Former West Ham boss Harry Redknapp, now at Tottenham, believes the Hammers could have been a major force in the Premier League if they had kept hold of the talented youngsters he brought through the ranks.
He said: "When I went there they were a yo-yo club, getting relegated and coming back.
"When I was there we never got relegated, we finished in the top half three years running and really established ourselves as a team in the top half of the division.
"We produced the best young players at any club, as good as Manchester United in my opinion. Six kids went to play for England, four were playing in the Champions League final last season.
"They were players I signed at 11 or 12 years of age. If they kept hold of them, where would they be now?
"Once Rio went, then Frank went and Joe, they just couldn't keep hold of those players and build a team that could have been challenging, in my opinion, for the top four."