West Ham United’s search for Declan Rice’s replacement continues after selling their captain to Arsenal in a British record transfer last week.
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Who will West Ham sign to replace Rice?
Rice’s move to north London, worth £105m including add-ons, was made official last Saturday. It’s a deal that has been in the works for the better part of a month, meaning the Hammers have had plenty of time to find a replacement, be it or not.
Fulham’s Joao Palhinha, Juventus’ Denis Zakaria and Everton’s Amadou Onana have been linked, among others, but The Guardian suggest West Ham could now move for another player.
Monaco ace Youssouf Fofana is claimed to be on David Moyes’ radar as an alternative, although the Scot is concerned about the 24-year-old’s lack of Premier League experience.
However, figures suggest the Europa League winners would sign a highly talented player in ten-cap France international Fofana, who L’Equipe reports is available for €35m (£30m ) this summer, about three and a half times cheaper than the pattern that left Rice.
Who is Youssouf Fofana?
Fofana may not have Premier League experience, but he has been a regular in Ligue 1 for five seasons, the last three-and-a-half with Monaco, having joined from Strasbourg in January 2020.
The Paris native played 36 times for Monaco in the French top-flight last season, starting all but one and every one of them in midfield, according to WhoScored.
Fofana’s strengths lie in breaking up play and moving the ball forward, ranked as him – according to FBref – in the top 15% of all midfielders in the top five European leagues last season for interceptions (1.49 per 90 minutes) and the 16% higher for successful acquisitions (1.35 per 90).
For some perspective, Rice was in the top 5% for interceptions (1.73 per 90), which goes a long way to explaining his high price, but just 34% for successful receptions (0.96 per 90).
Rice and Fofana aren’t strictly the same type of player, then, but there are plenty of similarities between the pair, who are just four days apart in age. For example, Rice was involved in 0.14 goals or assists per 90 last season, compared to 0.12 for Fofana.
A similar number of their shots found the target when going forward (22.9% for Rice vs 23.8% for Fofana); they were in the same range for passing percentage (86.5 vs. 81.6 respectively); and they were nearly identical in terms of tackles and interceptions per 90 combined (3.90 vs. 3.99).
While there are areas Fofana can’t compete with Rice, such as aerial duels won per 90 (1.02 vs 0.67), the Frenchman – described as a “magnificent” player by football scout Jacek Kulig – it is clearly a well-identified goal to complete. alongside Tomas Soucek or indeed another new midfielder.
Ultimately, no player Moyes brings in this summer can adequately replace Rice. But in Fofana, West Ham would be signing an established France international who has plenty of top-flight experience, and all for a fraction of the cost.