Cameroon midfielder Alex Song is poised to inform West Ham United that he will play in the Africa Cup of Nations next month.
Song’s participation will take the number of West Ham players involved in the tournament to three and could put a serious dent in the club’s hopes of sustaining their impressive start to the season.
The midfielder had questioned whether the Africa Cup of Nations should go ahead after the outbreak of the Ebola virus and delayed a decision on his playing for Cameroon.
Morocco refused to host the event because of concerns over Ebola, with the tournament being switched to Equatorial Guinea. West Ham have been waiting to hear from Song over whether or not he will travel to Guinea, but the 27-year-old player is now believed to be close to confirming his plans.
Song has been a revelation at Upton Park since moving on loan from Barcelona in the summer and he will be badly missed by Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager.
The Senegal duo Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyaté are also due to play in the tournament, which runs from January 17 to February 8.
Song, Sakho and Kouyaté, all summer signings, have played key parts in West Ham going into the Christmas period in fourth place in the Premier League table.
Fifa rules state that countries can call up their players 14 days before their first game, which means the trio could be away for five of West Ham’s games from the FA Cup tie against Everton on Jan 6.
The Hammers could request special dispensation from the federations to keep Song, Sakho and Kouyate for the Everton match and Swansea City game on Jan 10, with Senegal due to play their first Africa Cup game on Jan 19 and Cameroon starting their campaign a day later.
West Ham then face Hull City, Liverpool and Manchester United over the period of time that three of their best players could be missing.
West Ham are also concerned about the condition in which their players will come back from Guinea, after Sakho returned from Senegal duty last month with a back and neck injury.
Allardyce will ideally want all his players available for the Feb 11 trip to Southampton, which could be a pivotal game in the shake-up for Champions League qualification.
The Saints are fifth, two points behind West Ham.
Newcastle are the only other Premier League club who will have three players going to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Of West Ham’s rivals for a top-four place, Southampton will lose Emmanuel Mayuka and Sadio Mané and Tottenham Hotspur will be without Nabil Bentaleb. Arsenal do not lose anybody.