By Will Butcher
West Ham are plotting a move for Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta as his contract enters its final six months, according to a report.
The Mirror claim that the Hammers are also interested in teammate Bacary Sagna, and will target either of Pep Guardiola’s right-backs if they are not handed new contracts at the Etihad.
West Ham were credited with an interest in France international Sagna earlier this week by the Telegraph, but it appears that the Hammers could now also target his City teammate.
Two-time Premier League champion Zabaleta, 32, has been played in a less familiar central midfield role of late and has also been used in the heart of defence in the past.
Manager Slaven Bilic is desperate to bring a right-back to the London Stadium, as Sam Byram continues to struggle to overcome a long-term hamstring injury.
With former Real Madrid star Alvaro Arbeloa also failing to shake off multiple injuries this term, Bilic has been forced to play a number of senior stars out of position.
Most recently, Senegal international Cheikhou Kouyate has played on the right side of defence, while Michail Antonio and Havard Nordtveit have also been used in unfamiliar surroundings at right-back.
Bringing in a right-sided defender is of high importance to former Croatia manager Bilic, and Argentina international Zabaleta could be the man to bolster West Ham’s problem area.
Football Insider verdict:
With a huge amount of Premier League experience and two winners’ medals in his trophy cabinet, Zabaleta will be a top addition to any top-flight side after totalling 224 appearances in England’s top division since his move from Spanish side Espanyol back in 2008. The defender’s athleticism and natural work rate makes his age less significant, and on a free transfer, the versatile star would prove a huge signing. With Zabaleta coming in to the London Stadium, though, Arbeloa’s future in east London is likely to end in the summer with his contract ending the same time as City’s number five.
In other West Ham transfer news, fans have reacted on Twitter to reported interest in another right-back.