West Ham United are looking at Southampton striker Rickie Lambert as the most likely replacement for Andy Carroll at the end of the season, amid growing suggestions the England centre-forward is edging closer to a return to his native Newcastle, according to ESPN sources.
Currently on-loan from Liverpool, Carroll can sign permanently at Upton Park for £17 million at the end of the season - should Sam Allardyce wish to complete a long-term deal.
However, the opportunity to return to form with West Ham has been hampered by injuries and a lack of goals. West Ham have in turn begun considering Lambert, 30, as a more reasonably-priced alternative.
The Hammers are set to ask about Lambert’s availability in the January transfer window but the Saints are unlikely to let their top scorer go in mid-season when their survival hopes rest heavily on his shoulders.
West Ham manager Allardyce is an admirer of the striker, having remarked last March during his side's promotion battle with the Saints: "If we'd had Rickie Lambert in our team we'd have won the Championship already."
West Ham could also look at a loan for Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh in January, although the Moroccan is not high on Allardyce's wishlist.
Meanwhile, the Hammers face a battle in holding on to Mohamed Diame, with Arsenal said to be leading the chase for the midfielder, who has a buy-out in excess of £3.5 million.