It’s inevitable that Ebere Eze will leave QPR in the transfer window, but hopefully he doesn’t follow others into the gaping talent maw that is West Ham…
There are a couple of competing urges when you watch Ebere Eze play football.
He’s so obviously brilliant that your brain can go one of two ways; either you cannot take your eyes off him, drawn to this elegant, gliding, beautiful footballer being so clearly the most talented player on the pitch it’s like watching the best kid at school all over again. Or you can watch him for five minutes and reason that you don’t need to watch him anymore: he’s brilliant, I know this now, that’s that ticked off, I can concentrate on the other 21 players for the remaining 85 minutes.
Eze won three of QPR’s six end-of-season awards this week. He probably should have swept the board, even if it might have been a bit odd to give him the supporter of the season award. In a season which has been broadly frustrating with the odd spell of promise (they last won consecutive games in December), Eze has been a bright spark for Rangers, a reason to show up. “We might not win, we’re probably going to finish in mid-table nothingness, but at least we’ll get to see Eze.”
Half the Leeds team and the Brentford forward line might disagree, but Eze could well be the best player in the Championship, or at least the most pleasing to watch. Everything is done with such insouciance, and he’s one of those players who looks like everything comes ludicrously easy to him. He should probably be awarded an extra few points for doing all this in a pretty mediocre side.
Thus, tere’s been a quiet acceptance for a while now that Eze will be off in the summer, like a holiday romance you know realistically isn’t going to last. His talent is too bright for Championship mediocrity, potential too great to at least not be tried at a higher level. The shame for QPR is in the timing, that in this year of all years they won’t get what they might have done for him. In a normal year he could easily have fetched the £25million Leicester paid for James Maddison, but the general state of things mean they will probably have to settle for less.
Liverpool were looking at him earlier in the season. As usual Tottenham have been linked. Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Brighton apparently considered making moves in January and may have been the teams Les Ferdinand meant when he said they had to ‘fend off’ some offers.
And then there’s West Ham. The news that David Moyes, Premier League survival secured for another year and with one eye on the rapidly approaching 2020/21 season, has been scouting Eze heavily arrived on Tuesday, with a bid to come shortly and the grim inevitability of optimistic photoshoots with jazzy announcement video to follow. Eze will stand on the big purple carpet and do that crossed arms thing that absolutely none of their supporters seem to do, he’ll talk about the massive club and what a no-brainer this move is and the opportunity to play at the London Stadium, and everyone will hope that he can translate some of his second tier potential into the Premier League.
But hopefully not. Because West Ham is a black hole for talent, a dysfunctional organisation that draws in promise and seems to ensure it will not flourish. It’s like anyone who sets foot in that stadium is instantly imbued with the spirit of 2012, only not the ones who won gold medals but the seven who lost. They’re a club whose one true consistent talent seems to be making the wrong decision, bumbling from one error to the next, who Benji Lanyado said on the Totally Football Show a few weeks ago seem to have a knack for “making good players worse.”
Arguably the only player currently in the West Ham squad that has significantly improved since they signed them has been Michail Antonio, who arrived as a slightly raw winger but who has become a sort of offensive Swiss Army Knife, a one-man solution to a variety of problems.
Aaron Cresswell has had his moments, ditto Robert Snodgrass and it’s probably too early to tell about Jarrod Bowen, but Ryan Fredericks probably wishes he stayed at Fulham, Pablo Fornals has been underwhelming, Sebastian Haller’s seven goals isn’t a brilliant return for £40million and any hope that Jack Wilshere would rediscover his talent and fitness have long since ebbed away.
And that’s before you get to some of the players who were signed at considerable expense/fanfare but were quickly ushered away. Jose Fonte went from imperious at Southampton to a shambling figure at West Ham and was chucked into a lifeboat marked ‘Dalian Yifang’. Andre Ayew was bought from then sold back to Swansea. Jordan Hugill was a panic buy and never good enough. We could go on.
Actually, it might be more instructive to look at who they have sold. West Ham’s position in the food chain theoretically means they should be a club where young talent is road-tested before even bigger fish come along, but you could argue that the only players who have been genuinely coveted and bought by more successful teams in the last decade are Dimitri Payet and Scott Parker.
Innocent, pure promise seems to be lured in by the idea of a functioning Premier League club, before the reality of West Ham sets in and atrophy rules. They are safe from relegation this season, although at the time of writing it’s as likely as not that they will survive only on goal difference. It’s not the sort of place where talent can be nurtured or will flourish.
Please, not Eze too. He is too good for that. He’s too good for West Ham. Too much talent to be sucked into the gaping maw that is the Hammers’ flair drain and sent out on loan to Reading in 12 months, having had the life squeezed out of his promise. Everyone knows Eze is going to move on, and going to move up. But not to them. Please, not to West Ham.
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