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Reece Oxford & crazy West Ham decision: Why Man Utd, Arsenal won't give Gladbach free run at outright deal

COMMENT: They're not going to give them a free run are they? Manchester United. Arsenal. They're not going to just sit back and let Borussia Monchengladbach tie down Reece Oxford, surely?

After the calm, comes the storm. Having sat out the season so far - until the weekend, Oxford had managed just 60 seconds of first team action - it suddenly emerged West Ham were ready to do business with Gladbach over a permanent deal. The price? £8m.

Forgive us, but this one just didn't make sense. Twelve months ago - almost to the day - Oxford penned new terms with the Hammers to 2021. But this was only after he'd turned down an offer from United. Jose Mourinho had sanctioned it - the bid being £8m down and another £7m due through bonuses. And the Irons were prepared to accept - the final decision being left to the player.

In the end, there was relief inside the Irons boardroom as Oxford put pen to paper. But now a year on, there's claims from London. From, it must be said, decent, well connected sources. That West Ham are prepared to sell to Gladbach for almost half what United were offering a year ago... Something doesn't chime here.

Making it all the more confusing was what happened last week. Just days - you could even say hours - after the sale story broke, Oxford was handed his first start by Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking against Freiburg. The result didn't go Gladbach's way, but Oxford, who was fielded at fullback, impressed and won praise from his coach post-match.

"He wasn't particularly nervous," observed Hecking. "There were some errors, but it was a good performance that he can build on."

The previous day, Gladbach's sporting director Max Eberl had reaffirmed comments the previous week about extending Oxford's loan. Indeed, he went further, revealing talks with the teen's camp about a permanent transfer.

"We have inquired about the chances of buying him," Eberl declared. "Exploratory talks are underway."

And in the aftermath of Oxford's debut, Eberl confirmed: "Reece has really taken a step in his development, even though he was only able to play his first real game, which he played very well in a difficult situation.

"We definitely want to keep him until the end of the season. In addition, we've asked about buying him, but there's been no decision from there (West Ham) yet."

Call us cynical, but you fancy those pulling the strings at London stadium will be pleased seeing Eberl speak so openly. From talk of a sale at a cut-price. To a first start - and a full 90 to boot. To now confirmation from Eberl that negotiations have kicked off about an outright transfer. And all within a week? C'mon. This surely will flush out other interested parties.

Before Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, there was Oxford.

"He's definitely going to be a big player," so said former Irons boss Slaven Bilic after giving Oxford his debut at Arsenal 18 months ago. "He's definitely going to do it [succeed], there's no doubt.

"He has a presence, he's mobile and quick, and he can turn and pass the ball, not just square balls."

Before penning that contract, Oxford had every major club in the country chasing his signature. United's offer was the biggest, but a year earlier RB Leipzig also had a go, failing with a £10m bid while still chasing promotion to the Bundesliga.

The Hammers are sitting on a goldmine. The idea they're going to play nice and negotiate directly with Gladbach just doesn't ring true. And what's more it shouldn't.

If an English player of Oxford's talent is available, then United, Arsenal, indeed every club in the country should be banging on the gates at London stadium demanding talks.

Out of sight, out of mind? Perhaps. While Foden is making his breakthrough at Manchester City and Sancho, wearing the No7 shirt, is now seeing regular action with Borussia Dortmund, Oxford has dropped off the radar.

But the feedback from Gladbach has been positive, they know they have something special on their hands.

"It takes time to settle in the Bundesliga," argued Eberl earlier this season. "But we can see his talent. We definitely want him to stay this season."

Now that argument has stretched to staying permanently.

And West Ham fans should be angry. As should Terry Westley, the club's academy director. If the higher ups have decided to cash in, then this will be another decision to come back to haunt them.

But more fool them. 18 on Saturday and a starter in the Bundesliga? Gladbach won't get a free run at him. The chase, now it's out in the public, is sure to crank up again.

United, Arsenal, take your pick. Oxford won't be short of suitors. Which, for West Ham, makes even a hint of willingness to sell even more baffling.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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