Written by Staff Writer, CNN
Forget the Mr Bean clown car , the Eurovision Song Contest and Barack Obama. The most underrated footballer in the Premier League is West Ham’s record signing, Manuel Lanzini.
A relative unknown even before he moved to Upton Park from Lazio in the summer of 2015, he scored a remarkable 44 goals in an injury-hit debut season that’s now more notable for the help he provided to senior midfielders Diafra Sakho and Joe Hart.
But an injury-plagued second season has seen Lanzini struggle to establish himself and fans question whether he’s worth the £10 million (US$12.9 million) the Hammers are reportedly seeking to sell him to Sunderland or Wigan.
One ex-West Ham star, and now Fulham technical director, Alan Curbishley, believes his successor should be commended.
“The old West Ham took us there and he was a great player and a good talent,” he said on BBC Radio 5Live. “In the end, I think it did appear his influence might have waned a little bit, and I think it’s unfair on him because he’s a very talented player.”
The midfielder’s rapid rise has cast doubt on whether Chelsea and Manchester City will rival West Ham’s transfer offers.
And, after 11 successful years at the Ligue 1 side, who reportedly value him at US$35 million, West Ham have an option to buy him for £23 million (US$28.4 million) once he has fully recovered from the injury he suffered in April.
It’s thought the winger might leave either for a lower league team — the biggest payer would likely be Hull — or a permanent deal at Stamford Bridge, like Ayew, who earned £15 million (US$18.8 million) when he left Swansea for West Ham in 2016.
Shiny new toys
Another Hammers player rumored to be heading for the exits, and who celebrates his 30th birthday on Friday, is Michail Antonio.
Valued at around £40 million (US$52.2 million), Antonio signed a new three-year contract last August, but it’s been reported that Chelsea are interested in signing him and a reunion with Antonio Morata looks highly likely.
The hope, though, is that Antonio will sign an extension with the club before their pre-season tour of the United States, where he’s expected to make his third appearance of the season after coming on as a substitute in the defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal.
Meanwhile, as West Ham try to lure Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri to the London Stadium with a US$19 million (US$23.4 million) offer, Marko Arnautovic , Chelsea’s club-record signing, reportedly looks set to move on.
And youngster Joe Hart is on the brink of losing his place in the first team after returning to Torino earlier this week.
Javier Hernandez, meanwhile, signed a £12 million (US$15.8 million) deal with United before the season kicked off, but has made only four substitute appearances, while Liverpool-bound Mohamed Salah is certain to be the league’s top scorer again.
Lanzini’s West Ham clubmate Andy Carroll is certain to be thrown into the starting line-up when the team travel to Asia to face Newcastle in a pre-season friendly next week and, with little time to sink their teeth into the new kit before their next match, look to shake off an indifferent first half of the season.