Our summer striker search has been, in one word, frustrating. From the very moment David Sullivan publicly revealed he was willing to spend upwards of £30m on a ‘big name’ striker, you knew it was going to be a long summer. Clubs who already own ‘big name’ strikers will have taken note of Sullivan’s words and subsequently added on a few million to their player’s value as they will have known exactly what he was prepared to pay before negotiations begun.
It’s almost like going all-in during a game of poker, but telling your opponents what hand you’ve got first. Never going to end well, is it? I couldn’t quite understand why the club were so eager to spend such a large sum of money on a striker when they had already experienced such success in the market without having to spend anywhere near as much. Th e likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Aaron Cresswell, Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyate, for example, all cost less than £11m each, and are now extremely important members of our first team.
So it was no surprise when big name striker aft er big name striker either refused a move to the club, couldn’t decide whether it was worth it or ended up signing for a club playing in the Champions League. And it was even less of a surprise when it emerged that the club were securing a season-long loan for Jonathan Calleri.
With almost all options exhausted, the Argentine clearly appeared to be the only one left . However, Calleri does have the potential to be just as important — so why did the club only bring him in on loan, and not negotiate a deal similar to the one that saw Lanzini sign permanently this summer.
The success of Lanzini last season was proof that young South American players can arrive in the Premier League and be a huge success, and there is no reason why Calleri can’t go on and do the same. Th e 22-year-old, who is contracted to Deportivo Maldonado, had reportedly caught the eye of Tottenham and Barcelona this summer but it was we who managed to secure his signature.
As one of the most highly-rated South American strikers right now, his arrival can only be seen as a real coup. Before signing for the club he had already netted three goals in five games during a loan spell at Sao Paulo, and then he scored once in three appearances for Argentina at the Rio Olympics. Put simply, he’s a goal scorer. Barcelona and Spurs’ interest should have hinted to the club that this striker is well worth taking a punt on beyond just a season long loan.
It does appear strange that an option to buy was not negotiated, as the club have enjoyed so much success with this contract clause in the past. The beauty of it is that if he turns out to be rubbish, we can just send him back to South America and look elsewhere next summer. But if he turns out to be a top quality player, which I’m convinced he will do, we may be forced to pay a lot more than we’d initially like for him and may even have to compete with some of Europe’s top clubs again.
At the time of writing Calleri has made two appearances for the Hammers so far. The first was the away game against Astra, in which he looked ok, and the second saw him miss a late one-on-one against Bournemouth after he had come on as substitute. Some fans have already voiced their concerns about his ability, but it’s difficult to judge him on the back of just a game and a bit. It may take him a little while to adapt to life in London and indeed the Premier League, but there is no doubt he will score goals for us throughout the season. Injuries to the likes of Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew have led to Bilic returning to the transfer market for another striker and the board were successful in bringing someone in.
But my gut feeling says it should be Calleri who is given the chance to lead the line until the others come back. It could be the best decision Bilic makes, and if Lanzini is anything to go by, there is every reason to be excited about the prospect of seeing Calleri doing his thing in claret and blue. The club have nabbed themselves another top class player in this striker, but they may be kicking themselves by next summer if that’s the case. With no option to buy him, Calleri could be off sooner than we’d all like.