Joao Mario: A long-term solution for West Ham United?
Many Hammers fans found themselves somewhat underwhelmed upon the completion of the most recent January transfer window. With the only permanent incomer arriving in the form of Preston’s little known Jordan Hugill, expectations within the West Ham faithful were dealt a sudden blow.
The club nonetheless acquired the services of Inter Milan’s Joao Mario midway through the winter window, on a short-term loan deal with a view to a permanent purchase. Whilst the capture of yet another temporary option was initially discredited by some quarters of the Hammers community, others were quietly confident in what Mario had to offer.
Operating as a fully-fledged Euro 2016 winner alongside the rest of the Portuguese national squad, the 25-year-old midfielder began to represent a promising new alternative for David Moyes. His team had been crying out for a new midfield option to compete among the heart of West Ham’s struggling starting XI. In Joao Mario, it seemed the Hammers had finally been granted their wish.
Yet despite a fairly competent start to life down at the London Stadium, some Premier League onlookers lost a great deal of faith in Mario’s proposed ability to set his new club alight. Although the Portuguese international had portrayed himself in largely promising form, if not a little forgettable on certain isolated occasions, his unfamiliarity with the notorious ‘relegation dog-fight’ became all too apparent.
West Ham had landed themselves a purported €45 million player with top level international experience, but seemingly not the right one. Joao Mario’s skill-set appeared unsuitable for the task up ahead, that being, the all-important assignment of saving West Ham from the drop. Whilst the midfielder had previously excelled among his native Portugal with Sporting Lisbon, his latest undertaking was one of great uncertainty.
Promising signs were most certainly felt upon the completion of Mario’s first Premier League goal for the Hammers. West Ham were on the end of a triumphant 3-0 victory last time out against Southampton, with the on-loan Inter Milan midfielder bagging the opening goal of the proceedings. Hammers fans watched on as a smart strike from just outside the box sent the Saints goalkeeper reeling, with Joao Mario subsequently wheeling off in jubilant celebration.
Although the former Sporting Lisbon man must surely develop his all-round game in order to become a recognised permanent fixture among the Premier League, many feel the best is yet to come from the 25-year-old. With West Ham edging closer to safety with every passing week, it appears as if his ongoing desire to play among the English top-flight could yet continue for the foreseeable future.
Then again, the Hammers remain in danger of relegation just like most of their likeminded counterparts currently battling it out among the Premier League drop zone. Joao Mario still has some job on his hands if he is to aid his current employers with their most pressing task, and with a reported buy-out fee of £37 million, his long-term future at the London Stadium is still in question.
For now, the jury remains out on West Ham’s recently acquired man. With a place among the Portuguese national squad still up from grabs at the 2018 World Cup this summer, perhaps Joao Mario must go down as one to keep a keen eye on throughout the remainder of the domestic season.
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