11 Premier League stars who won’t be at their current clubs next season
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Forget the contract situation, even if it is relevant: what is Hazard’s motivation to stay now?
Chelsea are no longer the force they were, either at home or abroad, technically or financially. Conversely, Hazard is in his prime at 27, meaning he faces the threat of spending his best years at a club that's unlikely to challenge for the Champions League and appear incapable of rewarding him with the kind of wage which players of his standing can now expect to command.
Added to this is the tempestuous atmosphere which has descended upon Stamford Bridge and the uncertainty created by Antonio Conte’s increasingly fractious relationship with his employers. Chelsea have always worked like that, of course, and in the past Hazard has remained unaffected and, more importantly, loyal.
This time, though, there are all sorts of other factors in play: Manchester City’s impending dominance of English football and also the fact that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are now in their 30s. Their abdication will eventually allow other players to compete for the Ballon d’Or. Either Hazard leaves this summer or that prize will forever elude him.
Anthony Martial (Man United)
Marcus Rashford is generally assumed to have suffered most in the wake of Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United, but Martial is at least an equal victim. At the time of writing, he has already had to make 10 Premier League appearances from the bench this season and that’s not a situation conducive to his long-term development.
It’s not a situation befitting his standing in the game, either. Martial is one of the most talented players in Europe and any time spent away from either his best position or the starting lineup is a waste.
The whispers have already begun. Rumours swirl that Martial’s agent has held discussions with Juventus and suggests that his client has grown weary of being in the background at Old Trafford.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
A free agent in the summer, Wilshere is already the subject of interest from Everton and would probably intrigue a host of European sides as well.
The 2017/18 season has been semi-successful for him: good, because he’s stayed fit and is actually playing, but perhaps not quite well enough to convince anyone that he’s now worth a long-term investment for Arsenal (he's been offered a new deal, but on reduced terms). More so because, with the summer almost certain to bring reinforcements to the Emirates - and maybe also a change of manager - it’s easy to foresee Wilshere getting lost in that shuffle.
After all, despite his obvious ability on the ball, whether he can actually function within a midfield two remains questionable. He may not be a complete enough player to exist at the very top of the game. Wilshere needs to play and, even if it bruises his ego, a move to a slightly less competitive squad might be in his best interests.
Jonny Evans (West Brom)
A virtual certainty, even if West Brom somehow pulled off a miraculous survival. Evans is coveted by some big names at the top of the Premier League and, given how far that interest has been taken, it’s slightly strange that he’s still at The Hawthorns.
However, if ever a season has convinced a player that his future should lie somewhere else, it’s surely this one. From a personal perspective, Evans must know that he’s still capable of playing at a higher level (and for greater reward). More broadly, why would the 30-year-old spend the good years he has left at what increasingly seems like a dysfunctional club?
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)
He should certainly have gone about it in a different way, but one could argue that – had it gone through – Mahrez would have deserved his move to Manchester City in January. Whether that would truly have been in his best interests is another matter, but he’s done enough to warrant a permanent home within a top-six Premier League side.
He’ll go at the end of the season and, although Manchester City would seem to be in pole position to sign him, expect a long queue for his services. He’s entitled to take the biggest contract available to him, which will almost certainly be at the Etihad, but maybe a move to an Arsenal- or Tottenham-type club would make greater sense.
Wherever Mahrez plays in 2018/19, it won’t be at Leicester.