The 2020/21 season is only weeks away and it will be a season where many players are playing for their places in their national team squads ahead of the rescheduled Euro 2021 competition.
England will go into that tournament as one of the favourites and Gareth Southgate will have many hard decisions to make. His squad, as currently constructed, is a little uneven. He has great depth at right-back, but left-back isn’t so strong. The central defensive options aren’t at the same level of their rivals. The same can be said in central midfield, though Southgate finds himself with fantastic wing and attacking options.
It’s not that England don’t have talent at left-back, centre-back and in midfield. It’s just that, that talent doesn’t always show itself at it’s best level. It’s not always the players fault though, sometimes it’s down to circumstance. The wrong club for them, the wrong manager for them, a new shiny toy signed by a club with too much money who don’t want to develop what they already have. Whatever the reason, the Premier League is littered with players who could really use a move to kickstart their careers, and now is the ideal time for that move.
A good 20/21 season could reignite a players career, get them to the Euros and who knows what can happen from there. With that in mind, here are five England internationals who should be looking to move this summer.
Club: Manchester City
At 26, Stones should be entering his prime but instead he’s become a squad player at Manchester City, a team who do not boast a plethora of quality central defenders. It’s a sharp fall for the player touted as the future of England’s defense when he was establishing himself at Everton.
Stones has had some injury issues and those have not helped his cause at City, even when he has been on the pitch he has rarely shown a high level of consistent form. He will rightly point to his two Premier League winners medals as evidence that his move to City has worked out, but has it really?
Stones made his name at Everton under Roberto Martinez, having been signed but never played by David Moyes. Martinez was trying to install a new system and philosophy at Everton, and Stones was perfect for it. Initially used as the third central defender, behind established starters Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, Stones also filled in at right back from time to time.
It became quickly apparent that Stones, while still having a lot of developing to do from a defensive point of view, was a very good footballer who could pass the ball out from the back. That was something which was starting to become very popular after Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona had changed how many people viewed football.
It wasn’t until the departure of Distin in the summer of 2015 that Stones established himself as first choice for Everton, but his talent was clear. Defensively he made mistakes, but that was to be expected from such a young defender. He continued to develop as a ball player and began to draw attention from top clubs.
In the summer of 2016, Stones had a decision to make. He was leaving Everton, that much was clear. He could head south and join Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, and learn from the man who had developed Leonardo Bonucci into one of the world’s finest central defenders. Conte had also helped Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini reach new levels, and along with Bonucci they formed arguably the best central defensive unit in the world. Stones seemed the perfect fit for the central spot in Conte’s back 3. The ball player flanked by two outstanding defenders.
His other option was Manchester City, and the lure of playing under Pep Guardiola. Guardiola too had a track record with central defenders of a similar ilk to Stones, in Gerard Pique and Jerome Boateng.
Stones picked City, and the rest is history. Injuries, poor form, a lack of development and a continued inability to defend large spaces have seen Stones relegated to being City’s 5th choice central defender behind a holding midfielder in Fernandinho and a youngster in Eric Garcia.
Stones needs a move this summer and he needs to make sure it’s the right move. He won’t have the calibre of offers he had in 2016 but there should still be a number of clubs interested in his services. Perhaps a move to Serie A or the Bundesliga would be the most advisable thing if he wants to develop as a defender, but it seems more likely he will remain in the Premier League.
If Newcastle are to stick with a back 3 next season, Stones would be a nice fit in the central role. He needs to pick a team where he will be allowed to play out from the back, but not left to defend large spaces vacated by a marauding fullback. His old club Everton might be an option for him, while Sheffield United would be the most fun option given Chris Wilder’s tactical creativity.
He could draw an offer from someone like Leicester but his defensive problems would be helped there given their style and manager. West Ham have been linked and there is the Moyes connection there, but if Moyes brings in attacking fullback to play as Coleman and Baines did at Everton, that could expose Stones’ issues with defending large spaces and only worsen an already poor defense.
Stones needs to pick his next club very carefully.
Best possible move: Newcastle
Club: Manchester United
Very few players divide opinion like Jesse Lingard. Some write him off as rubbish, others hype him to the moon. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Lingard can be a quality squad option for a top 6 club with his versatility, non-stop running, clever link play and ability to time his runs. He falls short in terms of creativity and consistency with his final ball. Much of the disparagement of Lingard stems more from a dislike for his personality than anything else. People put him down because he’s dragged himself up and likes to have fun.
