Are West Ham signing the World Cup’s most exciting rising talent?

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The sad and unexpected death of Christian Benitez last summer left Ecuador searching for a striker to lead their line with a World Cup in Brazil fast approaching.

Reinaldo Rueda picked right-sided midfielder Enner Valencia as the man to fill the gaping hole Benitez left and has reaped plenty of rewards since.

The 24-year-old speedster, who moved to Mexican club Pachuca for just £2.9m earlier in the year and hit 18 goals in 23 appearances for them, was undoubtedly the brightest gem to be uncovered in Brazil.

He scored all three of Ecuador’s goals at the finals as the side missed out on the knockout stages by two points in Group E, catching the eye of some notable clubs in the process.

AC Milan and Sevilla are trailing Valencia, but it’s one of the Premier League’s ambitious middle band that seem ahead of both clubs, having lodged an acceptable bid for the player.

West Ham, who are 7/1 for top-flight relegation with Ladbrokes this season, have lodged a £12m offer for the newly-trained striker, which according to Pachuca president Jesus Martinez is “the strongest and closest to what the player and us are demanding.”

The Hammers’ Valencia chase is a further statement of their ambition to play a more attacking brand of football, a directive the club’s owners David Sullivan and Gold insisted upon when sparing Sam Allardyce the sack at the end of last term.

Mauro Zarate is already on board, along with former striker Teddy Sheringham as attack coach, while rumoured bids for the likes of Yevhen Konoplyanka show just how serious Big Sam is about ditching his defence-driven style.

A player with the kind of pace Valencia possesses would be the perfect partner to feed off Andy Carroll’s flick-ons, while his ability to run the channels would open up defences in a way West Ham previously haven’t been able to.

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.