Coups in football are becoming rare, but if West Ham United manage to bring Inter Milan midfielder João Mário to the club this month on loan, it’ll be just that: a coup.
Back in the summer of 2016, the former Porto youth player was impressing for Sporting Lisbon. His form caught the eye of top clubs across Europe but it was Liverpool who made the first move, with reports linking them a £40million move for the versatile Portuguese international.
The Reds were eventually priced out of a move, instead opting to sign Gini Wijnaldum. Mário looked set for a move to Inter Milan but negotiations dragged on. He eventually made the move to Italy with just four days of the window remaining. The Serie A side parted with €45million in total to secure his signature.
His debut season in Italy was a disappointing one. The second hasn’t been much better with new Inter manager Luciano Spalletti not favouring him in his starting XI. Yet despite this, not being a regular starter and failing to live up to the initial hype, heading into the January transfer window he was linked with loan moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United.
Inter wanted to bring Javier Pastore or new Arsenal man Henrikh Mhkitaryan to the San Siro and offered the 25-year-old as bait. Reports even suggested United manager José Mourinho viewed Mário as a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick.
For the former Porto star to end up at West Ham is quite something, and the quality he possesses will see him be an immediate upgrade on what the Hammers already have in the middle third.
In the player card above you get to see a few of Mario’s stats, courtesy of understat.com, for this season. Granted, the sample size is small given he’s not played much first-team football but the numbers are impressive nonetheless.
Though he’s yet to find the back of the net this season his expected goals per 90 minutes (xG90) is higher than all put two West Ham midfielders. Only Marko Arnautović (0.37) and André Ayew (0.35) rank higher, and both players have played in attack this season which no doubt has an impact on the positions they’re finding themselves in.
No West Ham player has a better xGA90 (expected goals assisted) than the Portuguese playmaker. Manuel Lanzini is closest and he’s averaging 0.18 xA90, so it’s not like he’s even close to Mário.
Mário is the winner again when looking at key passes per 90 minutes. The Porto-born midfielder averages 2.79 compared to Lanzini’s 1.92. Aside from Arnautović, no other midfielder at David Moyes’ disposal averages higher than one.
On stats alone you can see what he would offer the West Ham team. For a more in-depth look at this there’s a detailed scout report on him. If the Hammers manage to land him and he recaptures his Sporting Lisbon form then the club will have one of the best all-round midfielders in the Premier League on his day. He could be Moyes’ muse.