Premier League clubs don’t need much encouragement to splash their cash, but while managers scour the globe to get some late January business done, looking ahead to the summer might be wise instead.
Several players’ futures are up in the air as they await news of contract extensions, and the clutch of stars below are all in the same boat...
1. Sead Kolasinac (Schalke)
Full-backs are expected to be effective at both ends of the pitch these days, and therefore Kolasinac is a player in demand. Schalke’s Bosnian rarely puts a foot wrong defensively, having won over 50% of his duels and made 3.7 interceptions per Bundesliga match in 2016/17.
The 23-year-old’s speed and strength allow him to contribute offensively too, as demonstrated by two goals and four assists to his name already this season.
Kolasinac is incredibly well suited to a 3-5-2 formation, so it’s no surprise that Juventus and Chelsea are making enquiries for him. One minor concern is that a ruptured ACL kept Kolasinac out for six months and has limited his playing time of late, but the Bosnian has showed no signs of regression after returning to action under Markus Weinzierl.
2. Rachid Ghezzal (Lyon)
After arriving at somewhat of a crossroads in his career, Ghezzal found form at the right time to not only fire Lyon up the table, but potentially take his career to new heights too.
Though often used at the point of a midfield diamond, it was on the right wing where he excelled in place of the injured Nabil Fekir. Ghezzal is a brilliant dribbler who enjoys beating defenders and cutting in on his stronger left foot; unsurprisingly, his footballing idol is Arjen Robben.
Despite contract talks dragging on for months, Lyon and Ghezzal are still yet to agree personal terms, which makes a summer departure extremely likely. Clubs from England and Spain (including Spurs, Everton and West Ham) have shown interest in the talented 24-year-old, but a history of attitude problems and inconsistent form should make them think twice before acting.
3. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Schalke)
Having spent years on the periphery of various clubs in Germany, Hamburg-born Cameroon international Choupo-Moting is now established in the Bundesliga.
Standing at 6ft 2in and deployed either on the left wing or up front, the forward – who has started his last six league games as a striker – has demonstrated intelligent movement and a decent eye for goal by drifting inside to support his team-mates from wide areas.
Choupo-Moting is currently hesitating on a new deal at Schalke, and a player of his quality deserves to play European football on a regular basis. Above all, his professional, team-based approach is welcome in the current footballing climate, and the Cameroonian has the potential to be a useful squad player if snapped up by the right club.
4. Gregory Sertic (Bordeaux)
Every team needs a player who quietly goes about their job without fuss; somebody who mops up efficiently and allows the more creative players to shine.
During his seven-year stint with Bordeaux, Sertic has fulfilled such a role. The Frenchman sits just in front of the back four, breaking up play and winning any second balls before moving on possession quickly – subsequently allowing his team to counter in numbers. Amid an injury crisis at the club, he has even deputised at centre-back this season.
Bundesliga strugglers Werder Bremen attempted to sign Sertic this month without fruition, while MLS outfit Orlando City have also been linked with the 27-year-old. But should he become a free agent this summer, English clubs could do worse than adding a consistent and versatile player like him to their ranks.
5. Bacary Sagna (Man City)
Pep Guardiola may not have been able to teach an old dog new tricks, but Sagna is one of the most committed and reliable right-backs the Premier League has seen.
Even if playing in central midfield was a step too far, the Frenchman is excellent on the ball and composed under pressure. He’s still in good physical condition too, and wins more than his fair share of headers for a full-back.
Though now in the twilight of his career aged 33, Sagna still has plenty to offer and only need look to his compatriot Patrice Evra for proof of what’s possible at this stage. The former Arsenal defender would be a sensible addition for almost any top-flight club, bringing calm, experience and a competitive edge that’s helped him thrive in England for almost a decade.
6. Cheikh Ndoye (Angers)
They may have finished ninth in Ligue 1 last season, but if Angers are to have any chance of surviving this time around they’ll need their influential captain on top form again.
Ndoye is known for his strength and power in midfield, as well as his knack for scoring crucial goals. Shaking hands with him may feel like being involved in a traffic accident, then, but the 30-year-old’s technical ability leaves a lot to be desired – he’s completed just 67% of his passes this season.
With les Scoïstes already looking likely to face the drop, it’s likely that Ndoye will reject a contract renewal with hopes of securing one last high-profile move. He may not be accomplished enough for Europe’s elite – West Brom have been linked previously, though Greek side PAOK have made an offer – but his presence on the pitch could benefit those battling the drop.
7. Glen Johnson (Stoke)
For somebody with nearly 350 Premier League appearances under their belt, the criticism aimed at Johnson has been unfair. The 32-year-old is still a regular for Stoke under Mark Hughes, and has featured as both a right-back and a right-wing-back depending on the tactical set-up used.
He’s still quick across ground and has become a much wilier defender in his later years, to the point where the former Chelsea man earned himself an England recall in October (before having to withdraw through injury).
Johnson may not be the swashbuckling, forward-thinking full-back he was five years ago, but his versatility across the defence would make him a useful addition for a lower Premier League side. Stoke have the option to extend his contract, but West Ham are eyeing a raid for their former player according to reports.
8. Gonzalo Rodriguez (Fiorentina)
“In the past few months I haven’t received a call from Fiorentina,” claimed José Raul Iglesias, the agent of Gonzalo Rodriguez, who will be without a club come the summer. The 32-year-old Viola captain has been (and still is) a crucial member of Paulo Sousa’s side, but it’s likely that the centre-back will be playing his football away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi next season should the stand-off remain.
Many clubs across Europe have already expressed an interest in the experienced stopper, whose elegant approach to tackling and impressive eye for a pass make him one of the best defenders in Italy.
Having suffered two long-term injuries during his career, Rodriguez could still play at the top level for another two or three years and would offer fine experience to any dressing room.
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