Slaven Bilic admits Southampton have got a bargain in Charlie Austin.
West Ham were among a host of clubs interested in signing the striker in the summer but were put off by QPR’s £15million asking price.
Upton Park boss Bilic instead spent his transfer kitty on the likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio, while Saints snapped up Austin for a cut-price £4million last month.
The 26-year-old made an immediate impact on his debut with the winner at Manchester United, and could make his first start at St Mary’s when the Hammers arrive for Saturday’s tea-time kick-off.
“He’s a great player,” said Bilic. “He has proved himself – he’s not one of those who has only done it in the Championship. He did it last year in the Premier League, scoring many goals for a team who were relegated, so for that money he should be a great buy.
“To add to that he scored the winner at Old Trafford in his first game, so it’s a flying start for him. It was a bit of a surprise that he went for that kind of money. In England that is a small transfer.
“He would definitely be a player with quality enough to play for West Ham, and for most teams in the Premier League.
“But we had different targets, we have really good strikers and we were looking for different type of players. That is the reason (we didn’t try to buy him), not his quality.”
While West Ham need to keep an eye on Austin at one end, they also have to find a way past Fraser Forster at the other.
The goalkeeper has yet to concede since returning from a long-term injury last month, keeping four clean sheets as Saints racked up three wins and a goalless draw at Arsenal on Tuesday night.
“He’s flying,” added Bilic. “Since he came back after injury they didn’t concede a goal, so you can only imagine how confident he is, and how confident the defence and the whole team is.
“It’s a difficult time to play them, and a challenge for us, but we have answered all our challenges really well so far.
“We have respect for them and the way they are playing, but also we are very confident.”
Bilic can welcome back Andy Carroll to his squad after a hamstring injury while fellow striker Emmanuel Emenike is available following his loan switch from Fenerbahce.