West Ham are planning a move to sign Manchester United fullback Antonio Valencia this summer, according to recent reports.
That formal approach for the Ecuadorian relies on Pablo Zabaleta departing once this season finishes. Zabaleta, 34, has made 59 appearances for the east London side since sealing a free transfer from Premier League champions Manchester City two years ago.
He is considering retirement, with the Citizens open to offering him a coaching role – similar to Mikel Arteta’s existing job. With that in mind, a return to Argentina isn’t out of the question, though some fans are puzzled by the Hammers’ transfer strategy.
Rather than granting a first-team opportunity for a talented youngster to breakthrough – Reece Oxford and Declan Rice have in recent seasons – they are more keen on investing heavily in an experienced player beyond his prime years again. United are yet to open talks with Valencia over a new one-year extension, so it’s increasingly likely he’ll depart for pastures new after this coming season.
With weekly wages at £100,000-a-week, he’d immediately become one of the club’s highest earners despite being 33, injury-prone and out-of-form. Patrice Evra, Jose Fonte and Alvaro Arbeloa are just three experienced defenders that come to mind.
Since the start of the 2016/17 campaign, West Ham have signed all three in their attempts to add experience and quality within the backline. Arbeloa made just four appearances before retiring in 2017, Fonte’s currently at Ligue 1 side Lille while Evra is without a club.
Valencia, who spent three years with Wigan before a £16m United move in 2009, has invaluable Premier League experience but is no longer deemed good enough to be relied upon. So with that in mind, could this prove another expensive mistake for West Ham, as they aim to challenge the league’s best and battle for the European places?