Monday 16 September 2019

Big names prepare for pastures new after differing careers in top flight

Stoke’s Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is already attracting attention from a number of Premier League clubs
Stoke’s Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is already attracting attention from a number of Premier League clubs

Paul Wilson

It is the end of the Premier League season and inevitably it will be goodbye from some of the game's big names, whether or not they realise it just yet. Not everyone gets to know when the curtain will fall on a top-flight career; some have everything planned, others are overtaken by events, while a few will rage against the dying of the light by seeking new contracts elsewhere.

But when the 27th edition of the Premier League commences in August it is likely one or two familiar faces will be missing. Here are some of the high-profile performers whose Match of the Day days are in danger of drawing to a close - or already have done.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)

With a release clause of £12m and a considerable amount of talent, Stoke's Swiss winger is already attracting attention from a number of Premier League clubs, so this might not be a permanent loss. He could disappear abroad, however. He has already played for Bayern Munich and Inter, so this is the time to acknowledge one of the best left feet in the business. Not everyone's idea of a team player but at his best he is brilliant to watch and at 26 he still has the potential to shine if a leading side can offer him a regular place.

Yaya Touré (Manchester City)

Definitely leaving Manchester City at the moment and hopeful of signing a short contract with another Premier League club in order to see out the last two years of his career in England. Two years is the 34-year-old's own estimate and he is even advertising the fact that he will be fresh for next season as Ivory Coast will not be competing at the World Cup. He found it difficult to get a look-in with City this season, though not every up-and-coming Premier League side are as well stocked with bright young talent as Pep Guardiola's City. There is no doubt Touré did the job he was brought in to do in his eight years in Manchester - the club wanted a Champions League winner in their midst to add gravitas and experience to their ambition - and on the same basis he might yet be picked up by a team looking to boost their Premier League credibility.

Wayne Rooney (Everton)

Is only halfway through a two-year contract at his boyhood club, but the return to Merseyside has perhaps not gone as well as expected - what exactly was expected? - and one last move to MLS looks increasingly likely. Rooney could have done that a year ago, but when the opportunity to rejoin Everton presented itself he found it impossible to resist. No one can blame him for that, but Everton have changed managers since, and neither Ronald Koeman nor Sam Allardyce found it particularly easy to identify a role for the former Manchester United player. At 32 he should have a couple of years left, though pace is everything in the Premier League and the lesson seems to be that if you are no longer quick enough to play up front you will not necessarily find it any easier to move back to midfield. The US could offer an attractive and honourable way out.

Peter Crouch (Stoke City)

Contracted to Stoke until 2019, by which time he will be 38, the well-travelled striker confessed after the Potters were relegated that he did not know what the future held. Because of his age it is hard to see another Premier League destination for one of England's most easily recognised players, yet he proved surprisingly resilient for Stoke, where he kept coming up with the goals despite advancing years and reduced appearances. Crouch is now being linked with Rangers, though so is almost anyone Steven Gerrard has ever played alongside. If Crouch does leave the Premier League, he does so with a proud record of seven different clubs, 169 goals and the most headed goals in the competition's history.

Álvaro Morata (Chelsea)

Not quite a household name after a single season at Stamford Bridge, though with even Cesc Fàbregas pointing out that Chelsea have not been scoring enough goals it seems the club's search for an effective replacement for Diego Costa will begin again this summer. The £58m Morata is being linked with Juventus, partly because he played in Turin before joining Real Madrid and partly because he has not exactly embraced English football with both arms, despite scoring 15 goals. Antonio Conte has frequently selected Morata on the bench, but even as an impact substitute he now finds himself in the shadow of Olivier Giroud.

Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

Hanging up his boots at Manchester United to join the coaching staff, and according to José Mourinho the only player who will need replacing this summer. A reliable midfielder with more than 650 Premier League appearances for West Ham, Tottenham and United, Carrick is also the only English player besides Wayne Rooney to achieve all six of the honours possible in club football. Despite Mourinho's flattering comments about the hole he will leave in the side the 36-year-old has been used extremely sparingly this season, his defensive duties having been largely taken over by Nemanja Matic. Carrick was a midfielder of similar discipline, willing to stay back and protect the back four, and if anything his distribution and ball retention were superior. A player who turns 37 in a couple of months will now be trying to pass on those qualities to the next generation.


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