Diop pledges allegiance to Hammers

West Ham United

Issa Diop believes West Ham is the perfect place for him to develop after insisting he does not see the club as a stepping stone.

The Hammers pulled off a coup in the summer of 2018 by snaring the 22-year-old, paying Toulouse a reported £22m for his services.

Diop wasted little time in settling into life in the Premier League, going on to make 33 appearances in the league last term, while also playing three times in the EFL Cup and twice in the FA Cup.

The Frenchman’s performances did not go unnoticed and the summer window saw him linked with a move away from the London Stadium.

Manchester United were linked with his signature, with a fee of £45m being mooted, while talk of a swap deal involving Anthony Martial also made the papers.

Paris Saint-Germain were another team mentioned as potential suitors and it has been suggested Diop may have to move to a bigger club if he is to fulfil his ambition of playing for the French national team.

The defender, whose grandfather Lybasse was the first Senegalese player to feature in Ligue 1, is confident this is not the case, though, adding that he feels he can achieve everything he wants to in east London.

“West Ham, for me, it was not and is still not a springboard to go elsewhere, it’s the club where I want to try to become the best defender I can be, compared to my qualities,” he told France Football.

“Whether technical, tactical, physical, I still have a large margin of progression.”

He added: “It is the performance that I will make in the match that will determine if I have the level to play with Les Bleus (France). It’s up to me to work. That’s how I see things.”

Diop started Saturday’s opening 5-0 Premier League defeat at home to Manchester City, playing the full 90 minutes at the heart of the defence alongside Fabian Balbuena.

While the Hammers signed the likes of Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller this summer, it was arguably the players they kept hold of which provided their best business.

Felipe Anderson and Declan Rice were also on United’s radar after impressive season’s last time around and are sure to be key again this term.

Both Diop and Rice are expected to feature in Saturday’s trip to Brighton, while Anderson is also likely to play despite being forced off with what he described as a “small” thigh injury in the defeat to City.