Five free transfers Slaven Bilic could realistically target this summer

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic

One benefit of West Ham United's climb into midtable is that it allows Slaven Bilic to start looking ahead to his summer recruitment.

West Ham United manager Slaven BilicWest Ham United manager Slaven Bilic

The Hammers got it badly wrong last summer with a glut of poor free transfers and loan signings diluting Bilic's squad off the back of one of their best seasons since 1986.

The club then lost wantaway star man Dimitri Payet in January before bringing in Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass.

Results have picked up drastically in the last two months to leave the East Londoners facing a relatively worry free - if uneventful - remainder of the season in midtable.

But that will allow Bilic to focus on his summer recruitment as the club looks to avoid the mistakes which saw them take a backwards step this season.

And here are five free transfers the Hammers boss could realistically target to improve his squad ahead of next season.

Norwich's John RuddyNorwich's John Ruddy

John Ruddy

There is a lot of speculation linking Joe Hart with a move to West Ham this summer with former Hammers number one Adrian tipped to leave after falling out of favour.

That would push Darren Randolph back down the pecking order, a situation the Republic of Ireland star would unlikely accept as it could hurt his international chances.

Therefore picking up former England 'keeper Ruddy on a free as back-up to Hart could suit all parties, while also boosting the club's English contingent, something Bilic and owners David Sullivan and David Gold have stated they are keen to do.

Football Soccer - Spanish Liga Santander - Real Madrid v OsasunaPepe

Pepe

The Real Madrid defender will have no shortage of options this summer but Bilic could reunite Pepe with his European Championship winning central defensive partner with Fonte in an ageing but vastly experienced back line.

James Collins looks to have had his best days in a West Ham shirt and Bilic's preference for three at the back opens up space for another recruit to compete for a first team spot alongside Fonte, Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna.

Liverpool's Lucas Leiva in action with Tottenham's Erik LamelaLiverpool's Lucas Leiva in action

Lucas Leiva

West Ham have been heavily linked with the Liverpool favourite in the last two summers and they could pick him up for nothing come July.

He ticks another box for Bilic and the owners in that he has vast Premier League experience and can operate in a host of different positions.

Hammers striker Andy Carroll recently name Leiva as his most difficult opponent and at 30-years-old the Brazilian has plenty of years left in him.

He would certainly be an upgrade on the likes of Mark Noble in the Hammers midfield.

 

Liverpool's Jordon Ibe in action with Stoke's Ibrahim Affelay and Xherdan ShaqiriStoke's Ibrahim Affelay (right)

 

Ibrahim Afellay

The former Barcelona winger has struggled with injury at Stoke but is another player who, at 30-years-old, could represent a smart move.

West Ham need to bring in some talented creative players to complement Manual Lanzini and a fit and firing Afellay would certainly excite fans.

Manchester City's Bacary Sagna in action with West Ham United's Michail AntonioManchester City's Bacary Sagna in action against West Ham

Bacary Sagna

West Ham have been linked with a summer move for Sagna who would solve the club's long standing right back problem overnight if Bilic can lure the former Arsenal man from Manchester City.

While Sagna has featured under Pep Guardiola, it is thought the former Barca boss will want to revamp the club's defence, starting with their out of contract full backs Sagna and Gael Clichy.

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