Decision time: One loanee per club sparking a dilemma

Dave Tickner

A genuinely interminable international break plus a France debut for William Saliba was all the encouragement we needed to embark on a quest to identify one player per Premier League club currently out on loan who, for better or worse, has given his parent club a decision to make…


Arsenal: William Saliba
The Gunners have a whole gaggle of assorted players out on loan, and, despite the intriguing existence of Folarin Balogun as a striker whose Arsenal contract isn’t about to expire, the most interesting loanee is once again William Saliba. He was here last year and if anything the intrigue has only grown. He has now had three hugely successful years as an Arsenal player; he just hasn’t spent any of them at Arsenal. Loans at St Etienne, Nice and now Marseille have even earned him his first caps for France. Friendly caps might not seem all that big a deal, but winning a cap for France as a centre-back is just about the toughest task in the entire sport; Aymeric Laporte found it so difficult he had to become Spanish instead; Ibrahima Konate still hasn’t managed it. Saliba, the man apparently surplus to requirements at Arsenal, has done it. He is understandably happy and settled at Marseille, where he plays every game, and a return to Arsenal would mean fighting for a place with Gabriel and Ben White. A lot depends on the player, but with only two years left on the five-year contract Saliba signed as a teenager, Arsenal are now very much at the point where it’s time to sh*t or get off the pot.


Aston Villa: Matt Targett
One of many players currently on loan – along with Keinan Davis, Trezeguet, Anwar El Ghazi and Frederic Guilbert – who Villa are seemingly happy to move on permanently in the summer. Targett is key, because it appears relatively straightforward to do a deal with Newcastle that suits all parties while also bringing in a reasonably sizeable transfer fee – something in the order of £15m has been mooted – to help bankroll Steven Gerrard’s ambitious summer masterplan of spending £60m on Kalvin Phillips.


Brentford: Marcus Forss
The Finland striker was in the squad for every one of Brentford’s first 23 Premier League games. But he started just one of those, getting off the bench in just six others and never for more than 30-odd minutes. He scored no goals. He went back to the Championship on loan with Hull in January and has managed just a single goal in eight appearances for the Tigers. He’s still got four years left on his Brentford contract; it’s hard to see how he can be part of what will almost certainly again be a Premier League squad next year, but you can also see why he’d be reluctant to leave the security of that long-term contract. Another loan?


Brighton: Kjell Scherpen
The Seagulls have 13 players out on loan like some kind of petrodollar superclub. At least one of these will definitely be in the squad next season, surely – striker Deniz Undav who has scored only one league goal fewer for shock Belgian league title contenders Union Saint Gilloise before and after a January sale-and-return move than his new Brighton team-mates have managed to put together in the Premier League. A more interesting one might be giant back-up keeper Scherpen, who might have been doing a more important off-field role in the first half of the season than many realised. Scherpen spent the first half of the season watching Robert Sanchez be very good indeed and is now on loan while Sanchez makes repeated bollocks of things as Brighton’s season threatens to end with the sort of whimper that can have alarming knock-on effects the following year if not addressed. Even if he doesn’t play a single game, Scherpen might be worth keeping around the place.


Burnley: Bailey Peacock-Farrell
We’re not spoiled for choice here. It’s a third-choice goalkeeper or a fourth-choice goalkeeper. Let’s go with Peacock-Farrell who is doing a decent enough job in nets for fallen giants Sheffield Wednesday as they look to clamber out of League One. Our main observation is that it doesn’t matter how many games of football he plays or at what level. No matter how high his career goes we will never, ever, ever accept that Bailey Peacock-Farrell is not in fact the name of a rugby player who, after six successful years in Super League, crosses codes to join Bath or whatever and make eight appearances for England in the 15-man game.


Chelsea: Conor Gallagher
There is not a single Chelsea player currently on loan at Vitesse, which is perhaps why the whole world currently seems to be desperately trying to spin itself off its axis. It’s just not right or normal, is it? Chelsea do, though, have about a million players out on loan as is customary. Now the whole global unpleasantness is of particular relevance to Chelsea, who may not in fact have any choice to make over who stays or goes or heads out on loan. They may not even exist next season. Probably they will, though. And probably they will get to decide these things. Which means a decision to make on Gallagher, who has been one of the most exciting and enjoyable players in the Premier League this season. We’re big fans of players who get to that level and still seem to visibly enjoy playing the game. Palace would, clearly, dearly love to keep him and you do get a keen sense that this is now someone who needs to be playing regularly. You can’t keep him on the bench, released only for the odd runaround in a Carabao or non-vital European game. He’s tasted regular top-level football now and found it entirely to his liking. At the very least, you’d think he needs to spend another year on loan playing all the football.


