squad, as per WhoScored. He has also recorded two key passes per game and is a vital figure in his side’s most threatening attacking sequences.
Within this repertoire, the midfielder has developed a formidable reputation for his mesmeric set pieces, which has even led Pep Guardiola to describe him as the “best free-kick taker in the world.”
The title-winning Spaniard has also labelled the playmaker as someone with “great quality.”
When Southampton defeated Chelsea back in February, the £100k-per-week midfielder netted his 17th goal from a free-kick to move within one of the Premier League record held by David Beckham.
His unbelievable technique is certainly reminiscent of the days when Dimitri Payet used to effortlessly glide around east London on a weekly basis, as both share a dangerous eye for goal from long distances.
Indeed, the Frenchman was capable of the spectacular, with six of his 15 Hammers goals coming via a direct free-kick. Perhaps the most notable was that remarkable strike against Crystal Palace at Upton Park.
The playmaker ultimately departed in 2017 and his mercurial artistry is still yet to be adequately replaced as Lucas Paqueta still adjusts to his new surroundings. But Southampton’s “magic” player – as dubbed by Benjy Nurick – possesses a wealth of experience in English football and would undoubtedly hit the ground running.
Furthermore, as Tomas Soucek’s goal-scoring threat from midfield has looked to have diminished, finding the net only three times in 49 outings this term, the £34m-rated Saints star can fill that void as well as owning an abundance of leadership amassed from the spell of captaincy on the south coast.
The Hammers should rescue him from the prospect of Championship football, and it would definitely be worthwhile.