Monday 16 July 2018

10 players out of contract in 2019 whose futures could be settled this summer

Anthony Martial. Photo: Nigel French/Empics/PA
Anthony Martial. Photo: Nigel French/Empics/PA

Daniel Zeqiri

Every summer transfer window is defined by long-running sagas, and frequently they involve players with 12 months remaining on their contract.

Clubs try to avoid reaching this watershed moment, when the balance of power shifts firmly from employer to employee.

Players can use the threat of walking away for free at the end of their deal to leverage a lucrative new contract, or force a move away if their club cannot risk losing an asset for nothing.

Arsenal's handling of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil was a classic example of the genre last summer, and players are free to talk to foreign suitors once their contract enters the final six months.

Here are the notable names whose futures are likely to be decided one way or the other during the off-season.

Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

Ramsey is in a supremely strong position going into a decisive summer. With 11 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, the dynamic midfielder would attract the interest of elite-level clubs across Europe and has previously expressed an interest in playing abroad.

Arsenal will be keen to keep him and give Arsene Wenger's successor the best chance to hit the ground running, but have already committed to costly long-term deals for Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Özil. There is concern another bumper contract will restrict a new manager's scope in the transfer market due to the Premier League's Short Term Cost Control measures.

Ramsey's form this season warrants an improved deal however, despite a muscular injury that put him on the sidelines for a significant portion of the campaign. Arsenal need to strengthen in central midfield, and losing Ramsey would hardly be a productive first step. Fans should keep their fingers crossed.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Arguably United's most exciting attacking player, but Martial could be a victim of an imbalance in their squad that needs addressing. Jose Mourinho has assembled a collection of wide-forwards who either want to player from the left, in the case of Alexis Sanchez, or he prefers to play on the left, in the case of Marcus Rashford. The former signed in January on exorbitant wages, while the latter is the golden boy of the club's academy and future centre forward.

That could leave Martial as the odd man out, with Mourinho likely to target a right-sided forward this summer (not to mention the lingering froideur between player and manager). Some scoffed when United signed Martial for a fee that could rise to £58 million in 2015, but they would certainly get that back for a player who remains one Europe's brightest talents. At 22, he just needs to feel the love of his manager.

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)

When Keylor Navas threw one in against Juventus, Chelsea will have braced themselves for a Real Madrid advance on their No.1. The Spanish club's admiration for Courtois as well as David de Gea is public knowledge, but the Man Utd goalkeeper seems more secure in his current post. Despite previously saying his 'heart is in Madrid', there were more positive noises from Courtois last month when he said:

 "I have one year contract (remaining) and feel good at Chelsea.

"At the end of the season we will sit down together. I live there quietly and know that I will be at Chelsea next year as well.

"If I go to the World Cup with a clear idea, sign or wait another year, my mind will be clear at the World Cup."

One to keep an eye on.

Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)

Likely to make way as Bayern begin rebuilding an ageing squad under new manager Niko Kovac, and has attracted interest from Man Utd and Chelsea in the past. The box-to-box midfielder might be entering the autumn of his career at 31, but there is a dearth of quality central midfield options at the Premier League's top six clubs. Wherever the Chilean lands by the end of the window, there will be no shortage of suitors.

Jonny Evans (West Brom)

Liked with moves to Manchester City and Arsenal in the last two windows, Evans looks certain to finally leave West Brom this summer. Should West Brom be relegated - which looks all-but certain - the Northern Ireland centre back will be available for £3 million due to a clause in his contract.

That knock-down price will ensure that almost every Premier League club is likely to at least make an inquiry. Evans has excelled at the Hawthorns, well-suited to a side that defends deep and leaves little green grass in behind. The same applies for his fine international performances. How he would fare in a more expansive outfit remains a doubt, though he does have his early years at United to draw upon. For any club needing reliable cover though, it looks a no-brainer.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

Spurs simply must tie down Vertonghen with the sale of his compatriot and defensive partner Toby Alderweireld increasingly likely. The Belgian pair have been the Premier League's most consistent centre back pairing over the past few seasons, and losing both in one summer risks destabilising Mauricio Pochettino's team.

There is no suggestion that Vertonghen is looking for an exit, but Spurs should prioritise extending his contract that expires in 2019. There are the makings of a strong partnership between him and Davison Sanchez, with Vertonghen adept and getting tight to forwards with front-foot defending while Sanchez uses his pace to cover the space behind him.

Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)

Antonio Conte's love of sprinting was supposed to spell the end Cesc Fabregas' Chelsea career, but he stayed on to remain a key member of their title-winning campaign. Now another managerial change beckons, and once again Fabregas' future could be uncertain. With Danny Drinkwater diminished by injuries and most of Stamford Bridge on Tiemoue Bakayoko's back, Chelsea are not replete with quality in central midfield.

Like Wayne Rooney, 31-year-old Fabregas was playing first-team football in his teens so there are miles on the clock.

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)

There have been plenty of pernicious aspersions thrown Sturridge's way during his spells on the treatment table, when the overriding emotion towards him should be sympathy. Liverpool fans will not miss a wink of sleep thinking about his future, but Sturridge will surely move on this summer.

A loan move to West Brom looked an opportunity for the striker to rescue a club in dire straights, but within a few games Sturridge had broken down with another injury. Quite where he goes from here is a consideration that provokes worry and sadness. Sturridge is arguably the most talented English attacker of his generation, but offers for him could be scarce.

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

The bedrock of a frugal Atletico Madrid defence who make Ebenezer Scrooge seem profligate, Godin is one of the few unconditionally brilliant centre backs around. Now 32, his masterful positioning and wicked cynicism ensure Godin can still thrive at the highest level. Clubs typically hand their senior servants with rolling one-year contracts, and on current form he will command another. Can you honestly picture him playing for anyone else?

Angel Di Maria (PSG)

A member of the best reserve team ever assembled, Di Maria has been usurped in Paris by the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe (no disgrace in that). It is easy to forget that Di Maria - sometimes viewed as a flighty and unreliable winger - was man of the match in the 2014 Champions League final in a central berth for Real Madrid. His Manchester United career also started promisingly, before some off-the-field problems and Louis van Gaal's aversion to dribbling sent him off course. This has move to China for a ridiculous, book-balancing fee written all over it.

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