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West Ham hoping to lure Nicolas N’Koulou to strengthen defence

West Ham United, 4/1 chances with Coral for a top six finish, have identified Cameroon and Marseille defender Nicolas N’Koulou as their top target to replace New Zealand international Winston Reid in east London.

Highly-rated Kiwi player Reid, 26, is out of contract at Upton Park in the summer and is reportedly coveted by a number of top Premier League teams. N’Koulou, meanwhile, is the man that tabloid rumour mills say will replace him in the Hammers defence.

Under eccentric Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, N’Koulou has contributed to six clean sheets in Ligue 1, and Marseille remain top in France, a point ahead of reigning champions PSG.

Any winter window move on West Ham’s part to land their man will not help them in the short term, however, as Cameroon have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals being held in Equatorial Guinea. N’Koulou has recently surpassed 50 caps for his country and is an integral part of their spine.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is already likely to lose Senegal pair Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho during January to that continental competition. N’Koulou’s compatriot and on-loan Barcelona midfielder Alex Song, meanwhile, is out of favour with the Indomitable Lions following his sending off at the World Cup, so may stay behind.

For Cameroon, N’Koulou has been hugely impressive, helping them to seal five shut-outs in six qualifying matches, and he played every minute of their campaign. As well as operating in central defence, he is also adept in a holding midfield role.

While it may be more prudent to wait until the summer or line up a move for him in January, if Marseille continue to perform as they do then they will be able to offer N’Koulou Champions League football at the Velodrome again.

This is something West Ham, who are moving into the Olympic Stadium within two years, are unlikely to match, though they are 16/1 shots to crash the top four this term.