West Ham United doesn’t just need new players, new tactics, and a new direction. In a way, it needs a new culture. A new way of thinking. The best clubs in Europe do not go out and purchase 32 year old band aids to fill glaringly obvious holes. No, success comes from within and only when West Ham starts to invest in their youth and future, will glory come to be found. After witnessing the best young squads go head to head these last few weeks in the Europa League, I’ve made my picks for playmakers, both absurd and realistic, who could make all the difference in next year’s campaign.
Besiktas vs. Lyon (6:7)
Corentin Tolisso - #8 - Midfielder
While everyone is going gaga over Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir, I’m focusing on another need. What’s so special about this kid? Other than being the future of the French national team, his talents allow him to traverse the entirety of the midfield with ease. What started off as a budding defensive career, has quickly transformed into a wonderful and effortless midfield attacking prowess. A product of Lyon, Tolisso has quickly moved through the system and has now made himself a staple of this French machine. This year, in all competitions, Corentin has netted 13 goals and has nabbed himself 7 assists as well. At 22, this is a kid with a massive future. While Lyon have little reason to give up the homegrown player, they have been known to succumb to the occasional purse, if heavy enough.
Celta Vigo vs. Racing Genk (4:3)
John Guidetti - #9 - Forward
A giant Swede who was once part of the Manchester City organization has been doing nothing but scoring goals for his two former clubs. Over the last two seasons he’s netted 24 goals for Celta Vigo including an incredible back-heel assist to go up 2-1 over Genk in the first leg of the team’s quarter final playoff against Genk. Before that? Guidetti put away 15 goals for Celtic and had quite a few successful loan spells from parent, Man City. At 25, the Swedish international is just coming into his own and has the potential to be a playmaker in the Premier League. Johnny has a style West Ham fans will recognize as he’s wonderful at hold up play and handles a cross expertly.
Anderlecht vs Manchester United (2:3)
Leander Dendoncker - #32 - Midfielder
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that RSC Anderlecht is chock full of young Belgian talent. They have come to be known as the Belgian Ajax or Southampton - producers of future international talent. However, while most people focus on the talents of 19 year old Youri Tielemans, and rightfully so, we’re looking at 22 year old Leander Dendoncker. The Belgian Pro League likens him to N’golo Kante, as this pacey youngster seems to never run out of fuel, covering endless amounts of pitch over 90 minutes. Donck, as he is endearingly referred to, has also risen in the ranks of the Belgian national team, and most recently appearing on the senior squad. West Ham would find a Belgian Mark Noble in the Leander, someone who does all the little things to tip the scales at the end of the day.
Schalke 04 vs. Ajax Amsterdam (3:4)
Joël Veltman - #3 - RB
It’s safe to say any critics of the Europa League were completely and utterly silenced. Today, in all matches but more so here, we saw the future of football at its best. In the second stretch of overtime, Ajax overcame a 3-0 deficit to get the two goals they needed to advance. There is tons of young talent to pick from here at Ajax, but given West Ham’s need for a fullback, I went with the ever-controversial Joel Veltman. Holland seem to have two right backs on their national team, and they both happen to play for Ajax. Kenny Tete is the competition and has been pressing Veltman hard, on all levels. The good news is they are both very good, but at 24, Veltman is the more seasoned and experienced of the two. He’s also quite the wingback when necessary and knows how to track back to defend a counter.
I like to live in a fantasy land where these signings are possible and our board exhausts all options before settling for obscure South American targets.