The vultures are circling. Here, RunSportBet ranks the best 10 players who deserve to stay in the Premier League despite their club’s relegation following the 2019-20 season.
10. Ben Godfrey
Godfrey’s loan spell in Shrewsbury Town’s midfield for the 2017-18 campaign transformed his career. He’s since established himself at center-back for Norwich City, where the ball control Godfrey honed at Shrewsbury combines well with the Yorkshireman’s imposing stature. At just 22, Godfrey can progress further to become a regular fixture in the Premier League, and he shouldn’t be short of potential suitors this offseason.
Possible destination: Tottenham Hotspur
9. Emiliano Buendia
Aside from his recent red card against Burnley, Buendia has kept the tempestuous side from his Cultural Leonesa days in check. Instead, Norwich’s diminutive attacking midfielder has drawn rave reviews for his creativity after logging the fourth-most key passes in the Premier League, and for his industrious work off the ball. He would be an ideal fit for Leeds United, who can’t rely on 35-year-old Pablo Hernandez as their chief playmaker during the club’s Premier League return.
Possible destination: Leeds United
8. Abdoulaye Doucoure
What kind of midfielder is Doucoure? For some, he’s an impenetrable wall in front of the backline, the player who cuts off passing lanes and is among Watford’s top tacklers. For others, he’s a bustling figure behind the frontline and a regular source of key passes – one of the main reasons axed manager Nigel Pearson hauled the Hornets out of the relegation zone. Or he can be an all-action, box-to-box midfielder. However you judge Doucoure, there’s no denying he’s too good for the Championship.
Possible destination: Arsenal
7. Joshua King
King’s versatility and underrated dribbling ability would be valuable for many clubs. The Bournemouth forward was close to rejoining Manchester United – the side he represented until 2013 – in January before the move collapsed and led to Odion Ighalo’s Old Trafford unveiling. But it’s believed King’s links with the Stretford outfit are still strong. To further fuel speculation that King is set for a backup role at United, he reportedly switched back to his former agent, Jim Solbakken, in May. Solbakken also represents Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Possible destination: Manchester United
6. David Brooks
Brooks’ long-term absence certainly contributed to Bournemouth’s demise, and his questionable fitness may also be off-putting to clubs searching for a creative midfielder this summer. The Welsh player missed almost a year with a serious ankle injury, and when he returned after the Premier League’s hiatus, Brooks couldn’t revive the form that resulted in seven goals and five assists during the previous term. Signing him would be a gamble with a potentially gargantuan payout.
Possible destination: Everton
5. Max Aarons
Aarons should be the most in-demand player on Daniel Farke’s relegated roster. Only Matt Doherty was dribbled past fewer times per 90 minutes than Aarons among the league’s first-choice full-backs. That was remarkable given Norwich’s standing, but the Canaries youngster is also a more progressive player than his Wolverhampton Wanderers counterpart. The right-back’s awareness means he seldom runs into trouble.
Possible destination: Bayern Munich
4. Gerard Deulofeu
There are times when Deulofeu is almost unstoppable. He regularly dissected defenses to set up Romelu Lukaku at Everton, and his two-goal cameo against Wolves to send Watford into the 2018-19 FA Cup final was remarkable. But there’s another side of Deulofeu: The unfulfilled promise, the inconsistency, and how he can rely too heavily on his stronger right foot. If a manager believes he can coax out Deulofeu’s best qualities on a regular basis, the winger could be a shrewd buy.
Possible destination: Crystal Palace (to replace Wilfried Zaha)
3. Callum Wilson
Clubs may be wary of pursuing Wilson. The Bournemouth striker suffered his second ACL injury over 16 months in February 2017, and he registered a modest eight goals during the 2019-20 Premier League campaign. But he proved his fitness by being the Cherries’ most-used outfield player this season, and he was robbed of quality service on the south coast due to Brooks’ injury woes and Ryan Fraser’s dip in form. With a playmaker or two behind him, Wilson can be a reliable Premier League goalscorer.
Possible destination: Tottenham Hotspur
2. Ismaila Sarr
Sarr would eviscerate Championship full-backs, and while that would be fun, it wouldn’t be best for the 22-year-old’s career. The Senegalese international could be a supplementary piece for a side competing in Europe. Sarr wasn’t really suited for Watford’s direct play, and he should seek a club that will make use of his versatility, strong finishing, and obviously, his pace and rhythmic feet.
Possible destination: Liverpool
1. Nathan Ake
Bournemouth’s defense wasn’t their main problem in 2019-20, as the Cherries conceded more goals in three of their previous four seasons in the top flight. So those in the backline, and especially Ake, shouldn’t be too downbeat about their performances. Ake is reportedly the subject of an approach from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who are seeking a composed figure to steady their at-times erratic rearguard. The 25-year-old certainly fits the bill.
Possible destination: Manchester City