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West Ham made a mistake by not signing Joao Mario to replace injured Lanzini

West Ham were strongly linked with Joao Mario throughout the summer, in a move which never materialised.

Mario spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham, slowly progressing into an important first-team player.

Inter Milan were willing to let him go, either permanently or on loan, but the Hammers chose not to sign the Portugal international, who netted twice and grabbed one assist in his 13 games in East London.

But perhaps the Irons should have re-signed him. Here’s why.

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Perfect Lanzini replacement

Just before the World Cup, Manuel Lanzini was hit with a devastating long-term injury, which threatened to rule him out of the entire 2018/19 season.

It was heartbreaking for the player – who was on the verge of representing Argentina at the World Cup – but also for West Ham fans.

In the absence of the little Argentine, West Ham lack that creative spark in midfield.

The current options in central midfield are the more naturally defensive-minded trio of Mark Noble, Carlos Sanchez and Pedro Obiang and then new boy Jack Wilshere.

A player of Mario’s talent could have added a bit more quality on the ball in the middle of the park, helping to get attacks started and feeding the forward players.

With Lanzini set to miss the majority of this season, West Ham should have snapped up the 25-year-old as a like-for-like short-term solution.

First-team ready

Mario took a while to find his feet in the Premier League but was starting to establish himself towards the end of his loan spell.

When the Portuguese midfielder adjusted to life in England and the speed of the Premier League, he began to shine under David Moyes and turn in some really good performances.

There is no doubt that he would have returned to West Ham – a familiar environment where he is acquainted with the fans – ready to kick on and add to his goal and assist tallies.

With some Premier League experience under his belt, Mario could have developed his game further at West Ham, benefiting the Hammers in the short-term, especially with Lanzini on the sidelines.

He may not have been the saviour at The London Stadium, and West Ham may still have lost their opening four games with him playing, but he certainly would have added strength in depth and given Manuel Pellegrini an alternative option in midfield.

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