West Ham United are reportedly keen on Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall as they plan for possible European football next season.
The Hammers have enjoyed a superb season in the Premier League and sit fifth in the table. They had flirted with the top four and were looking at a Champions League spot. But back-to-back defeats to Newcastle United and Chelsea mean the Europa League is now a more realistic proposition.
There is still time to overtake fourth-placed Chelsea but the Blues form suggests it is unlikely to happen. Whatever happens between now and May 23, it is inevitable that manager David Moyes will strengthen in the summer.
A new striker appears a priority but rumours persist that the Scot also wants to add to his rearguard. A number of names have already been mentioned and Worrall has been added to the list of potential targets.
The East End outfit currently have Fabian Balbuena, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna as centre-back options. But Balbuena is out of contract this summer and so new recruits will be needed to strengthen the ranks.
Worrall could be the man after his exploits at the City Ground. The 24-year-old ha started 30 Championship games for Forest this term and helped them to mid-table safety.
Having come through the club’s youth set-up, the rangy centre-half made his debut in October 2016. He has made 136 appearances in all competitions and spent the 2018-2019 season on loan with Rangers.
The Hucknall-born stopper earned rave reviews during his Ibrox spell, with manager Steven Gerard labelling him ‘a leader’ and ‘outstanding’. He returned to Forest and played every minute of the club’s 2019-20 Championship campaign.
Plenty of interest in Worrall
If West Ham are to succeed in luring Worrall to the London Stadium, they will need to fend off other Premier League clubs. In late 2019 Arsenal were said to hold an interest while Burnley are known to be long-term admirers.
Norwich City have also been linked and it seems obvious that it will be a busy summer for his agent. But the Hammers’ lofty position and the prospect of Euroepan football might give them the edge in negotiations.
Worrall has long been tipped as a player with Premier League quality. And it would be surprise to still see him with Forest next term.
East Midlanders boss Chris Hughton will not want to lose his rock at the back but, as ever, finances will dictate. The pandemic means cash-flow is tight and so lower-league clubs need to do all they can to balance the books.
That may mean sacrificing a young talent but they will not let him go on the cheap.