Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
It was the news story that Daniel Sturridge probably didn’t want to read. Despite being linked with clubs from PSG to Newcastle and plenty in between, reports this weekend claimed that Jurgen Klopp will block the striker’s potential exit. One of the direct results of greater transfer budgets is that managers have to spend an awful lot of money buying back-up options. You can see why Klopp might well think that he’s fine with what he’s got.
That’s not much good to Sturridge, mind. He played only 769 minutes in the Premier League last season, and was named on the bench in 20 of Liverpool’s 38 league games. Having started England’s 3-0 victory over Scotland last November, Sturridge has not appeared for his country since. Another season in the shadows at Liverpool, and his career could come to an impasse. He turns 28 in September.
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
He played fewer Premier League minutes than 18 other Manchester United players last season. He suffered a series of niggling injuries. He had his mental aptitude called into question publicly by his manager. He has seen Victor Lindelof sign for a similar fee to the one that saw Eric Bailly arrive, the Ivorian having already threatened his place last season. His manager likes Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones more than him.
Yet there are very few transfer rumours linking Smalling away from Old Trafford. The Daily Telegraph’s Matt Law wrote on June 14 that he will be sold and that Everton were interested, but Everton quickly became less interested and will sign Michael Keane instead. With Smalling commanding a transfer fee of at least £15m, clubs would rather pay that sort of money to sign players like Harry Maguire: younger, in form and less injury prone.
Wilfried Bony (Manchester City)
“Look at [Angel] Di Maria,” Bony told The Sun this weekend. “He came here and was struggling. He went to Paris and he is playing well. [Radamel] Falcao, the same. You see Romelu Lukaku. He was struggling at Chelsea and now maybe they want him back. Kevin De Bruyne. Anything is possible.”
We’ll file that one under ‘optimistic’. That Bony took the chance to do some very public PR by comparing himself to Di Maria, Lukaku and De Bruyne roughly translates as being informed by his agent that there is very little interest in him. Bony can talk up his hopes of making the grade back at City, but with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus in front of him that just isn’t going to happen. Turning 29 in December and with two years left on a contract worth £100,000 a week, who is going to sign him after watching him lumbering around the Bet365 Stadium penalty area?
Ross Barkley (Everton)
In previous years, Everton would have had to sell their most valuable assets in order to reinvest in their squad. Since the arrival of Farhad Moshiri, that is no longer the case. Jordan Pickford, Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane and Davy Klaassen will all likely be Everton players before a single member of Ronald Koeman’s first-team squad is sold.
Barkley’s issue is three-fold. Firstly, Everton have Romelu Lukaku to sell to make them a whacking great profit this summer, and so the need to sell anyone else is reduced. Secondly, Everton have reportedly put a £50m price tag on Barkley’s head despite his contract running out in 12 months, which will tempt some clubs to wait a year and try to get him for nothing. Finally, there is a feeling within Everton – and certainly in Koeman’s mind – that Barkley has messed the club about, and therefore lost a lot of goodwill. That means the club are not going to bend over backwards to accommodate his exit.
Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham)
“They [Tottenham] still see him as a talent,” Jurgen Werner – Wimmer’s agent – told German media outlet Spox. “If he remains, he will be a regular in two years’ time. The top clubs of the Premier League all have more experienced players. John Stones [at Manchester City] is the only regular under 25. There was also interest from Germany or Italy but, because of the price, it is difficult for all clubs outside the Premier League. We have to wait and see what is happening on the English market.”
It’s an enjoyable mixed message from Wimmer’s camp. According to Werner, Wimmer will be a regular at Tottenham in two years’ time, but in the same paragraph talks up his client for a move before admitting that no suitor will pay the asking price. The truth is that Wimmer is the next cab off the rank should Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen or Eric Dier get injured, and there he is likely to remain.
Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)
Firstly, the players who played as a central defender for Chelsea last season who are still at the club: Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma. Now the player returning from his loan spell having earned rave reviews: Andreas Christensen. Then the new signing that all agree is likely to arrive in the next two weeks: Antonio Rudiger. Unless Antonio Conte goes for a four or five-man central defence rather than his customary three, Zouma is struggling for starts.
It’s wonderful that the 22-year-old has been talking in recent days about his desire to stay at Chelsea and first for his first-team place, but this is a vital season for Zouma. Through a mix of injury and competition for places he has started three league games in the last 18 months and 34 since arriving in England as a highly-rated 19-year-old. With a World Cup less than a year away, regular first-team football is paramount.