The summer season of transfer speculation is under way and there is the potential for another bumper few months of spending by the biggest clubs.
There is likely to be plenty of player movement as some footballers look to force a move to a bigger club, some who want to move on for a new start and others who won’t be wanted by their current club.
Here, we take a look at 10 players who would benefit from a change of scenery next season for a variety of reasons:
The Queens Park Rangers striker has proven himself at Premier League level after scoring 18 goals in 35 appearances this season. His goals weren’t enough to prevent QPR from heading straight back down to the Championship, but Austin is one player who couldn’t have done any more to aid the club. His form was also recognised by England coach Roy Hodgson after he was called up to the squad for the first time for the friendly against Ireland and the European Qualifier against Slovenia.
His inclusion in the squad may in part be due to the unavailability of other strikers, but he now has the chance to stake his claim to be a regular member of Hodgson’s plans. To that end, he needs to be playing Premier League football on a weekly basis and it would be hard to begrudge him a move to another club.
He has shown he can score against the better teams as well and, at a reported £10million, he represents value in the transfer market. The likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and Southampton have been linked with bids for Austin, and it’s important he makes the right choice for his career.
In a way, you can’t fault Brendan Rodgers for taking a gamble on Balotelli when Liverpool spent £16million to sign the striker from AC Milan last summer. In terms of Balotelli’s ability, that was a more than fair fee. At the same time, you know the baggage which comes with the Italy international and it was a brave statement from Rodgers to believe he was the manager who could get Balotelli to perform on a consistent basis.
Even knowing Balotelli’s history, though, Rodgers would have expected a better return than just one goal and no assists in 16 Premier League appearances, and three goals in 25 games in all competitions. Following the departure of Luis Suarez and the injury troubles suffered by Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool needed Balotelli to consistently show why he is one of the most talented strikers in football. Instead he has shown why he is one of the most frustrating.
Cutting their losses in the summer would appear to be the most sensible course of action for Liverpool, especially as Rodgers need to rebuild his squad after only finishing sixth in the Premier League. Balotelli will likely find a taker for him and Sampdoria have shown an interest in offering him a return to Serie A. With Balotelli not turning 25 until August, he arguably still has more than half of his career left at the top level and another fresh start could be just what he needs.
If anyone deserves a move this summer as a reward for commitment and loyalty, then it is Chelsea goalkeeper Cech. The Czech Republic international has made almost 400 appearances for Chelsea since joining from Rennes in 2004, but this past season he has found himself in the role of understudy for the first time.
Given the form and potential of Thibaut Courtois, you can’t fault Jose Mourinho for giving the Belgian a chance ahead of Cech after three impressive seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid. But that has ensured Cech has made just 16 appearances this season and he is understandably reluctant to spend another year on the bench.
Having just turned 33, Cech still has at least five years left at the top level and, even though Mourinho doesn’t want to see him go, there is an understanding that the keeper will be treated favourably. The question is where he will end up, with Arsenal and Manchester United both linked with a bid. Besiktas and Paris Saint Germain are also rumoured to want Cech and, if Mourinho has his way, then the keeper will be leaving the Premier League, if he does move on from Chelsea.
You can’t help but draw parallels between Dzeko and Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. Both are regular scorers and solid Premier League strikers, but they never look likely to be the difference when it comes to winning titles. At least Giroud can say he is first choice for Arsenal.
Dzeko has to be content with a back-up role at Manchester City due to the irrepressible form of Sergio Aguero. The January signing of Wilfried Bony from Swansea has hardly helped Dzeko’s prospects either, nor has the decision by Manuel Pellegrini to often use David Silva as the support for Aguero in more recent months.
Dzeko has now spent four-and-a-half years at City following his move from Wolfsburg and it could be time for a move. He has been linked with a switch to Liverpool as part of a deal which would see Raheem Sterling head to City. There is plenty of sense in Dzeko going to Anfield.
Liverpool need a striker who can score goals and Dzeko’s record of 50 goals in 130 Premier League appearances, only 74 of which have been starts, suggests he can score 20 goals if he starts every week. He may not turn Liverpool into title contenders or winners, but he will give them a better chance of getting back into the Champions League.
During David Moyes’ ill-fated near-season as Manchester United manager, Januzaj’s breakthrough into the first team was one of the few bright spots at Old Trafford. He marked his first Premier League start by scoring both goals in a 2-1 win at Sunderland and, though he had issues with diving, his impact offered hope for a bright and long-term future at United. Fast forward a year and Januzaj has seen his career go backwards, never mind stall, since Louis van Gaal took over as manager.
