Five Premier League players that could make free transfers to MLS in 2016

The January transfer window is about to open in Europe and the Premier League is always one of the most intriguing league when it comes to transfer news and rumours.

As well as the fact that teams can negotiate transfer deals, clubs can also start to negotiate with players under the age of 24 who have just six months remaining on their current deals, with the hope of sealing a pre-contract agreement.

That second part is particularly important for Major League Soccer as several MLS sides will look to make pre-contract agreements with Premier League players who could then join for free in the summer.

Steven Gerrard was signed by LA Galaxy in this way last year, while Kevin Doyle also signed a pre-contract agreement with the Colorado Rapids last year.

But who could make the move across the Atlantic this year? We look at five possible moves below:

1. John Terry

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The long-term Chelsea captain is likely to be playing his final season with the Blues and may even decide to hang up his boots. That seems unlikely though as Terry has spoken of his desire to play on for a few years longer. A move to MLS has been talked about since Terry revealed it’s something he would consider last year.

“I would love to finish my career at Chelsea and maybe there is a time when I look to go to play in America or whatever might be best for my family at the time,” Terry told TalkSport in May 2015.

He would surely be signed on a Designated Player contract were he to agree a move stateside and would add crucial leadership and experience to any locker room in MLS.

2. Mathieu Flamini

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Arsenal midfielder Flamini has just six months remaining on his current deal and doesn’t look set to extend that as things stand. Having previously revealed MLS is something he would consider, the Frenchman could find himself playing on American soil by the time the summer arrives.

Flamini would add steel to any team’s midfield and would bring bundles of experience with him. Plenty of teams will be keeping one eye on the 31-year-old Frenchman.

3. Mikel Arteta

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Sticking with Arsenal midfielders and Mikel Arteta is another who could make the switch to MLS this summer, having fallen down the pecking order at the Emirates this season.

Arteta is unlikely to be offered a contract extension and will therefore be free to negotiate with any possible future employers from January. Arteta is a good friend of NYCFC’s David Villa and has previously spoken glowingly about MLS.

“The game in the US is definitely going in the right direction, so there’s a real opportunity for players to come over from Europe,” the Spaniard said in 2014.

4. Kolo Toure

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Kolo Toure has previously been linked with a move across the Atlantic but with just six months left on his Liverpool deal now, the Ivorian centre-back could make the move for free, making any transfer more appealing for MLS sides.

The New York Red Bulls reportedly offered Toure a two-year deal in the summer but no move came to fruition. Six months on and more offers could be laid on the table for the out-of-favour Reds defender.

5. Stephane Sessegnon

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The final name on this list is West Bromwich Albion’s Stephane Sessegnon, who would add pace and creativity to multiple sides in Major League Soccer. He struggled to get into Tony Pulis’ team early on this season but has played in ten of West Brom’s last eleven league games.

That said, it is still unclear whether a new contract will be offered to the Benin international and so clubs around the world may be keeping a close eye on the playmaker.

He would suit the fast-paced playing style seen in MLS and could be an interesting addition to the league if any team reaches out.

Which of the players above do you think will move to MLS in 2016? Are there any others you think could make the switch?

 

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STATS: Analysing the decline of Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney is a man under the spotlight. The Manchester United captain’s performances so far this season have been below his high standards and pressure is mounting on the attacker.

Some have blamed Louis Van Gaal’s philosophies, others claim he is tired, but one thing for sure is that Rooney is not the threat he should be, nor the one Manchester United need him to be.

At 30, few are expecting him to provide the energy he did five years ago. But they are expecting him to provide the spark this United team has lacked at times this season.

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The all-time leading England goalscorer has netted just two Premier League goals in 12 appearances this term. He has made double figures for league goals in each of his 11 seasons at Old Trafford so far but looks unlikely to do that by May.

He is no longer the lead striker, despite starting the season in his traditional position. Summer signings Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial have been brought in to give the United side some pace but Rooney is failing to create chances, let alone score them.

Table: Wayne Rooney's key Premier League statistics over the past five seasons for Manchester United (via WhoScored)

Table: Wayne Rooney’s key Premier League statistics over the past five seasons for Manchester United (via WhoScored)

The table above shows just how bad a campaign the United skipper is having. He has yet to register an assist in the Premier League this year and has registered fewer shots per game than in any of the previous four seasons.

