With uncertainty over Moyes and Paqueta’s future – what’s next for West Ham?

It was a performance to be proud of and one which showed why West Ham United have been perennial challengers in the latter stages of European competitions in recent years. The problem was the damage had already been done.

Disappointment will linger at the prospect of what they could have achieved had they not laid down the red carpet for Bayer Leverkusen, who were crowned Bundesliga champions last weekend, in the first-leg.

Michail Antonio and James Ward-Prowse believe they showed too much respect to Leverkusen in their 2-0 loss last Thursday. The 1-1 draw in the second leg was quite the opposite, however, and Xabi Alonso’s team really needed half-time after Antonio’s goal got West Ham back in the tie.

West Ham showed they had no intention of relinquishing their grip on European football, but their chances of advancing to the semi-final of the Europa League loosened once the visitors had reset at half-time. Jeremie Frimpong’s deflected shot in the 89th minute settled the tie and preserved Leverkusen’s unbeaten record this season. It left Alonso to ponder their upcoming challenge against Roma in the last four while Moyes was pushed, much to his dislike, over his future.

In February, Moyes, who is 61 next week, revealed a contract offer is on the table to extend his second spell as manager at the club but will wait until the end of the season before making a decision. Pre-match, Moyes said the result against Leverkusen would have no impact on what happens next. But the lack of clarity over his future will add to the credence that supporters believe it is time for change. His in-game management, use of substitutes and style of play have been the main concerns.

The lack of squad depth following Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals and Thilo Kehrer’s departures in January has come back to haunt them. In the first leg defeat against Leverkusen, Moyes was not as trusting as Alonso of his attacking options from the bench. As it turned out, substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface made the difference in scoring the goals.

Conjecture over Moyes’ future will dominate the agenda in the coming weeks. Moyes may factor Jurgen Klopp announcing in January that he is stepping down as Liverpool manager as his reasons for remaining tight-lipped. Since then, Liverpool have been knocked out of the the FA Cup, Europa League and are now two points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

If Moyes is to prolong the arguments for him to stay, he faces a crucial end to the season. West Ham are eighth with remaining games against Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Chelsea, Luton Town and Manchester City. But with Newcastle and Manchester United in contention for a top-six spot, it would require a near perfect end to the campaign to secure European football for a fourth successive season.

Antonio got West Ham back into the tie and was fired-up throughout (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

If the uncertainty drags on it could harm next season too as a busy summer awaits the board and technical director Tim Steidten.

The club are at risk of losing Lucas Paqueta this summer as an £85million ($106.8m) release clause becomes active in June. City have tracked Paqueta since his Lyon days and have maintained contact with his camp in recent months. Personal terms are not expected to be a problem as City is Paqueta’s first choice. West Ham were reluctant to sell last summer after rejecting an opening bid of €70million (£59.8m; $75.1m). Any move will only happen if the 26-year-old playmaker is cleared by the FA over alleged betting breaches.

Mohammed Kudus was the first West Ham player to head down the tunnel after the result against Bayer Leverkusen. His performance highlighted why he will be a sought-after talent this summer, too. In his debut season, the Ghana international has scored 13 goals across 40 appearances. Liverpool and Arsenal remain admirers for the 23-year-old, although West Ham’s stance is he is not for sale and the £38m they paid for him would surely need to be doubled.

Nayef Aguerd, who sustained an ankle injury against Bayer Leverkusen, is the subject of interest from clubs in the Saudi Pro League. The Morocco centre-back has also changed his representative.

West Ham are yet to resume talks with Ben Johnson over a contract extension. The versatile defender’s deal expires at the end of the season having rejected two contract offers. West Ham’s recent contract offer was a four-year package, but both parties failed to reach an agreement. Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna and Divin Mubama are set to depart when their contracts expire in June.

The search for a centre-forward remains a priority despite the performances of Bowen, a winger, and Antonio. Last summer West Ham had a £40m bid rejected for Bournemouth forward Dominic Solanke. The 26-year-old, who has scored 17 league goals this season, remains on their shortlist but would cost considerably more now.

It looks set to be a big rebuild for West Ham this summer — and one they cannot afford to get wrong. Decisions need to be made sooner rather than later.

(Top photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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