West Ham manager Slaven Bilic revealed the club came close to signing N’Golo Kante before the midfielder eventually joined Leicester City.
Kante has emerged as one of the signings of the off-season with his exploits for Premier League leaders Leicester City in their unlikely title challenge in 2015-16.
The Frenchman was signed by Leicester on a four-year deal for a reported £5.6million from Ligue 1 outfit Caen.
However, the 25-year-old was high on West Ham’s transfer list before he was picked up by Leicester, according to Bilic as the two teams prepare to lock horns on Sunday.
“We were quite close, quite close [to signing Kante]. I had watched him in France,” the Croatian said.
“He was a good player, the same player he is now at Leicester – a holding midfielder, not very tall but he is one of those players that after 20 minutes you think there are twins.
“You think there is two of him because of his energy and his intelligence, he is always there.
“When you watch the television, he is always in shot, he is never out. That is not only big lungs, big legs or a capacity to run, it’s also intelligence.
“He was on our list, but then we got some other players for the same position and it was a bit too many players for the same position.”
Bilic believes the new Premier League television deal, set to come into effect next season, will make it difficult for clubs to sign quality players for the same price as someone like Kante.
“The new television deal and the money will affect the price of the players,” he said.
“The chairmen of the clubs in Europe rub their hands together and have one phone for England and another phone for the rest of the world, and they are waiting by the phone for England.”