Not everyone on this list will leave their club this summer. But through a mix of performance level, potential fee, age and wages, they would not be missed…
Arsenal – David Ospina
Isn’t good enough to provide stiff competition for the ageing and ailing Petr Cech, but is not disastrous enough to persuade Arsenal that they must upgrade. A new manager demanding that the club sign a top-class goalkeeper (Jack Butland, perhaps?), sell Ospina and allow Cech to rest his legs on the bench would send a message that they mean business.
Bournemouth – Benik Afobe
Wolverhampton Wanderers have a very good chance of Premier League consolidation next season, but few players demonstrate the gap between English football’s top two tiers like Afobe. He has scored 28 times in his last 62 Championship games for Wolves, but that sandwiched a disappointing Premier League spell with Bournemouth where Afobe struggled to hold down regular starts. If, as expected, he is sold on a permanent deal to Wolves this summer, few will mourn his exit.
Brighton – Sam Baldock
If Brighton are going to establish themselves as a Premier League club, there is little point in keeping deadwood that has no hope of becoming key to first-team plans. If that sounds ruthless, that’s because it is. Baldock has played 30 minutes in the top flight this season, and he’s 29. Fat has to be trimmed.
Burnley – Nakhi Wells
Because they paid £5m for a striker that Huddersfield Town didn’t believe was good enough for the Premier League, and their top scorer has seven goals. Wells has been given 36 minutes, somehow spread across eight appearances. He is Burnley’s well-paid time-wasting tactic.
Chelsea – Danny Drinkwater
A throwback to the days when nouveau riche Chelsea bought English players who had a good season, only to realise that being good for a lesser team didn’t necessarily make said player good enough for them; think Steve Sidwell. Drinkwater arrived injured, has barely played and will now surely be moved on in the summer. Will Chelsea get even half of their money back?
Crystal Palace – Christian Benteke
Benteke still represents a useful Plan B from the bench, the different option when the ‘two wingers as auxiliary strikers and a load of central midfielders’ option isn’t working. Despite the abysmal recent goal record, Benteke has a penalty-box presence. But he’s Palace’s record signing and highest-paid player, earning £120,000 a week. Surely it would be better to have a cheaper Plan B and invest the money elsewhere?
Everton – Wayne Rooney
Possibly controversial, but consider this: Rooney is Everton’s highest-paid player at the age of 32, and is one of any number of potential No. 10s or central midfielders. Would you rather show faith in Tom Davies, Idrissa Gueye, Gylfi Sigurdsson or Davy Klaassen or a player who has even been dropped by Sam Allardyce? Rooney was moved into midfield because he no longer had the physical capability to play as a forward. The fly in the ointment is that it’s harder to play in midfield.
Huddersfield Town – Rajiv Van La Parra
Possibly the most frustrating Premier League footballer. Van La Parra has scored two massive goals for Huddersfield this season, but is as likely to fall over his own legs or lash out at an opponent as he is do something wonderful. Also, quotes like this (made in March) don’t tend to go down well before a relegation fight: “My ambition first of all is to stay in the Premier League with Huddersfield and then after that to play in a bigger team. The club understand that. Huddersfield are more a selling club who buy cheaper players and let them improve and sell them for more money.” Ta-ra then.
Leicester City – Daniel Amartey
On the basis that I have seen Leicester City play more than any other Premier League team this season, and I’d forgotten that Amartey was still there. The Ghanaian has played 20 minutes in the Premier League since the end of January. An article entitled ‘Daniel Amartey: The performance that could change his Leicester destiny’ dated January 15 seems to have been misplaced. He cost £6m when arriving 18 months ago. Sell for half the price and put it down as a mistake.
Liverpool – Simon Mignolet
I’m still not convinced that Loris Karius is any good, but the German is certainly Liverpool’s current No. 1 on merit. In a few years, we will look back and consider it utterly mad that Mignolet played around 200 times for Liverpool. Actually, we think that already.
Manchester City – Yaya Toure
A wonderful servant, but a man whose brief first-team appearances this season indicate just how much his body is ready for him to stop. Seeing Toure in the middle of the pitch as passes fizz by and past him is a control experiment for Manchester City’s speed; he is the odd one out.
Manchester United – Matteo Darmian
Jose Mourinho is a man who takes some impressing at the best of times, but when you were signed by his predecessor in the job you have to work doubly hard. The suspicion is that, like Luke Shaw, Mourinho never fancied Darmian, but the Italian has hardly done much to dissuade his manager. The faintly ludicrous thing is that he might well join the Italian champions and last season’s Champions League finalists.
Newcastle United – Mikel Merino
Signed on loan in August, signed permanently in October and sold permanently the following summer? There was a great buzz surrounding Merino after his early displays, but that has been lost on a wave of injury, poor form and Mo Diame improvement. Merino has two league starts in 2018, and that five-year contract suddenly feels as long as Alan Pardew’s eight-year deal did. (Ed. – Nothing feels as long as Pardew’s eight-year deal did.)
Southampton – Fraser Forster
A goalkeeper who took the long road from unwanted Newcastle United trainee to the England team between 2006 and 2013 has let it all slip away. Forster could end this season as the No. 2 goalkeeper for a relegated team, a year after being the first choice for a team that finished eighth and qualified for the Europa League. Even if he does push for a move away from St Mary’s this summer, Southampton should take the money and run.
Stoke City – Saido Berahino
Jack Butland has shown us the way: “There’s been transfers that aren’t even part of the squad for all kinds of reasons, whether it be discipline, whether it be lack of performance. You’ve got to look at that – what decisions are being made and the type of characters. They’re not even here to have an input. It’s not because they were playing at the top of their game, because if they were they’d be here.” It can only be Berahino. It’s hardly all his own fault – and might not be his fault at all – but how can you miss a striker who has never scored?
Swansea City – Wilfried Bony
There can only be one. It made sense for Swansea to take a chance on Bony despite his wretched loan at Stoke, but he’s on £120,000 a week and has scored two league goals all season. They must now find someone silly enough to take him off their hands, whether they stay up or not.
Tottenham – Fernando Llorente
I wonder if Llorente, Vincent Janssen and Roberto Soldado have a WhatsApp group where they discuss the black magic curse of the Tottenham reserve centre forward. Spurs have spent north of £50m on three players they identified as effective back-up for Harry Kane and Plan B in case Kane wasn’t working out. All three have seen their previous form drift away as they struggle for minutes before eventually being sold. Llorente will be next.
Watford – Richarlison
I know, I’ve gone mad. But Watford don’t get many chances to sell a player for £40m, and could buy two or three first-teamers with the money. Richarlison’s slump in form since the beginning of the season is clearly related to his near-constant schedule over the last 18 months having arrived from Brazil, but the suspicion is that he (and his agent) quite fancy a move. If that’s the case, selling at a wantaway player’s absolute peak value becomes logical.
West Brom – Salomon Rondon
Garth Crooks’ assessment that Rondon is the reason for West Brom’s relegation is farcical, but the Venezuelan should not escape blame. His finishing during the middle third of the season was woeful, and the accusation from some is that Rondon has hardly sacrificed himself to the cause. His £16.5m release clause is low, but if West Brom scout well then it could buy them three young, hungry players to form the basis of a promotion challenge. It’s time to do things differently.
West Ham – Cheikhou Kouyate
West Ham will be in the business of buying rather than selling key players this summer, but nobody quite epitomises their decline like Kouyate. If you have not watched much of West Ham this season, you may assume that he is still the box-to-box midfielder that shone in his first season in English football – he isn’t. A good World Cup showing and West Ham could get a decent fee.