West Ham United were linked with a number of defenders over the summer, but New York Red Bulls ace Aaron Long is one name fans wouldn't have expected to be linked.
The Hammers already had Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena as their first-choice pairing, with experienced duo Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid in the mix too.
Yet with the latter only just back from a huge injury lay-off, another centre back was wanted by Manuel Pellegrini, and Mario Husillos cast his net far and wide.
Sky Sports recently reported that West Ham wanted to land Red Bulls star Long, with a £4million release clause in the 26-year-old's contract, and he was looking forward to a dream move to England.
However, it was noted that Long was struggling for a work permit, sitting just one cap short of the requirements to make the move – and West Ham moved on.
The Hammers ended up signing Boavista teenager Goncalo Cardoso instead, and Red Bulls boss Chris Armas has admitted to MLS.com that he's now delighted to have a fully focused Long in his side with the English transfer window over.
“We've seen him how important he is to our backline and our team in general, his leadership, his quality, his understanding, he reads the game well in the back, he's got speed, he’s good on set pieces both ways,” said Armas. “There’s nothing he doesn't do back there for us.”
“He's a big piece, he’s a big voice in our team. To have him with a clear mind and with us healthy — he had the hamstring [injury] earlier on in the year — to have him completely connected in all ways emotionally, physically, that gives us a better chance,” he added.
Armas should now have Long at his disposal for the rest of the MLS season, but there may yet be a perfect chance for West Ham to land him in the future despite their summer move collapsing.
Ogbonna is out of favour and in his 30's, whilst we have no idea how Reid will return. Cardoso is one for the future, but a future move for Long would give great depth behind Diop and Balbuena, whilst allowing one of Ogbonna or Reid to go.
By waiting until January or even next summer, West Ham would give Long time to get that work permit whilst still only paying £4million, in what would be something of a Balbuena-like deal given the bargain price.
The window may be shut on Long joining West Ham now, but it would be little surprise to see them return in 2020 given that two defenders are ageing and his work permit should be easier to obtain.
Have something to tell us about this article?