West Ham United boss David Moyes has paid tribute to former striker Marko Arnautovic ahead of tonight’s game against his hometown club.
Arnautovic was sensational for West Ham when Moyes converted him to a striker during his first spell at the club.
Arnautovic was heavily linked with a return to east London from China in the summer.
That divided some fans who had not forgiven Arnautovic for the way he forced a move away to Shanghai SIPG.
In the end Arnautovic signed for Italian side Bologna while Moyes elected not to sign another striker to play back-up to Michail Antonio.
West Ham play their first bona fide European home match for 15 years when they face Austrian side Rapid Wien on Thursday night.
Rapid are the hometown club of former Hammers striker Arnautovic, who was born in Vienna and played for West Ham’s Europa League opponents at youth team level.
And when that was put to Moyes by a member of the Austrian press ahead of the game, the Scot paid a glowing tribute to the man he turned into a fearsome striker (whufc.com).
“Did you ask me about Marko Arnautovic there?” Moyes said in his pre-match press conference (whufc.com).
“Oh, Marko is a huge favourite at the club, was a huge favourite with me because I saw him as a bit of a challenge and I was looking forward to (figuring out) how to manage him and how it would work.
“And he done great for me. He is a great player, strength, power, pace and someone we’ll always welcome back for how well he done for us here.”
They say time is a great healer. And many fans would probably have welcomed Arnautovic back with open arms in the summer.
Some would have been against the move, though, given his acrimonious departure.
Given Moyes’s comments on Arnautovic’s attributes, though, one can be forgiven for thinking he would have made the ideal back-up for Antonio during a jam-packed season.
But it didn’t happen and it’s probably best West Ham fans look back on the great moments the Austrian gave them rather than wonder why might have been.