Crystal Palace: Luke Plange
Palace only have two players currently out on loan and it’s fair to say their summer thoughts might be rather more exercised by what happens next to the player they currently have on loan (see above). Anyway, the two options are a) 23-year-old American Jacob Montes who has spent the entirety of his slightly odd one-year Palace contract pulling up no trees in a pair of half-season loans in the Belgian second division and therefore b) Luke Plange, the teenager whose breakthrough at Derby convinced Palace to make a buy-and-return move in January. Palace have a bit of form for developing Football League talent into Premier League players, but you’d imagine that’s probably a way off yet. A good Championship loan seems the likeliest option next season.


Everton: Moise Kean
In theory, he’s still in the first year of a two-year loan at Juventus with an obligation to buy at the end of it. In theory. In reality, Juventus weren’t right sure a while ago and since signing Dusan Vlahovic are less convinced still about the merits of Kean who has scored just four goals in 24 Serie A games this season. All the noise suggests Juventus are looking to get out of the current arrangement and send Kean back to Goodison this summer, an outcome that we have to imagine absolutely nobody else involved wants. So whatever happens next it should be fun to see what comes of it all.


Leeds: Helder Costa
In and out of the side at Valencia but has made no secret of the fact he’s happier in Spain and would like to make his move permanent if everyone else is up for it. They probably will be. “I feel better here, I came from a not so good situation (at Leeds). But Valencia have given me the opportunity to relaunch my career and I think this is the ideal place to do that,” Costa told Super Sport last year.


Leicester City: Dennis Praet
A victim of the Dreaded Metatarsal, which has kept him out of the Torino side for a couple of months at a frustrating time and appears likely now to be a season-ender. The Belgian is apparently happy in Turin and keen to stay, but the Italian side seem keen to use his injury as a means to drive down the agreed £12.5m option price in the current loan arrangement. Reports from the Italian end suggest Torino might favour another loan over an outright purchase but, with just two year left on his Leicester contract, you’d imagine the Foxes would want something more concrete built into that. An obligation that kicks in once a set number of appearances is reached or some such thing. We don’t know. We’re not contract negotiators.


Liverpool: Nathaniel Phillips
It’s between Phillips and Neco Williams here. Both will still have three years left on their contracts in the summer. Both are on loan at high-flying Championship clubs. Both have obvious talent. Both face significant top-quality barriers to their first-team progression at Anfield. But it’s Phillips, five years Williams’ senior, for whom the clock is more conspicuously ticking. Phillips did an admirable job in that desperate half-season for Liverpool last year when all their other centre-backs fell over, but is that situation going to present itself again? Should Bournemouth confirm promotion back to the Premier League, and that appears almost certain now given their sizeable cushion in both points and games in hand over third-placed Luton, you’d imagine both player and club might be keen on a more permanent arrangement. Ticklish thing there is that longish contract, half a season of decent Premier League football behind him and apparent absence of any option in his loan contract. What would Liverpool want for him? £15m is a number that has been touted, and if anything you’d be surprised if it was that low really.

Liverpool defender Nat Phillips during a warm-up

Manchester City: Pedro Porro
Just the 13 City players currently plying their trade elsewhere at the mo. Spain right-back Porro is perhaps the most interesting of those, currently in the second half of a successful two-year stint in Lisbon with Sporting that has already brought one league title and could yet bring another if a six-point gap to Porto can be overturned. Eight goals and nine assists from 65 games played predominantly at right wing-back are eye-catching numbers.


Manchester United: Donny van de Beek
The arrival of a new manager in the summer means all things are a bit up in the air for United’s current loanees, who could suddenly find themselves far more in favour when a new man arrives. We suspect minds have been made up now, though, about Anthony Martial. Van de Beek is an intriguing one, though. Especially if United’s new manager does turn out to be his former Ajax gaffer Erik Ten Hag in spite of Louis van Gaal’s mischief-making. Van de Beek is clearly a talent, but whether he can crack it here remains in some doubt. What is not is that he is yet to be presented with an environment to categorically prove it one way or the other. In hindsight – and, if we’re honest, foresight – packing him off to Frank Lampard’s Everton Circus might not have been a brilliant idea. We’re still really none the wiser about him.


