It is both a) the international break and b) nearly January, kind of. So here’s a very nearly plausible XI of former Premier League players who could return to the Best League in the World from silly little ones in Spain and such once that all-important January window swings open. We’ll be honest, we’ve cheated quite a bit and were it not for the Newcastle takeover we’d have been totally snookered…
GK: Sam Johnstone
We’re already having to cheat with the very first player. But facts are facts: he was a Premier League player, he is no longer a Premier League player and at least two current Premier League teams – West Ham and Southampton – want to bring him back to the Premier League. Probably at the end of the season on a free, realistically, but ignore that as well. It’s either this or we make up a rumour about Wojciech Szczesny.
RB: Kieran Trippier
This one’s better. Trippier has been linked with a Premier League return pretty much since the moment he swapped Spurs’ perennial trophy-dodging for great success in Spain with Atletico Madrid. The British football media being what it is, the very idea that he might prefer winning La Liga with Atleti under Diego Simeone to shambling about at Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is anathema. Now Newcastle are linked, because of course they are.
CB: Chris Smalling
Turned up in all those ‘How Aston Villa might like under Paulo Fonseca’ XIs last week when it looked like Paulo Fonseca might be the new Villa manager and would inevitably sign all his former Roma players, especially those who Know The Premier League. None of that looks like happening now, which is a shame. Still, it gets him into this side because centre-backs – at least known quantity centre-backs – just aren’t sexy enough for transfer rumours. And it also reunites him with…
CB: Phil Jones
Okay, this is a pure cheat. But it is now close to two years since his last 90 minutes of Premier League football in a 2-0 defeat against Burnley, in a performance The Independent described as ‘fossilised’. He has not made a Manchester United matchday Premier League squad this season. He is an ex-Premier League player in every way apart from, you know, actually technically being one. He is, though, wanted by thirteen – sorry, these are tabloid transfer rumours, aren’t they: THIRTEEN – different clubs. One of those is Derby County, which frankly just seems cruel. At least two of them, though, are in the Premier League. Newcastle, obviously, but also Watford.
LB: Gareth Bale
He can play left-back, no problem. Not like he’ll have much defending to do alongside Smalling and Jones is it. Newcastle again have been linked with a January move because Gareth Bale is a footballer and Newcastle have been linked with all of them. Also predictably, there has been chat of him having a third spell at Tottenham, where he did end last season playing remarkably well. Not at left-back, sure, but still.
CM: Aaron Ramsey
He’s going to be very, very busy in this team. But he is also one of the more plausible Premier League returnees this winter. Let’s just take as read that Newcastle have been linked, while Everton have also been taking a keen interest in a player who has started just once in Serie A for Juventus this season.
CM: Matteo Guendouzi
Technically only away from the Premier League on loan at Marseille, but let’s be real: he’s not coming back to Arsenal, is he? Bridges have been well and truly burned there. He’s started all but one game in Ligue 1 and the Europa this season for Marseille. And you’ll never guess who’s been linked with a January SWOOP to HIJACK a permanent move to the Stade Velodrome…
AM: Philippe Coutinho
A slightly faded and thus potentially available galactico type to kickstart the Newcastle revolution? How about the former Liverpool schemer whose career has fallen on hard times at Spanish basket-case Barcelona?
AM: Eden Hazard
A slightly faded and thus potentially available galactico type to kickstart the Newcastle revolution? How about the former Chelsea schemer whose career has fallen on hard times at Spanish basket-case Real Madrid?
AM: Renato Sanches
Wolves have leapfrogged Liverpool in the race to sign the Lille star who, crucially, had a hugely memorable and successful 12-game loan spell with Swansea in the Premier League back in the day. His move to Lille has rejuvenated a hugely promising career that had threatened to stagnate, and now the Premier League once again beckons for the Portugal midfielder.
CF: Sebastien Haller
God bless the Manchester Evening News for taking a Bild report suggesting Haller as a potential Erling Haaland replacement at Dortmund and wondering aloud whether City shouldn’t cut out the middle man and sign Haller themselves. He was, of course, a massive, massive flop at West Ham back when West Ham were still West Ham, but is having an absolute day out for Ajax this season having scored seven Eredivisie goals and, most strikingly, another seven in just four Champions League games.