West Ham United have a fantastic youth prospect on their hands, one who could emulate Rio Ferdinand and become one of the Premier League’s next-best defenders.
Although manager David Moyes strengthened the Irons’ backline in the summer, signing Thilo Kehrer from Paris Saint-Germain on a four-year deal, and Nayef Aguerd for £30m from Rennes, the club already have a great option at centre-back in the form of 18-year-old gem Jamal Baptiste, who has impressed in the youth academy.
The 6-foot centre-back debuted for the West Ham U23s at just 15 years old, making him the second-youngest player to do so, highlighting the great esteem in which he is held in by the club, and having impressed for the youth team, he made his first appearance for the senior team in a 5-1 pre-season win against Wycombe Wanderers in August 2020.
Since then, the colossus has gone on to make two competitive appearances for the Hammers, with Moyes handing him his debut in an FA Cup clash against Doncaster Rovers in January 2021.
As such, the West Ham boss is well acquainted with the teenager, having also played him for a full 90 minutes in the Europa League last season, with this amount of game time indicating that he is well thought of by the manager, and trusted to be able to make the step up to the first team.
Former West Ham Academy Director Terry Westley has raved about the potential of the teenager, telling Claret & Hugh:
“One of the finest young prospects at the club without any doubt is Jamal Baptiste who believe me is going to be a monster player in the Issa Diop mould. I see him as exactly that – the new Issa Diop. He’s got everything, height, power, pace and is already, at such a young age, making a serious impact on the under 23s.”
High praise has also been received from ex-Irons striker Carlton Cole, who likened the starlet to one of the Hammers’ best academy graduates, Rio Ferdinand, telling the Inside Irons podcast:
“He’s going to be the next Anton Ferdinand hopefully or the next Rio, so hopefully we can these boys on the right track and help them transition into being a professional footballer full-time”.
Even though Moyes has opted to strengthen the defence in recent times, he should consider handing more first-team appearances to Baptiste in cup games, or even the dead-rubber Europa Conference League game against FCSB on Thursday night, to ensure that he continues to develop and reaches his lofty potential.
Those around the London Stadium will also be hoping that Baptiste, 18, can go onto forge a long career at the Hammers, unlike the aforementioned colossus, who ended up becoming a legend at Manchester United.