Noel Whelan claims that James Tarkowski could be the leader that West Ham have been missing as they plot to sign the Burnley centre-back. 

The former Premier League striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, believes that the 27-year-old has the same leadership qualities as Liverpool talisman Virgil van Dijk.

As revealed by Football Insider, Burnley have slapped a £35million price tag on Tarkowski’s head after they rejected a second bid worth £30million from the Hammers.

Whelan believes that the signings of van Dijk and Harry Maguire have proven the worth of a commanding centre-back and suggests West Ham need to splash out to get someone like Tarkowski on board.

Whelan told Football Insider: “He’s a leader, he’s very much when you look at certain players in your side, what’s been missing? Liverpool rectified that mistake with van Dijk, Man United rectified that mistake with Harry Maguire.

“You look at Arsenal now with the signing of their centre-half, these are players that were missing and are very important down the spine of their side.

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“West Ham probably realise they need someone that’s going to be a leader at the back, someone that’s got that experience, got that know-how and they’re worth paying for.

“That’s why the big clubs have gone and paid big money for centre-halves because of their consistency, they’re good in the changing room, they’re leaders. When you got those players, you’ve got to pay money for them.

“Tarkowski could be their Van Dijk.” 

Tarkowski did not miss a minute of Burnley’s 2019/20 Premier League campaign and ended the season wearing the captain’s armband at Turf Moor.

The Manchester-born powerhouse has 123 top-flight appearances to his name, as well as two caps for England.

In other West Ham news, the Irons could be “haunted” as a former star joins their Premier League rivals.