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Race for Premier League sees released players paying the price

Players paid the price in the race for the Premier League last season with the number released in the Sky Bet Championship the highest for six years.

Second tier sides let 243 players go this summer, compared with 193 last year – an increase of 25.91 per cent.

Steven Naismith, Matt Jarvis and Yanic Wildschut left champions Norwich while Mile Jedinak and Alan Hutton were among eight who were allowed to leave by Aston Villa after their promotion.

Stewart Downing left Middlesbrough while Gary Hooper was allowed to leave Sheffield Wednesday. Ahead of Saturday’s opening weekend in the English Football League Downing is now at Blackburn while Hooper is still unattached.

In the top four divisions 878 players were given free transfers, ranging from 164 from the Premier League – including Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll and Gary Cahill – to 254 in Sky Bet League Two.

Data provided by the Professional Footballers’ Association shows the total amount of players released was up 12.2 per cent on 2017-18.

Only in the top flight did numbers drop from last season, down 3.93 per cent, with Sky Bet League One up 6.90 per cent and League Two 18.14 per cent.

Until this year the total amount of players allowed to leave clubs after their contracts expired in the top four divisions has hovered around 700 since 2013, with the lowest, 664 coming six years ago.

The Championship has remained steady at around 200 players released per season before 2019’s spike.