With just a few weeks of the Premier League season left to play, the teams at the bottom of the table are fighting for their lives. Sunderland’s relegation has already been confirmed and Middlesbrough look set to follow them into the Championship. Both Swansea and Hull are battling for their safety too but among all four teams, there are several players who have caught the eye this season.
Last season saw several relegated sides lose their top players. Giorginio Wijnaldum completed a £25 million move to Liverpool, where he has become a regular starter under Jurgen Klopp. Similarly, his former Newcastle United teammate Moussa Sissoko joined Tottenham Hotspur for a whopping £30 million on transfer deadline day, while Andros Townsend and Daryl Janmaat stayed in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and Watford respectively.
It wasn’t just Newcastle who off-loaded several players. Norwich and Aston Villa were both very active following their relegation, with four players remaining in the Premier League for the 2016-17 season. Idrissa Gueye, Brad Guzan and Adama Traore all completed moves to Everton and Middlesborough after suffering the drop with Villa, while Nathan Redmond has proven to be a terrific signing for Southampton following his switch from Norwich.
There have been some great success stories this season but here are five players that EPL Index believe could be hot property in this summer’s transfer window despite facing relegation…
1) Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
The Sunderland striker has been one of the most talked about players in the Premier League this season after yet another impressive campaign. The 34-year-old has scored 14 league goals – despite his team likely to finish bottom of the table – earning him a re-call to the England squad. It was four years since Defoe’s last appearance for the Three Lions and he announced his return to the national set-up with a goal against Lithuania in March.
Not only has his goal-scoring earned individual praise, but he has spearheaded Sunderland’s attack for the entire season and their relegation would certainly have been confirmed much sooner without his input. He has also played more minutes in the Premier League than any other Sunderland player (3052.)
Defoe has proven himself to be a natural goalscorer and as an England international with over 15 years of Premier League experience, he’s certainly an eye-catching prospect. It would be foolish for the teams above not to get their offers in early.
2) Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)
Defoe’s teammate at the other end, Pickford, has been equally impressive. The young goalkeeper has had a sensational breakthrough season with Sunderland and has been one of the most consistent shot-stoppers in the league. Despite conceding 41 goals and keeping just three clean sheets, only Tom Heaton (134) has produced more saves than Pickford (115) this season and he has had one of the worst defences in front of him.
He has been talked about as a potential England number one and it is only a matter of time before one of the big clubs come after him. Perhaps Liverpool, Everton or Arsenal should think about an investment…
3) Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough)
The 24-year-old has been an ever-present in Middlesbrough’s side this season and has proven to be one of their most senior players. He has notched up more minutes in the league than any of his teammates (3150) and has produced some solid performances at the back.
Granted, his side have come under lots of pressure this season, forcing them to ship lots of goals, but without Gibson at the back, Boro’s fate could have already been sealed. He has been impressive when building from the back, recording a pass success rate of 85% and he has shown leadership and experience at the back despite his tender age.
Being English certainly helps his case too and that might be an attraction in the summer as Premier League clubs look to add squad depth.
4) Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)
The Swans’ front man has been excellent this season. Despite his team fighting for their safety, he has continued to cause a threat in front of goal and remains their most influential player. Sigurdsson has been involved in everything positive going forward from Swansea, notching up nine league goals throughout the campaign so far. He has also had more shots than most in the league (112,) with only Sergio Aguero (128,) Christian Eriksen (126) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (115) proving to be more active.
As well as an excellent goal-scoring record, Sigurdsson has also helped create most of Swansea’s attacks too, producing more crosses than any other player in the Premier League (271).
5) Lazar Markovic (Hull – on loan from Liverpool)
The Reds’ loanee has barely had an opportunity to impress in Merseyside before being shipped out on loan to Hull. However, since joining the Tigers, he has been a threat and his pace on the wing has certainly caught the eye. Clearly he has talent otherwise Liverpool would never have paid over £20 million for the Serbian international and with Hull, he has shown he can be a threat on the counter-attack in particular. In 11 league appearances, he has netted just two goals but he had particularly strong performances against Southampton and Watford in recent weeks, further enhancing his attractiveness in the upcoming transfer window.
Whether he will get an opportunity under Jurgen Klopp is yet to be seen but if Liverpool are unwilling to give Markovic a chance, there will likely be plenty of suitors in the Premier League who will be keen to take a risk on the 23-year-old winger.