Premier League

Opinion: Promising youngster is precisely what West Ham require

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With the departures of Jeremy Ngakia and Pablo Zabaleta, West Ham need to strengthen at right-back once the club’s Premier League status has been sealed.

One promising youngster who Barcelona are reportedly looking to offload, and the Hammers have previously been linked with, is Moussa Wague. The Senegal international wing-back has been valued at £6.03m (Transfermarkt) but was believed to have an astronomical £90m release clause, which the Catalonian giant is now willing to overlook.

Wague, 21, has not made many appearances for Barcelona, just one in the league this term, along with three last season. However, his performances for Quique Setien’s side have impressed, recording an average of two tackles per match, as well as one interception, indicating he is a capable defender at the elite level.

Though, when he spent the second part of the season on loan with Nice, his numbers did drop. The fifth-placed French side do not dominate their division in the same manner as Barcelona, so it is somewhat understandable he recorded a decline to 1.2 tackles per match.

Where the 21-year-old is perhaps most exciting, though, is going forwards. Wague’s spell in France was cut short, having arrived in January, two months later the Ligue 1 season was curtailed. However, the defender still managed to catch the eye during his five appearances and recorded consecutive assists in his final two matches with Patrick Vieira’ side.

Having just begun to find his feet in first-team football the Senegal international will have been disappointed that the Ligue 1 season did not resume. Still, his brief spell was an indication that he is not out of place amongst Europe’s elite.

Wague made history by becoming the youngest African World Cup goalscorer at 19, and he also made 23 appearances in the Belgian top-flight prior to joining Barcelona. Even so, the highly-rated defender is somewhat of a gamble for any potential new suitor. But his unproven record in professional football is reflected in his price, Nice’s loan deal reportedly had an option to buy for €10m though they did not take up the offer.

West Ham desperately require reinforcements on the right side of defence and have been linked with another Barcelona player in Emerson. Wague is less proven than his teammate, though he would likely be available at a lower price, given the Brazilian is valued at £16.2m (Transfermarkt) and has reportedly garnered interest from Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.

It is tough to tell given his small sample size whether Wague could rival Ryan Fredericks for the first choice right-back slot at London Stadium. However, what he would almost certainly provide is a reasonably priced alternative to the 27-year-old, and who also has the potential to eclipse the Englishman in the future.

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