Newcastle: Freddie Woodman
If you were loaned out by Newcastle in January then really it’s a pretty clear hint about where your future lies. For Woodman, who played four Premier League games at the start of the season, it’s meant sitting on the bench for promotion-chasing Bournemouth as back-up to Mark Travers. It is the seventh loan of his Newcastle career, and he has one year left on his contract at St James’ Park. At 25, it’s surely time for a permanent move to go and be first choice somewhere even if it means dropping down a tier or two.


Norwich: Todd Cantwell
Like Norwich themselves, he’s pretty good at getting into the Premier League but not so good at staying there. With his current loan club Bournemouth set to once again swap divisions with parent club Norwich, the logical conclusion is surely for Cantwell to go back to Norwich and complete what would be the genuinely novel achievement of a third successive promotion from the Championship. Bournemouth do, though, hold the option of making the move permanent and spoiling everything.


Southampton: Dan N’Lundulu
Because there is literally nobody else other than a 23-year-old striker who scored two goals in 20 League One appearances across a pair of loans at first Lincoln and then Cheltenham before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.


Tottenham: Bryan Gil
Spurs have seven players out on loan, and with most of them the future looks pretty clear one way or the other. It would be a major surprise were Tanguy Ndombele or Giovani Lo Celso to have futures in north London, which is a shame but also probably for the best. Neither has been missed since January. Jack Clarke was Spurs’ attempt at a moneyball signing and it’s not worked out. Cameron Carter-Vickers is likely to make his loan move to Celtic permanent. Pape Sarr, the teenage midfield sensation bought from and loaned straight back to Metz last summer, will require a decision but not a final one. The suspicion there is that he’ll spend pre-season with Spurs before either being brought into the first-team squad or sent on another loan. Spurs, you’d imagine, would prefer that to be to either a bottom-half Premier League club or ambitious Championship side (let’s face it, it will probably be Norwich) to find out how he goes in English football. But the big decision probably regards Bryan Gil, the skilful yet painfully lightweight Spanish winger who just looked nowhere near the right sort of fit for English football. His current loan in Spain cannot tell us much but he is the one player on the Spurs list where all things are possible. This time next year he could just as easily be a Spurs first-team regular, starring for Valencia in La Liga having joined on a permanent basis, doing bits for Crystal Palace on loan or languishing at Tottenham having subsisted on the occasional Europa night which is no longer an option because Spurs have found some new and absurdly Spursy way to get knocked out.

Watford: Philip Zinckernagel
The Hornets look to be on to a good thing whatever happens here thanks to Zinckernagel’s Nottingham Forest exploits. He’s scored five goals and laid on nine assists to help Forest into the play-off picture, but it’s his eye-catching displays in Forest’s fabulous FA Cup run that really make you take notice. If Watford stay up, then he has shown he can play at Premier League level. If they go down, then he has shown he can propel a Championship promotion bid. And if Watford go down and Forest go up, then they might be able to sell him for a nice price. Win, win, win. If you ignore the whole ‘relegation’ stuff, which is not a win and frankly a bit of a downer.


West Ham: Conor Coventry
Because he’s the only West Ham player currently out on loan. They really don’t have a very big squad. The 22-year-old spent the first half of this season in the lower reaches of the Championship, making 12 appearances – mainly off the bench – for Peterborough, and is now in League One with MK Dons. Has just a year left on his contract at West Ham, for whom he has made three brief appearances off the bench in the League Cup.


Wolves: Adama Traore
All appeared sorted when he set off to Barcelona initially on loan with a £29m option to make it permanent in the summer. Four assists in 10 games have gone some way to confirming the suspicion that his end-product stats might improve away from Wolves but there is yet a fly in the ointment thanks to Barcelona’s much-publicised financial problems making that £29m a bit steep for them. Wolves have made it clear that Traore is done at Molineux unless there’s a surprise U-turn on a new contract and even then Wolves may feel he’s burned his bridges. Spurs were keen in January, but might have moved on now. Could get tricky, this.