West Ham United last week opened their chequebook for the first time in 2016, completing the transfer of highly-rated right-back Sam Byram from Leeds United in a deal worth around £3.7 million.
The 22-year-old had been subject to interest from a host of Premier League clubs, and was in talks with Everton, but has instead signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Hammers.
The Englishman could prove an important asset for Slaven Bilic’s side this season, after their only other right-back Carl Jenkinson, who is on loan from Arsenal, picked up what looks to be a significant knee injury against Manchester City on Saturday, when Byram made his debut to replace him.
But just how much of an important signing will he be? Shoot takes a closer look at the former Leeds star.
Where did it all start for Byram?
Sam Byram was born in Thurrock, Essex, before moving north to grow up in Haxby, North Yorkshire. The right-back played for his local football team before being picked up by Leeds United in 2005.
After completing his secondary education at school, he earned a scholarship with the West Yorkshire club in 2010. During his first year as scholar, he played ‘down’ a year in the under-16 team to aid his development as a footballer.
During his second year in 2011/12, Byram progressed to his actual age group in the under-18s where he would feature regularly in the team. After impressing in the youth academy, he was rewarded with a professional contract in May 2012, and from there it only went uphill.
What happened next?
After impressing in the 2012/13 pre-season, Byram was handed his first team debut at Elland Road in a 4-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup. He retained his place the following weekend for Leeds’ first league game of the season; a 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wonderers.
He the put pen-to-paper on a new three-year contract with the West Yorkshire club two days after his league debut, and just three months after signing his first professional contract with the club.
The 2012/13 season was Byram’s first as a professional footballer, and probably his most successful so far in his career. He won the Players’ Player, Player and Young Player of the Year Awards at the Leeds United annual awards ceremony.
Byram was last summer subject to interest from a host of Premier League clubs, including Aston Villa, Everton, Newcastle and West Ham. Despite this speculation, he remained in West Yorkshire for the upcoming campaign. However, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, and Leeds in a precarious position, it was inevitable that the Englishman would be leaving the club before the start of next term.
A transfer to either West Ham or Everton this January looked to be on the cards, with the latter seen as favourites to sign him. The Toffees had a bid for the 22-year-old accepted before West Ham made their move to take him to London. He opted to make the switch to the capital as opposed to Merseyside, with the thought of playing at the Olympic Stadium next season in mind. The fee is thought to be around £3.7 million.
What can he bring to the Hammers?
The young full-back is a player full of character and creativity; he is always involved in the action, and has the ability to create chances from nothing. Furthermore, he pops up on the scoresheet every-so-often, and has the ability to deliver good crosses into the box, which is something that West Ham sometimes lack.
Byram has good pace, which helps him keep up with his opponents in defence, as well as beating them in offence. It allows the youngster to be a useful resource going forward and adding something to the attack. He possesses good strength, which is always good for a defender.
He also has a high technical ability, good positional awareness, both at the back and further up the pitch, and excellent vision to pick out passes and create opportunities.
How good can he become?
Being compared to Welshman Gareth Bale in his left-back/left wing days at Tottenham, Sam Byram has a lot to live up to. Although he may not become quite as good as the world’s most expensive player, he could still develop into a very good attacking full-back.
He hasn’t appeared for England at any level so far in his career, and there is still plenty of work to be done before he can be considered to do so. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him featuring for the Three Lions in the not-so-distant future.