The final day of the Premier League season sees only the relegation battle still outstanding to be sorted, with two of Leeds United, Leicester City and Everton set to join Southampton fc in dropping to the Championship.
While the obvious priority is merely to remain in the top flight and not worry – for 90 minutes, at least – about what comes next, the natural implication of failing to survive is that bigger clubs will come calling for those players deemed too good to go down.
Rumours have already circulated around a number of those names; here are 18 who could easily attract a move to a top-flight club this summer if their present sides feel the need to sell to balance the books after departing the richest league on the planet.
Starting with the side who are already gone, central midfielder and dead-ball expert Ward-Prowse will certainly be in demand. An England international, the 28-year-old hasn’t been at his best this term but failings around him haven’t helped. Still has eight goals and four assists in a dismal team, and it’s hard to see him spending even a season in the Championship.
While Saints’ defensive unit as a whole has been far too porous, individually there are a couple of players who have impressed. Centre-back Bella-Kotchap is one, with some tenacious displays earning him strong reviews earlier in the campaign. Put him alongside a more experienced player in a more cohesive unit and it’s safe to say his career is on an upward trajectory.
Another recent recruit, teenage midfielder Lavia is already interesting plenty of top-half clubs who have been impressed with his tactical intelligence as much as his ferocious defensive work, overstretched as he has been in the middle of the park. Considering this was a rookie season for him in the top flight he has acquitted himself very well and the Belgian is already capped at senior international level.
Not so much a star for the future this time, but Walker-Peters has long since proven his capabilities in the Premier League. Add in his versatility and the fact he has only two years left on his contract and this summer seems the right one for any clubs keen on him to make their move.
Of all the January arrivals who failed to impact at Saints, former Rennes man Sulemana might be the biggest disappointment – and therefore potentially the bargain with the biggest upside. At age 21 there’s a long runway for improvement for the Ghanaian, who can play wide or central in attack – but then again perhaps a season as a guaranteed starter would actually prove more beneficial for him in the long run. If Saints keep hold of him he should be a standout star in the Championship.
Moving onto the teams still fighting for survival, James Maddison looks to be one who might move on regardless of the final day. The creative attacker is certainly playing at a higher level than most of his Leicester teammates and has already been linked with the likes of Newcastle. Perhaps the only real factor at play here is the transfer fee; the Foxes might be able to ask for significantly more if they do beat the drop.
A definite departure, Leicester have somehow allowed a key midfielder who was wanted for around £40m a couple of summers ago by more than one club run down his deal and he’ll leave on a free. The calibre of sides who want him this season mightbe significantly lower, though. Tielemans hasn’t been at his best technically or physically – but perhaps a new environment and team setup could reinvigorate his undoubted quality.
Might be one Leicester hope to hang onto even if they are in the second tier, given he has a very long-term contract, but Dewsbury-Hall is almost certain to have top-flight admirers. Energetic, diligent in both halves of the pitch and with a sprinkling of magic about his play, the 24-year-old is too good for the Championship but might be too pricey to prise away.
Finishing up at the Foxes, Harvey Barnes is already a known target – the Independentreported Aston Villa’s keen interest in the left-sided attacking outlet this week. Despite Leicester’s struggles he has 12 goals to his name this season and with two years remaining on his deal it’s probably time to make a step up, since even if they survive this weekend, his club don’t look like mounting a real revival any time soon.
Onto Leeds and the first probable departure is American midfield dynamo Tyler Adams. An excellent ball-winner, ball-carrier and team leader in the centre of the park, it’s unthinkable he’d drop down into the second division. An injury absence at the end of this season hasn’t helped Leeds at all but he has long since shown himself a top performer.
Given the ability of some of their players, it’s a bit of a wonder Leeds are down there at all – until you watch some of the defensive work, at least. At the other end of the pitch it can be a very different matter though and Sinisterra is another who, having fought around the top of the Eredivisie for Feyenoord before a £25m last summer, surely won’t be a Championship player. Injuries have hampered him this term but he’s electric when fit.
One of the bargains of the season, Leeds signed the Italian for about £4m in September and he is a real gem in the making. Given the length of his deal and the fact he’s only 19, perhaps he’s one of those they’ll hope to keep and shoot straight back up with – but other, bigger clubs have been impressed this season by Gnonto, make no mistake. He’s already a senior goalscorer for Italy; he probably isn’t going to be keen on facing Rotherham and Hull next term.
Everton head into the weekend in the driving seat but there’s barely any margin for error. Dwight McNeil will be among their biggest hopes to get the result they need and if they don’t, he’ll be relegated twice in two years. And don’t be surprised if that means he pushes for a transfer twice in two years either, because he’s far too good for the Championship and the Toffees will need to sell.
Not had the season of his life but he’s the England No.1 and will want to remain so. It probably won’t happen if he’s playing in the Championship, so a Pickford departure might be an obvious one.
Belgian box-to-box star Amadou Onana is another who is simply far too good to be allowed to go down. Everton have only fleetingly got the best out of him so far but his incredible mix of technique and physicality is one which should be unleashed in a far better team setup. Perhaps if they survive he’s one of the keys to Sean Dyche’s rebuild, but if not, he has to go elsewhere at a higher level.
Finally, the would-be goalscorer of the team, Calvert-Lewin. It’s easy to point to injuries as the reason for his low returns of late, but the fact is that the England international has had one sole campaign with a decent return of 21 in all competitions – he’s scored seven times in two years since that. Even so, the suspicion is that someone would gamble on keeping him fit and rediscovering his clinical edge, rather than letting him go down with a sinking ship.