His attacking output in general is nowhere near as effective as it needs to be. His position on the field will not change the fact that he needs to carry the Red Devils’ attack, especially with youngsters such as Jesse Lingard, Martial and Depay looking to him for inspiration.

Graph: Wayne Rooney's attacking output has dropped considerably over the past five seasons.

Graph: Wayne Rooney’s attacking output has dropped considerably over the past five seasons.

The graph above shows how bad the drop in form has been for Rooney in recent years. He has registered half the number of shots per game this term compared to four years ago and has seen his goal output drop by nearly 80% over the same period.

Calls are being made for Rooney to be dropped by Van Gaal. The Dutch manager substituted his captain after the hour mark in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Leicester and it will be interesting to see how much trust is now going to be placed in the 30-year-old England star.

Manchester United’s title hopes are very much alive. If Rooney can pick back up, those hopes could turn into reality next May.

Why do you think Wayne Rooney is struggling to perform to the levels expected of him this season?

STATS: Is Memphis Depay offering enough to Manchester United?

When Manchester United splashed £25 million on Memphis Depay early in the summer, a sense of genuine excitement filled the air around Old Trafford. The Dutch winger was expected to bring an exciting array of attacking talents to the club but has he offered enough so far? Lewis Addley explores…

Memphis Depay’s incredible form with PSV Eindhoven last season left no real questions as to why Louis Van Gaal wanted to bring his compatriot to Manchester.

The Dutchman netted an impressive 22 domestic goals in 30 appearances in the 2014-15 Eredivisie campaign, but has only shown in glimpses the talent he possesses since his arrival at United.

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Depay has been a relatively quiet member of the United attack so far this season, so let’s have a look at his performances in numbers.

Depay Stats

Depay’s Premier League stats for the 2015/16 season (via Squawka)

The winger has scored just the one goal, has no assists and has created only four chances for his teammates so far this season in the Premier League.

If he was to continue at this current rate he would end the domestic campaign on five goals, without any assists and with just 19 chances created for teammates.

Now, obviously we aren’t suggesting he won’t register an assist over the whole campaign, as this is only based on his performance levels so far. But the statistics would suggest he will endure a difficult first Premier League season nonetheless.

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His shot accuracy of 44% doesn’t differ much from last season’s 47%, where his output was far greater, so no alarm bells are ringing in that department.

He created 60 chances for teammates last season, so has a lot of work to do to close the gap on that number, but it is early doors for Depay and he is playing in a more competitive side in terms of squad selection and arguably against far tougher defences in England.

A quiet first season in the Premier League for a new signing is not uncommon, but given Depay’s ability, more is to be expected from him. If he can produce the same levels as last season he could play a pivotal role in United’s chances of winning the league title this season.

STATS: Was Jose Mourinho wrong to let these seven players leave Chelsea?

Chelsea‘s form has been a huge topic of conversation after each game so far this season for one reason or another, mostly down to below-par performances.

Key players are failing to provide quality in the same way they did last season, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa the subjects of heavy criticism.

Jose Mourinho has let some big names leave the club since his return in 2013, some of whom are enjoying great form in their domestic seasons with other clubs.

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With Chelsea under such pressure at current, it’s difficult not to ask whether some of those names should have been let go, so we took a look at some of those players’ statistics this season.

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 Former Chelsea players’ domestic league stats for the 2015/16 season (via Squawka)

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Petr Cech’s domestic league stats for 2015/16 as a goalkeeper (via Squawka)

Petr Cech comes out on top in terms of win percentage with an impressive 66.6% in the Premier League with Arsenal, which is 41.6% better than Chelsea’s overall win percentage of 25% in the top flight.

Romelu Lukaku, now at Everton, has bagged seven league goals so far this season. Chelsea’s highest individual goalscorer only has two (Diego Costa, Ramires and Willian).

The highest number of assists from those who have departed have come from Lukaku and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne on four. Cesc Fabregas, arguably Chelsea’s most creative player, has just one league assist after 12 games.

And perhaps most staggering is the fact that the highest number of losses suffered domestically out of the seven players is only three, four less than Chelsea’s worrying total of seven so far.