But there are a number of Premier League clubs that could benefit from having Jesse Lingard in their team. West Brom, who seem unlikely to be able to bring back Grady Diangana, immediately jump out as a good fit for him but there are others. He’d be a good fit at Leeds United, Aston Villa, Everton or Southampton. Saints might actually be the best natural fit, as Lingard could slot in nicely as one of the advanced midfielders in the box midfield they utilize.
Lingard is coming off the worst season of his career which was, in truth, the second successive poor season for the England midfielder. And United do seem to have moved past the point where he’s going to be a starter for them. He’s a product of the academy, and loves the club, so he may be happy to stay in a reduced squad role.
Doing so would severely hamper his England prospects though and for a player who turns 28 this December, Lingard needs to be playing regular first team football. Lingard might actually flourish away from the pressure of Old Trafford. There are few jerseys that weigh as heavily on the wearer as the Manchester United one. Success is demanded, that’s difficult for a lot of players.
Lingard is a fine footballer. A complimentary piece who works well off the ball and can add goals to any team. He’ll bring a positive presence to a dressing room, and help lift the standards on the training ground. There’s a number of Premier League clubs who would be well served to consider a move for Jesse Lingard.
Best Possible Move: Southampton
Ross Barkley is a prime example of how English players are often overhyped and weighed down by too much pressure in their formative years. As a young player Barkley found himself compared to Paul Gascoigne, Michael Ballack, and Wayne Rooney. As he broke into the Everton first team he was proclaimed as the future of the club, a player who could lead them to the promised land.
Barkley was going to be the one who came from the academy and became a legend. He wouldn’t leave like Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Francis Jeffers or Michael Ball, he wouldn’t spark and then fizzle and disappoint like Danny Cadamarteri or Victor Anichebe. Barkley was going to do more. He was going to become an Everton Giant.
At a big club like Everton, with fans who are desperate for success and demand high standards, that sort of pressure can prove too much for young players to live up to. Barkley did well for the Toffees, at times he was excellent.
Though he’d made his debut during the 2011/12 season under David Moyes, Barkley had to wait until the departure of Moyes and the arrival of Roberto Martinez to establish himself – just like Stones. With Stones at the back and Barkley in midfield, Everton had the making over a very promising spine. Barkley made 25 Premier League starts that year and helped Everton to a 5th place finish, their best in almost a decade. His six goals made him joint third highest scorer with Seamus Coleman.
Unfortunately for Barkley, both he and Everton were unable to maintain those standards the following season. Just two goals in 21 Premier League starts brought the first murmurings of doubts as to whether Barkley was going to be what everyone hoped he could be. The arrival of Romelu Lukaku had shifted the style of play somewhat, and Barkley had struggled to adapt but with Stones-Barkley-Lukaku through the middle, Everton fans had lots of reasons to stay hopeful.
The 15/16 season was meant to silence all the doubters. It was his third full season, and big things were expected. Barkley delivered, 8 goals and 8 assists in 36 Premier League starts. He and Lukaku were outstanding, but unfortunately for them, their teammates were not. Everton’s mis-steps in the transfer market are well documented, but their January 2016 moves rank among the worst they have made. For a team crying out for more quality in midfield, the decision to spend £16,500,000 on Oumar Niasse and Shani Tarashaj was staggering. Especially given the distinct lack of quality offered by those two players. Both players contracts expired this summer and they departed Everton as free agents having contributed a combined 9 goals, all by Niasse, in 42 games, all by Niasse.
The clubs failure to add the required quality around the Stones-Barkley-Lukaku spine is the reason none of those players play for Everton anymore, and the reason Everton are on their 4th managers since the sacking of Martinez in 2016, not counting the three caretaker-manager spells they’ve had.
Barkley stagnated the following season, and by seasons end it had become clear that his time at Everton was over. The fans had become hostile towards him, he seemed disinterested and it was clear Barkley would not extend his contract and wanted to leave.
He joined Chelsea in January 2018 for £15million and so far, he has failed to full establish himself in their first 11. With just 28 Premier League starts in the past two and a half years, Barkley must choose between remaining a squad player at a top four club, or stepping down a level and becoming a starter for another Premier League club.
He will have plenty of options if he asks to leave Chelsea. Leeds, Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace would all benefit from adding a player of his quality to their ranks. A move this summer could see Barkley force his way into the reckoning for England’s Euro 2021 squad and remind people that while he wasn’t the next Gazza, Ross Barkley is a really good football player.
