Former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish believes West Ham United may need to pay a ‘Premier League fee’ to recruit AFC Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly during the January transfer window, speaking to Football Insider.
The 23-year-old has been one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Cherries this term, making 21 league appearances and captaining the side for large spells of the season in the absence of Steve Cook, who looks as though he could be on his way out of the Vitality Stadium next month.
Kelly has also been linked with a move away from the south coast in recent weeks, with West Ham and Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United both reported to be interested in pursuing the Englishman’s signature.
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The Magpies, who currently have the centre-back’s former manager Howe at the helm at St James’ Park, are looking to invest heavily next month in a bid to stay afloat in the top flight with both Kelly and Cook said to be on the 44-year-old’s shortlist.
However, the Hammers are also in need of some reinforcements, especially at centre-back after losing Angelo Ogbonna to an ACL injury for the rest of the season, with Kurt Zouma currently out of action after damaging his hamstring.
Football League World understands two EFL central defenders in Queens Park Rangers’ Rob Dickie and Middlesbrough’s Dael Fry have been closely monitored by officials at the London Stadium – and it now seems the top-tier outfit are eyeing a move for the Bournemouth star.
One man that has warned them about the south-coast club’s potential stance and demands regarding their key centre-back is pundit McLeish, who said: “Moyes and West Ham won’t take anybody lightly. They will have done all their homework on a potential centre-back.
“We have seen other young centre-backs leave their clubs to go to bigger clubs. Arsenal signing Ben White and other similar deals like that.
“I’ve seen a lot of really good players in the Championship at centre-back. Playing the ball out exactly the way that Premier League clubs would like them to.
“He’s one of the many good, young centre-backs in the Championship.
“Bournemouth will be seeing themselves as a potential Premier League team again. They’ll be going along these waters of: ‘We’re still a big club. We need to go back the Premier League fees we would have commanded before.’
“The fact they can do that shows the power they have in terms of the finances. They’re a team who look ready to go back to the Premier League with the way they’ve been playing in recent weeks.”
Signing a long-term contract on his arrival at the Vitality in 2019, he’s likely to have a couple more years left on his deal and this is why the Cherries may not be under pressure to sell one of their key men.
Cook’s potential departure also makes retaining him vital, because rocking the boat too much at the heart defence with too many departures and arrivals in January could derail their automatic promotion hopes, the last thing they need after getting themselves back on track against QPR and Cardiff City.
Kelly has formed a good partnership with Gary Cahill although Wales international Chris Mepham can step in, fans of the promotion chasers will be hoping the former duo continue as the starting pair because both are a class above Championship level and could be crucial to their chances of returning to the top flight at the second time of asking.
This is why it would take an exceptionally high offer to lure the 23-year-old away from his current club, although Newcastle may be able to win this race with their wealthy owners ready to invest next month.