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While we are not suggesting Mourinho’s transfer policy is wrong, it is clear that his squad is lacking in creativity and goals this season. What we must not forget is that out of these seven players only Petr Cech and Andre Schurrle (departed January 2015) were in the Chelsea squad who won the Premier League last season.

But Chelsea fans would be forgiven for looking at the names in the table above and wishing they could bring them back to Stamford Bridge to try and turn the Blues’ campaign around.

STATS: Is Chris Smalling the best centre-back in England?

Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister has labelled Chris Smalling as the best centre-back in the Premier League after a fine start to the season, helping United to boast the best defensive record in the top flight after 12 games.

Smalling was regularly criticised following his move to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2010 as he struggled to impress in the few starts he was given.

But under Louis Van Gaal’s guidance, the 25-year-old has become one of the most solid defenders in English football and many feel that there is no one better in his position right now. But what do the stats say?

Table: Chris Smalling's 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

Table: Chris Smalling’s 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

When comparing Smalling’s statistics to some of the most highly rated defenders in the Premier League, it’s clear he is not the best on English shores.

Vincent Kompany and Laurent Koscielny are viewed by many as two of the finest defenders in Europe, let alone the Premier League and Koscielny, in particular, outshines Smalling in terms of aerial dominance as well as interceptions and blocks.

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John Stones is also held in high esteem by English football fans across the country. He has made more tackles and blocks per game than Smalling so far but is outperformed by his England partner aerially with the United man also making more interceptions and clearances per game.

Then we come to Chancel Mbemba, who is the surprise addition in the comparison above. The Newcastle man doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of the best centre-back in the Premier League but maybe he should be further forward in the thinking process, especially if looking at his statistical performances.

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He outshines Kompany, Stones, Koscielny and Smalling in terms of tackles won per game and has also made more blocks and clearances than any of the other four. In fact, Mbemba has won more tackles in the Premier League than any other central defender after 12 games.

It’s worth noting Mbemba has more defensive work to do than someone like Smalling but perhaps claims that the Manchester United man is the best in his position need to be reconsidered, at least for now.

Do you think Chris Smalling is the best centre-back in the Premier League? Who is better?

STATS: Chelsea projected to battle relegation based on recent history

Chelsea’s problems so far this season have been documented far and wide. Jose Mourinho is under enormous pressure to turn things around after watching his side lose six of their first 11 games in the Premier League.

The Portuguese manager’s job is under threat, according to multiple reports, and there is little wonder when you look at the fate of other Premier League sides that have started with identical records in recent years.

Five sides have started the season with the same record as Chelsea (W3 D2 L6) over the past four campaigns, with three of those going on to suffer relegation by the end of the season.

Table: The last five sides to start with identical league records to Chelsea after 11 games.

Table: The last five sides to start with identical league records to Chelsea after 11 games.

West Bromwich Albion managed to turn their season around despite a poor start in the 2011/12 season as they ended up finishing 10th with 47 points unde Roy Hodgson’s guidance.

However, Wolves struggled badly after an identical start, going on to finish bottom of the table and suffering relegation to the Championship.

Wigan (2012/13) and Norwich (2013/14) also suffered relegation after picking up 11 points from 11 games and so using the word crisis to describe Chelsea’s start is hardly an overreaction.

Table: Finishing position of last five sides to start season with same record as Chelsea

Table: Finishing position of last five sides to start season with same record as Chelsea.

Using these statistics as a guide, it appears as though Chelsea’s problems will only worsen.

Although that’s not accounting for the fact that they’ve got a squad of elite professionals, many of whom lifted the title just six months ago.

Table: Chelsea's projected league finish based on recent history of sides with same starting record.

Table: Chelsea’s projected league finish based on recent history of sides with same starting record.

As the projection above shows, Chelsea look set to end the year in a relegation battle. That’s based on the last five teams’ finishes after starting with the same 11-point record through 11 games.

Finishing on that projected 36-point tally would be Chelsea’s lowest amount accrued in the Premier League era. The last time they picked up fewer points was back in the Football League First Division in the 1978/79 season (20).

Mourinho is in the middle of the biggest challenge of his managerial career and the spotlight is fully fixed on the Blues.

Their next Premier League game comes away at Stoke. Chelsea were eliminated from the League Cup last Wednesday after losing on penalties away at Stoke and so it’s difficult to see them picking up three points.