Handed the number 11 jersey following Ryan Giggs’ retirement and appointment as Van Gaal’s assistant, Januzaj has been unable to live up to the expectations which come with that shirt. He started just seven Premier League games, making 18 appearances in total, and he failed to contribute either a goal or assist.
He should by no means be written off when it comes to being a United regular in the future, but right now he would benefit from a loan move next season when he can play every week. The renaissance of Ashley Young, coupled with the signing of Memphis Depay, means Januzaj’s prospects of playing more next season are remote. Everton have been mentioned with a loan move and that is the sort of transfer which could kick-start Januzaj’s career.
Another striker signed by Rodgers last summer, Lambert should consider leaving Liverpool more for his own sake than a necessity on the club’s part to get rid. Lambert probably knew when he was leaving Southampton for Liverpool that he wasn’t going to be starting regularly, and no-one could blame him for taking up such an opportunity.
But, given the troubles Liverpool have had up front this season, he could have expected to start more than just seven league games, especially as he had proven himself a Premier League striker at Southampton. With just two goals and two assists in 25 league games in total, Lambert has also been unable to affect the game when he has come on as a substitute. The 33-year-old has also lost his place in the England squad. He is unlikely to be short of suitors, with Aston Villa having been keen in January, and Bournemouth and Crystal Palace mooted as admirers.
JOHN OBI MIKEL
Truthfully speaking, Mikel has probably never lived up to the expectation which came with Chelsea and Manchester United battling for his services nearly a decade ago. It ended with Chelsea having to pay United a fee without the midfielder even playing a game at Old Trafford.
He has since made in excess of 300 appearances for Chelsea and has picked up plenty of medals, but the past two seasons have seen his role and influence reduced. With Nemanja Matic such a dominant figure in the holding midfield role, the best Mikel can hope for now is a late introduction as a substitute when Chelsea are trying to see a game out.
With just six starts in the league this season, the Nigerian may consider it is time to head for pastures new, even if Mourinho knows his value to the squad. If he does leave this summer, then at least his final season will have included the rarity of a goal against Sporting Lisbon, having scored just five times in his Chelsea career.
To save everybody another summer of speculation and accusations of trying to force a move, it may be prudent for Southampton to sell Schneiderlin early rather than leave it until later in the transfer window. As he watched many of his team-mates leave St Mary’s last summer, Schneiderlin remained on the south coast.
He was linked with Arsenal and Tottenham before subsequently claiming he had been ‘blocked’ from leaving the club. To give Schneiderlin his due, the Frenchman at least hasn’t let that situation fester or affect his performances this season as he has been a key figure in an excellent campaign under Ronald Koeman, especially considering the number of players who did leave 12 months ago.
However, the rumours are resurfacing again, with Schneiderlin confirming he is keen to join a club playing in the Champions League next season. That declaration will rule out a reunion with former Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham and has left Arsenal seemingly in pole position to sign him. After seven years at Southampton, and having helped the club rise back to the top flight from League One, it is probably the right time for Southampton to make a huge profit and for Schneiderlin to see if he can cut it at a big club.
When you pay £26million for a 28-year-old striker, you’re expecting to buy a guarantee of goals rather than investing in future potential. Unfortunately for Spurs, they haven’t had the sort of return they would have been expecting since signing Soldado from Valencia two years ago.
Soldado, who will be 30 by the end of May, has scored just seven goals in 52 Premier League appearances. His debut season at White Hart Lane may have proved a disappointment, but his second season has been even more desperate. His only Premier League goal was the winner against Everton in November and he has been usurped by the emergence of Harry Kane. With Pochettino preferring to play just one striker, there seems to be no way for Soldado to force his way past Kane given his inability to make an impression off the bench.
It seems hard to envisage another Premier League club trying to sign Soldado and a return to Spain, with Spurs taking a big hit financially, would suit all parties.
From being Arsenal’s number one in the first half of the season to the club’s FA Cup goalkeeper in the second half, it has been a campaign to forget for Szczesny. Though he has always had his detractors, the Pole had largely been a steady enough presence in goal for Arsenal without ever looking likely to blossom into a genuinely world-class keeper.
But several below-par performances culminated in Szczesny losing his place to David Ospina after the New Year’s Day defeat by Southampton. That was Szczesny’s last Premier League appearance for Arsenal and it will primarily be remembered for him being caught smoking in the showers after the game. He has been linked with a loan move to Southampton next season due to the long-term injury to Fraser Forster. A temporary spell away from Arsenal may be the best solution initially for Szczesny to allow him to rebuild his form and confidence.
He will then be in a position to show whether he can return to be the number one at Arsenal or will have to follow the path of his former team-mate, and compatriot, Lukasz Fabianski, who has rebuilt his career at Swansea after quitting Emirates Stadium.