Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Lomas urges Pellegrini to scout Lainer - could he be Zabaleta's long-term replacement?

Former West Ham midfielder Steve Lomas hinted that Manuel Pellegrini should be keeping his tabs on Stefan Lainer.

Speaking on Sky Sports before the game between Northern Ireland and Austria, Lomas noted that Pellegrini was present to watch.

He added, with quotes via This is Futbol: “There’s talk of Manuel Pellegrini coming to the game today.

“He (Lainer) will certainly be one to watch – I really like the way he defends and attacks. The complete package at right-back.”

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Lainer plays at right-back, which is an area West Ham could look to strengthen, given the doubt surrounding Pablo Zabaleta’s future.

The need for a Zabaleta successor

Pablo Zabaleta could be considering retirement at the end of the season. (Photo by Ben Early/Getty Images)

West Ham’s current first-choice right-back is Zabaleta. At the age of 33, the ex-Argentina international is still at the top of his game.

Zabaleta consistently churns out solid displays for West Ham at the back and he is still full of running.

But the veteran defender might not be at West Ham beyond the expiry of his current contract next summer.

One report indicates that he could pursue a different challenge, possibly the Middle East, next summer.

And another believes Zabaleta will retire when his contract ends at the end of the season.

With Zabaleta potentially hanging up his boots, West Ham need to find a long-term replacement to solve their right-back conundrum.

Injury crisis

Ryan Fredericks (pictured) and Sam Byram are both out injured. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Two potential options to replace Zabaleta are currently on West Ham’s books.

Ryan Fredericks signed from Fulham in the summer and Sam Byram has been at the club for a few seasons now.

But both players are injured, preventing them from staking a claim to become Zabaleta’s successor.

Who is Stefan Lainer?

Stefan Lainer has won 10 caps for Austria. (Photo by Andrea Kareth /SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

Lomas has urged West Ham to pursue a deal for Lainer, who currently plays for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian top tier.

Having come through the ranks at FC Liefering, Lainer has since played for SV Ried and RB Salzburg.

The 26-year-old is a quick full-back with plenty of energy. He likes to get forward but is also comfortable defensively.

The Austria international also has 10 senior caps to his name, following in the footsteps of his father Leo Lainer.

The verdict

On paper, Lainer is exactly the type of right-back that West Ham need; someone who is comfortable doing both the defensive and attacking duties required of the modern day full-back.

In that sense, Lainer is similar to Zabaleta – he can tear up and down the wing for RB Salzburg and Austria.

But while he boasts Europa League experience, Lainer lacks the competitive experience that West Ham would prefer from a right-back target.

Having never tested himself outside of the Austrian league, Lainer would be a risky signing as West Ham pursue their Zabaleta replacement.

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