Michail Antonio made a name for himself at dormant giants Nottingham Forest before transferring his talents over to West Ham in 2015 for around £7m but has since seen his career stagnate in the capital.
At the time it was easy to see why the Hammers were so interested in the player. Antonio was big, powerful and direct on the ball, and his tenacious attitude and unrivalled dedication reflected the unrelenting work ethic that had helped him battle through the English football system to his well-deserved position.
“I’m buzzing and finally happy to be back in London at a massive club,” Antonio said to West Ham TV at the time (via Sky Sports).
“I’ve always been around London and I came to a couple of games here when I was younger, so I’m happy to be finally here and at a club I watched when I was younger.
“I’ve worked my way from non-league and finally got to the Premier League to show what I can do, and if the fans don’t know me from the Championship, what I bring to the table is pace, power and goals, so hopefully I can do that this season.
“I can’t wait for the challenge of playing in the Premier League. It was one of the things growing up, where I wanted to be, testing myself against the best competition and, seeing West Ham’s result of winning 3-0 at Anfield, it shows I’m coming to a great team that’s established in the Premier League.
“Hopefully I can put my mark down here at the club.”
And to some extent, he did put his ‘marker down’.
Antonio was an integral part of Slaven Bilic’s plans during the 2015/16 season, scoring eight goals in 26 league appearances, and helping the club within touching distance of a European spot.
Unfortunately, since then, his performances have rarely reached those levels.
The big forward struggled massively with form under David Moyes (who didn’t) admitting that he was no longer enjoying his football towards the end of last season (as per Evening Standard), and things have hardly improved since then.
Indeed, it is a shame to see a player so unsettled but at the end of the day, he has not been good enough for the Premier League.
The technical element of his game has been lagging far behind the physical side for some time now, and though he is still chugging away as a bruiser-style player, his lack of skill will eventually catch up with him.
Which brings us to the next point.
Antonio did incredibly well to earn his move away from Nottingham when he did – to seize what likely was a once in a lifetime opportunity to move into the top tier of English football.
Forest, as great as they once were, have been absent from the first division for two decades now, stagnating at an alarming rate.
Would it have been an option for Antonio if he left it another year? We are doubtful. Only now, conveniently when the forward’s career at West Ham is all but over, have Forest began their ascent up the league table. He could have been hanging on all this time.