Premier League

Opinion: West Ham’s £7.2m-rated target is ready to take the step up

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Reports in Argentina have suggested that River Plate right back Gonzalo Montiel could be set to join West Ham in the very near future. The 23-year-old has established himself as an international, having featured four times this season for La Albiceleste, and boasts a promising record in his native Primera Division.

Last season River Plate missed out on the league title by a single point to bitter rivals Boca Juniors, with former Hammer Carlos Tevez scoring the crucial strike to seal domestic victory, after kissing the onlooking Diego Maradona for luck.

Though that bitter disappointment will likely have been overshadowed by the last gasp defeat to Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores final, when the Argentinian side let their one-goal advantage slip, conceding in the 89th and 92nd minutes to miss out on retaining the prestigious trophy.

Although Montiel, valued at £7.2m by Transfermarkt, was not on the receiving end of any silverware last season, the defender still shone as part of an impressive River Plate side, and he continued those performances during his 19 Superliga matches this term. The Argentina international averaged two tackles per game, along with 1.2 interceptions, as part of some imperious defensive displays which saw him rack up eight clean sheets in the league.

Montiel’s capabilities are not limited to defending either; so far this term he has notched two assists, averaging 1.1 key passes per match. Overlapping is a vital attribute of the wing back’s game, and it has led to him being deployed in a more advanced midfield role on three occasions.

The 23-year-old is actively involved in proceedings when River Plate have possession as much as possible, averaging 44.5 passes per match, though his pass accuracy of 76.3 per cent is slightly concerning. Considering Montiel attempts a low number of high-risk passes, just 0.6 crosses per 90 minutes and just 1.6 long balls per match, it would perhaps be expected that he would not give the possession away quite so frequently.

Given he has been a mainstay in South America’s second-best team last season – who can count themselves unlucky to have lost the Copa Libertadores – along with having featured for Argentina, the Premier League should not be an overwhelming prospect for Montiel.

The frequency with which he concedes possession may be a concern for the Hammers but given the lack of depth at right-back, along with Montiel’s attacking and defensive capabilities, his arrival should be a welcome prospect.

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