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With reports of a potential January exit for Issa Diop, West Ham must find themselves a long-term replacement first.

Since joining in 2018 for £22m, Issa Diop has had a fluctuating spell at West Ham. After a solid first season, the 23-year-old centre back was valued at over £50m and quickly became one of the best rising youngsters in the Premier League.

However, since the start of this season Diop has found himself without a place in the starting line-up. He has made only three starts in the league so far, with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna, Fabian Balbuena and even Craig Dawson playing ahead of him in recent weeks.

His lack of playing time has alerted other clubs and now that the January transfer window is among us, reports suggest that the Frenchman could be on his way out. London rivals Tottenham have been linked with the youngster, as Jose Mourinho has previously praised the defender back when he was at Man United.

With him being only 23, Diop still has a lot of potential. As we saw in his first season, he can be a real asset for the club. West Ham should be wary about whether they sell him or not until they are 100% sure he will not fit into David Moyes’ system. With his value on the decline, due to a lack of games, the board may be looking at getting a good price for him while he is still young.

That being said, we have an aging backline especially concerning our centre backs. Ogbonna is 32, Balbuena is 29, Dawson is 30 and Aaron Cresswell, who has been played a center-back this season, has just turned 31. Despite our good form defensively, the club must think towards the future.

With Diop the only possible central defender under the age 28, the board must take into account the club’s long-term plans and whether they want Diop as a part of that. Perhaps a short-term loan deal will be better, to give him a chance to prove his ability.

If they do decide to off-load him to another side, and hopefully not Spurs, then it is imperative that we sign a young replacement with a long-term objective in mind. While our current defenders are performing at a high standard, age will soon catch up to them.

West Ham continue to be linked with attacking players, including Marko Arnautovic and Bournemouth striker Josh King, according to EXWHUemployee whilst speaking on The West Ham Way podcast – but not defenders. If Diop was to leave, and a replacement was not found this January, West Ham could be in serious trouble if we were to be dealt with any injury blows before the season ends.