Fancy names linked with West Ham, but are they needed?

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Thanks to a superb Premier League campaign, West Ham could have more than just a new stadium to celebrate at the start of next season.

Sat in fifth place, the Hammers are on course to qualify for Europe this term and could yet gatecrash the top four, with just a point to make up on Manchester City in fourth.

Ladbrokes make it a 6/1 shot that the east Londoners cut the ribbon on their tenure at the Olympic Stadium with Champions League football. But it’s not just elite European company and new surroundings that Irons fans have to look forward to.

In line with their lofty league position, rumours that Slaven Bilic is looking to upgrade his squad in the transfer market have started to emerge.

Sky Sports offer three potential strikers that the Upton Park-leavers could move for this summer, all of whom the publication believes West Ham would be willing to pay up to £40m for.

Liverpool’s Christian Benteke, Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon are the names associated with the report. All three are internationally capped with leading European footballing nations.

However accurate the links are, their emergence is a measure of the incredible job Bilic has done with his former club.

Having landed one of the signings of the season in Dimitri Payet, Bilic supplemented that capture with a raft of decent performers like Michail Antonio, Sam Byram, Manuel Lanzini and Angelo Ogbonna. It’s clear the Croatian tactician knows his way around the transfer market.

As such a savvy operator, it’s probably not lost on the former Besiktas coach that he may not actually need to splash out £40m on a new striker.

The temptation to make a marquee signing upon qualifying for the Champions League is natural, especially as no Hammer has cracked double figures in league scoring this season. But would any of the linked trio be a guaranteed upgrade on what Bilic already has?

On current form Benteke certainly wouldn’t. The Belgian has struggled to settle at Liverpool in his debut season with the Reds, scoring just seven league goals.

Since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield the striker has been relegated to cameo appearances in the top flight and would be an expensive clone of Andy Carroll should West Ham opt to lure him away.

Unlike the Merseyside struggler, Lacazette and Batshuayi have flourished in front of goal this season. The pair have 14 and 13 Ligue 1 goals respectively and have only been outscored by Paris Saint-Germain pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.

Their numbers indicate they are superior finishers to Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, who have eight Premier League goals between them in the current campaign.

However, that pair have both had their Upton Park careers disrupted by injury and can’t be tossed on the scrap heap without compiling a strong sample by which to judge their worth.

Based on the impact Sakho made in his first season with the club, when he scored 10 league goals, the potential is certainly there.

A lack of European experience among the squad may have the Hammers owners leaning towards summer signings, but West Ham wouldn’t be buying guaranteed European goals in any of the linked trident.

Only Lacazette has experience of the Champions League beyond the qualification stage and all three have a combined goal tally of 17 in Europe.

On that evidence, the Hammers would be wise to keep their cash in their pockets and see if Sakho, Valencia, Carroll and the rest can continue to carry them forward.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.