Dimitri Payet’s controversial departure from West Ham engulfed the media for the best part of the January transfer window.
Clubs from across Europe were linked with moves for the wantaway Frenchman, but it was a return to Marseille that was eventually agreed – just a week before the deadline.
Much of West Ham’s success last season stemmed from Payet’s fearsome dribbling and faultless technique, and his departure has left a void in its wake that will be an incredibly difficult one to fill, despite the best efforts of Manuel Lanzini.
Slaven Bilic will set his scouting team the assignment of identifying potential replacements and Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea City should top their short-list.
Swans boss Paul Clement recently tipped Sigurdsson to play for the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich one day, but it was West Ham who made efforts to lure him away from the Liberty Stadium in January.
Swansea were reluctant to sell whilst staring down the barrel at relegation as his exit would deal a major blow to their survival hopes, but the Hammers are keeping tabs on the 27-year-old, along with Everton and Leicester, and a deal should be revisited in the summer.
Sigurdsson, with eight goals and eight assists this season, is one of the top creators in the Premier league and only Kevin De Bruyne on nine boasts more assists. He has developed a reputation for being a dead-ball specialist, contributing to nine goals from set pieces since the start of last season – six more than Payet managed in the same time.
There are few players in the world as comfortable with both feet as Sigurdsson, highlighted by his eight goals scored this season being split equally with his left and right foot. Coupled with his close control and instinctive dribbling, this makes him a constant threat and real handful for opposition defenders.
Predominantly a number ten, Gylfi is equally capable of plying his trade on either flank as well – as he has done on countless occasions for both club and country over the years.
Versatility is a valuable asset to Slaven Bilic as can be seen from his current squad, with the likes of Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and even new recruit Robert Snodgrass being used in multiple different positions depending on the system deployed – whether it be the more common 4-2-3-1, a flat 4-4-2 or 3-4-2-1.
Swansea slapped a £25million price tag on Sigurdsson’s head last month, but it is worth noting any business completed in January does tend to come at a premium.
With the funds generated from the sale of Dimitri Payet, coupled with the extra revenue from the Premier League’s TV deal, West Ham should have no problem matching the asking price – even if it does not lower in the summer. The Hammers will need to act fast if they are to fend off stiff competition from their Premier League rivals, though.