Stewart Downing is about to rejoin his boyhood club Middlesbrough for a fee believed to be around £5 million.
Downing has been a decent performer for the Hammers for the past two seasons and really excelled in the first half of last season, operating superbly at the tip of the diamond, feeding the likes of Sakho and Valencia up front.
He justifiably earned his recall to the England international team and produced a number of memorable performances for the Hammers in 2014/15. His goal against Leicester City at home and his inspiring performance away to Stoke City were highlights in what was a very successful season for the 30 year-old.
It may come as a surprise that Downing is leaving and also dropping down a division but the deal does make sense on both sides. To be fair to West Ham, they were probably not expecting an offer of that sum to come in for a player who is now entering the twilight stages of his career. The package Downing will get at Boro is an inviting one and it means he can rejoin his old club where he himself admitted there was ‘unfinished business’ when he left them for Villa in 2009.
Although some fans may be slightly disappointed that Downing is leaving, it does free up the wage bill and adds further funds to the transfer pot, which could ultimately lead to the club signing a player that will add further value to the side both now and in the future. Downing was clearly one of the stars of last season but cashing in on him now is a shrewd move, although the club needs to reinvest that money wisely.
There are rumours of a move for Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and he is the sort of player that would thrive at Upton Park. He’s a real goal-getter and alongside Sakho, they could form a formidable partnership. It is doubtful that West Ham are the only club seriously interested in a player of Hernandez’s calibre but the money raised from Downing’s sale means that the club are more prepared to make concrete offers quickly.
Signing a striker would mean that the Hammers’ business would be close to completion for the summer period but there are still positions that are in desperate need of strengthening. There is a real lack of width in the side and Downing’s departure only increases the issues in this area. At right-back, Jenkinson is obviously a solid capture but he needs good competition. Joey O’Brien is a good squad player but for the team to improve, another young, promising right-sided defender needs to come in.
Who should West Ham look to? Is it the right move to let Downing go?