Former West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips is worried that alleged missed payments from Al-Ittihad for Ahmed Hegazi could disrupt the Baggies’ January transfer business, speaking in an interview with West Brom News.
The central defender initially joined the Saudi top-tier side on loan in October 2020 when the West Midlands outfit were still in the Premier League, but agreed a deal that would see the Egyptian international move there permanently with an obligation to buy.
The fee agreed was reported to be in the region of £2.5m, but the amount Al-Ittihad need to pay Valerien Ismael’s men after having this clause activated automatically is being disputed by the former, causing friction between the clubs and leading the latter to make a formal complaint to governing body UEFA.
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It is not yet known how much the Baggies believe there is left to pay for the 30-year-old’s services, but for a side that were reluctant to spend during the summer transfer window following their relegation, this extra money could make all the difference leading up to January.
Currently, Ismael’s side sit in third place and are currently four points adrift of the top two going into tonight’s tie against strugglers Hull City, with leaders AFC Bournemouth going unbeaten in the league this term and Fulham looking strong with the prolific Aleksandar Mitrovic up top.
With this, a marquee signing or two could make all the difference for a side who will be hoping to avoid the lottery of the play-offs again, after securing second spot on their return to the Premier League during the 2019/20 campaign.
Phillips is worried this alleged missing money could have an impact on January, saying to West Brom News: “You want money to go and strengthen the squad in January.
“Although they’ve got a squad, they haven’t got a huge squad so I think Ismael will want money to go and strengthen.
“From a business point of view, if you haven’t been paid for a player, I can’t say I know the ins and outs, but it just doesn’t seem right.
“It’s not ideal going into January with funds as tight as they are but the manager will have already identified players and it’s frustrating if he doesn’t have that money.”
It’s important to say that the facts need to be established on both sides before claims are made, but the Baggies’ board should be backing Ismael regardless of whether they receive this payment or not in the January window if they are desperate to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Although they have a competitive squad, they are lacking depth in a couple of positions and ideally need a main forward like Daryl Dike to become their top goalscorer and fire them to automatic promotion.
Karlan Grant has responded well this season after a shaky start to his time at The Hawthorns, but it does seem as though they miss a Mitrovic-type figure that is currently proving to be the difference between Fulham in second and Albion in third.
Without Mitrovic’s 18 goals in 15 games, the Cottagers would be in a much lower position despite their quality in other areas of the pitch. And if they don’t end up achieving automatic promotion, they will need adequate depth, experience and strength to compete in the play-offs.
Cutting out silly mistakes is one area they need to improve, but as much as Ismael can improve his current squad, a few additions in the winter would be ideal and from there, they can sustain their pursuit of Marco Silva’s side and Scott Parker’s Cherries.