West Ham boss Slaven Bilic wary of threat posed by Hammers old boy Jermain Defoe
Slaven Bilic has warned West Ham to beware a 'better than ever' Jermain Defoe.
Sunderland may be enduring another wretched start to the season, without a win in their opening eight games to lie bottom of the table, but Defoe is still enjoying a remarkable renaissance.
The former West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham striker appeared to be winding down his career when he moved to the MLS to join Toronto two years ago.
But having returned to the Premier League with the Black Cats, the 34-year-old scored the goals to help keep them up last season and already has four to his name this term.
Ahead of Sunderland's visit to the London Stadium on Saturday, Hammers boss Bilic said: "He has come back from America maybe better than before, which is amazing.
"I spoke with Niko Kranjcar, my midfield player for Croatia, who played with Jermain at Portsmouth and Spurs.
"As a number 10 he played with some good strikers and he told me that by far the best movement of a striker was from Jermain Defoe.
"You can see that when you're watching the game, when you're analysing the opponent, the freshness is there. It's still there.
"You talk about his finishing, it's absurd. He's got it, a clinical finish, so he's still a great player."
By contrast, Hammers striker Simone Zaza has yet to open his account since joining from Juventus.
However, the Italy international put in a vastly-improved performance as West Ham ended their slump with a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace last weekend.
And Bilic believes that if Zaza continues to put in such hard-working displays, then the goals will follow.
"It was a really good performance," he said. "I told him that he won more duels in that game than in the four or five games before that put together .
"He was fighting, he was defending, he was good on the ball, he kept the ball well, a nd you could see after the game that he was really happy and proud about the performance.
"It's not all about goals, of course, but if he plays like that it helps the team a lot, and of course that is one of the reasons why we wanted him. T he goals will come."