The ‘Out of Contract’ Premier League players set for a worrying Summer
With the introduction of the Bosman ruling and the financial difficulties many teams found themselves in over recent years, a swathe of footballers have found themselves on the football scrapheap once their contracts expired.
In the Premier League this hasn’t been a problem with the oceans of cash swimming around, but with the introduction of the Financial Fair Play rules by UEFA this summer meaning clubs have to balance their books and the requirement of a 25-man squad, footballers leaving Premiership clubs this summer might find it harder than usual to walk into employment.
This week Aston Villa announced a whole raft of players to be released. Most notably for me was Nigel Reo-Coker. After a highly disappointing spell at Villa you would expect plenty of teams to take a chance on him, especially perhaps one of the promoted teams. However, if he is on a wefty wage, it could prove a problem for him, and a host of others. Also being released by Villa is a certain John Carew, and Robert Pires too. They have the advantage of course of not carrying a transfer fee with them if purchased, but with signing on fees, agent fees and wages, it can still be a risky acquisition for anyone to buy someone on a Bosman signing. Brad Friedel is on his way too, aged 40, but has already reportedly attracted the attention of Liverpool and Spurs.
Relegated teams are the ones that often have to release the most players, as the financial implications of Championship football begin to hit home. Birmingham have released Kevin Phillips, who will struggle at his age to play at such a high level again. Also released are Sebastian Larsson and Lee Bowyer, who should find employment easily enough, much like Stoke’s Abdoulaye Faye.
Blackpool’s relegation has forced them to release an even larger number of players, including Marlon Harewood. Expect David Vaughan to stay in the Premiership (my money is on Sunderland).
The most notable player on the market will probably be England’s Michael Owen, complete with laminated brochure and the burning injustice that scoring against Blackpool hasn’t secured him an England recall. I don’t think many will be losing much sleep wondering if he has found a new club. But that helicopter doesn’t pay for itself. Other high-profile players available include Manuel Almunia, whose high-profile mistakes may put off potential buyers.
At the end of the January transfer window I saw a list of players looking like they would be free agents in the summer, and you forget some of the names still playing their trade in the top division. The odd player, like Jose Bosingwa, sorted out contract extensions, but where next for Sol Campbell, released by Newcastle last week? Or Kieron Dyer, Boudewijn Zenden, or Ricardo Fuller? Where now for Diomansy Kamara, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, or the cursed Owen Hargreaves? Is the best he can hope for a pay-as-you-play deal? You could argue the same for Jonathan Woodgate.
Eidur Gudjohnsen anyone? Rob Green? Matthew Upson? How about a return to the Premiership for Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill and Ruud Van Nistelrooy??
There will be plenty of youth players not having contracts renewed as well – age can be a blessing for them, but also a worrying time. You often see youngsters released at the bigger clubs, who buy big, but with the pressure for immediate success in modern football, youth players often don’t get the chance. But it is not always the club getting rid of the player of course. Players often run down the contract themselves as a way of leaving a club. One Manchester City youngster seemingly on is way this week is John Guidetti, frustrated with only one Carling Cup appearance this season. Johan Elmander seems to have allowed his contract to run down, and won’t struggle for interest.
I doubt many will be too anxious at premiership footballers looking for new clubs, nor should they. Whilst the better players will never struggle to find a new club, those a bit lower down the ladder may find it harder than it used to be to maintain the deal they had. One possible positive outcome from the new fair play rules will hopefully be that many players will be forced to be more realistic with wage demands. And with the clubs more aware than ever that costs must be capped, expect plenty more clubs over the coming weeks to announce a raft of player releases. It could be a worrying summer for many.