West Ham Opinion: Hammers should look to nab Ajax defender Joel Veltman on a cut-price deal
According to the Daily Mail, West Ham have been handed a massive boost in their pursuit of Ajax defender Joel Veltman, with reports claiming that the Dutch international is considering a switch to the Premier League this summer.
The Daily Mail understands that the 27-year-old, who is currently in the final year of his contract at the Amsterdam Arena, is open to leaving his boyhood club Ajax to play abroad, with the Premier League touted as the player’s next destination.
The same report claims that West Ham would need to fend off interest from several Italian clubs if the Hammers are genuinely interested in securing the of the versatile defender.
Veltman was on the treatment table for large quarters of this past season to nurse an ACL injury that he had suffered towards the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
However, he returned to action for Ajax in February and made 14 appearances in all competitions, as Erik ten Hag’s side clinched the Eredivisie title and made it all the way through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
The 27-year-old, who currently has 19 international caps for The Netherlands under his belt, rose through the youth system at Ajax before making his senior professional debut in the 2012-13 season.
Veltman hasn’t looked back since then and has gradually gone on to establish himself as one of the mainstays of Ajax’s backline, amassing a total of 216 appearances in all competitions over the course of seven seasons.
Veltman, who was a part of the Dutch squad that participated at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, is noted for his versatility to play in multiple positions across the backline. Essentially a right-back by trade, the 27-year-old is equally adept at playing as a centre-back and he has played both roles to perfection for Ajax for the years.
Standing at 6ft. with a well-built frame for a defender, Veltman has the perfect physicality, game-reading ability and the tackling skills to fit seamlessly into both right-back and centre-back roles.
That, coupled with his pace, sharpness, impressive aerial ability, ball-playing attributes, composure in possession and good crossing ability means that he is capable of providing cover in more than one area at the back, thus making him a dream buy for any manager.
To put things into perspective, Joel Veltman is not one of the household names in Europe but he is an established defender in the Eredivisie, nevertheless.
Hence, West Ham have every reason to look at him as someone who could add a lot of stability, depth and experience to their backline, whilst his versatility is also likely to appeal to the Hammers.
West Ham have already secured the services of Spanish playmaker Pablo Fornals in the summer window but the Hammers are now in pursuit of a replacement for Marko Arnautovic, who recently completed a big-money move to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.
While a new centre-forward continues to be high on manager Manuel Pellegrini’s wishlist, the East Londoners should also consider making a few additions to their backline.
An injury to Ryan Fredericks meant that Pablo Zabaleta played as the first-choice right-back for large quarters of the previous campaign but things are likely to be different this time around, with the former Fulham man now fit to compete for his place in the side. However, one cannot help but feel that someone like Joel Veltman would be a massive upgrade on either of the aforementioned players.
Plus, Veltman’s versatility to play at the heart of the defence should provide cover and competition for the likes of Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop. Keeping that in mind, it is easy to see why the 27-year-old could be a massive coup for the Hammers.
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With just 12 months left on his current contract at Ajax, West Ham have every reason to believe that they can possibly nab the hugely experienced defender on a cut-price deal. All in all, it would be a massive statement of intent from the Hammers if they manage to get this one over the line.