Best Possible Move: Sheffield United
Rose finds himself at an interesting crossroads in his career. At 30, he has one year left on his Tottenham deal and despite a successful loan spell at Newcastle he does not seem keen on a return to the North-East, allegedly preferring a move somewhere closer to London. Rose is not likely to break back into Jose Mourinho’s plans at Spurs so the England leftback has two options. He can spend the year training and collecting his wages from Spurs, or he can move on to new beginnings and try to re-establish himself.
Rose benefited massively from the excellent coaching of Mauricio Pochettino and, along with Kyle Walker on the opposite flank, developed from talented but flawed into a consistent quality fullback. Injuries hampered him but having gone uncapped until he was 25, Rose nailed down the first choice spot for England and now has 29 caps to his name.
He still has plenty of time to add to that number because despite Ben Chilwell seemingly having a stranglehold on the position now, leftback is not a position where England have a fantastic amount of depth. Luke Shaw and Ryan Bertrand are the obvious alternatives for Southgate but a fit and healthy Rose should be confident of getting the nod ahead of both. Indeed Shaw could very easily be included on this list of players who desperately need a move.
He had been linked with a move to Watford before he joined The Toon but following The Hornets relegation, it’s unlikely he’d have interest in going there now. One move that could make a lot of sense for him would be Brighton. If Graeme Potter is planning to move to a back three to accommodate Ben White alongside Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster, then Rose as a left wingback opposite Tariq Lamptey would be a perfect fit. Brighton’s current first choice Dan Burn would be badly miscast as a wingback, and even in a flat back four, there can be no doubting that Rose is the better player.
Potter is the type of coach that improves players, and the type players want to play for him. Ambitious, innovative and dedicated, Potter has done fantastic work since taking over from Chris Hughton. He’s already added some experience to his squad this summer with the signings of Adam Lallana and Joel Veltman, and Rose could prove a shrewd signing. Spurs seem unlikely to demand big money for him, and Rose would fit well with their ethos.
Best Possible Move: Brighton
Club: Manchester United
Given he’s become most famous for his facial contortions in recent years, you could be forgiven for forgetting that once upon a time Phil Jones was seen as the future of the England National Team. The next big thing at Centre-Back. A future England captain.
After a series of very impressive performances for Blackburn, Jones turned down Liverpool to join Manchester United in 2011 and seemed destined for great things. Fabio Capello compared him to Fernando Hierro, Bobby Charlton invoked the memory of United legend Duncan Edwards. He joined the top team in the land and was meant to establish himself and then carry them into the post-Ferguson era. He was set up to fail. Nobody could have lived up to those standards. It was far too much pressure on a young player.
Jones has played 224 times for United but has never fully established him as a first choice central defender, for a variety of reasons. He’s had terrible luck with injuries but he’s also been error prone. Jones is capable of stringing together runs of excellent form, but he’s never been able to sustain it and as the years went by he became more and more error prone.
Much of it is not his fault. His versatility saw him used as a holding midfielder and a right back as often as a centre-back during his early years at Old Trafford. While that aided his development as a footballer, it held him back as a defender. He also moved from a team that defended in a deep block with fullbacks tucked in beside the centrebacks to a team that played a high line and an expansive style. He went from being first choice at Blackburn to competing with Chris Smalling for playing time behind Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
While United were the far better team at the time, it’s easy to wonder if he wouldn’t have been better off joining Liverpool in 2011. There he would have played every game, in a team that employed a deeper defensive line under Kenny Dalglish. Could a settled position and more regular playing time aided the development of a man who should have become England’s first choice central defender years ago?
Jones is still only 28, so he still has time on his side. He’ll never be England’s answer to Franco Baresi, but he doesn’t have to be. If he can be a good central defender who is consistent and shows the leadership traits that made him stand out at an early age, that is more than enough.
Jones’ next move needs to be one where he goes to a team who play a style that suits him, under a manager that can make him better. Burnley stands out as the perfect option. Sean Dyche has established himself as one of the best defensive coaches, and developers of central defenders, in the Premier League. The work he has done with Michael Keane, James Tarkowski and Ben Mee should be applauded. Jones would fit well at Burnley, capable of playing alongside either of their existing starters, or indeed with them both if Dyche wanted to use him as a holding midfielder in certain games. West Brom, managed by a great central defender, is another option or perhaps Newcastle? Maybe Steve Bruce could use his United connections to work out a deal.
Jones will have options, as long as United don’t price him out of a move. He needs to pick his next destination carefully though, he might not get another chance.
Best possible move: Burnley