No Premier League team wants to face the horror of relegation, but for Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City they will now have to try and focus on bouncing straight back into the lucrative top flight. Nevertheless, all three teams will inevitably lose the majority of their star players, as those names seek immediate Premier League football.
Usually, Premier League clubs who sign these top players from relegated clubs tend to be outside England’s superpowers, ironically seeking to avoid future relegations themselves by buying relegated players.
Yet there is a universal acceptance that some players may be part of a relegated side but have excelled in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe would be a prime example, a figure whose goals kept Sunderland in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce, but even the 34-year-old could not prevent their slide in the Premier League last season.
Defoe already looks set for a move to Bournemouth, helped by his availability on a free transfer. Yet Defoe emphasizes how the best players in soon-to-be Championship clubs are good enough for the Premier League, hence the interest in them – only that the team they have featured in overall has not been good enough to stay in the division.
Traditionally England’s biggest clubs are not interested in relegated stars, as whilst they can still play in the Premier League, they are not usually of the standard required to qualify for the Champions League or win the Premier League title itself.
Yet there have been exceptions, either as the top teams look to fill a squad position or believe they have truly found a useful gem for their strongest eleven.
Manchester United signed Michael Owen on a free transfer in 2009, despite belonging to a Newcastle United side who were relegated for the first time in seventeen years. Liverpool themselves have capitalised on the demise of Burnley in 2015 and Newcastle a year ago, signing Danny Ings and Georginio Wijnaldum respectively.
It is a big summer ahead for Liverpool, as they prepare to cope with the return of Champions League football alongside remaining competitive in the Premier League.
Much of the transfer talk for all of England’s ‘Big Six’ surrounds signing big-name players, with the Reds currently in negotiations to sign Roma’s Mohamed Salah while being linked with Naby Keïta, Virgil Van Dijk and Alexandre Lacazette.
However, for all of the ambitious talk by Liverpool and owners Fenway Sports Group, Jürgen Klopp will not have an unlimited pool of funds for transfer targets.
Signing players from relegated clubs can be hugely beneficial financially. Many of these players possess relegation clauses, while relegated clubs often need to sell their highest wage earners in order to balance the books for the Championship.
With that in mind, all three of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City could have a player that completes Klopp’s summer spending for next season.
Are there any gems to be found at Sunderland?
Cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, the inevitable finally happened for Sunderland. After perilously treading water for so long, with precarious survival missions year after year, Sunderland had nothing left under David Moyes, and are finally back in the Championship.
Their squad is poor, with numerous players not fulfilling their previous potential, such as Jack Rodwell. Meanwhile, others could form a successful nucleus for an immediate return to the Premier League, but are nowhere near good enough for Liverpool – for instance, Lee Cattermole, former Liverpool player Fabio Borini and Duncan Watmore.
Defoe, who could have been a convenient squad player at Anfield, is bound for Bournemouth, while Lamine Koné was highly-rated a year ago, with Everton interested, but his stock has fallen and will probably move to a lower Premier League side next season.
Therefore, that really leaves only one possible target – goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Reportedly valued at £30m, Pickford has enjoyed an outstanding season during Sunderland’s malaise, often preventing each game from becoming a humiliation.
At only 23, Pickford has the potential to become a elite goalkeeper for the next decade, although Sunderland are determined to hold onto their academy player.
Everton and Arsenal have been linked, while Liverpool’s current goalkeeping status is not completely secure. Simon Mignolet showed improvement last season, but still has some way to go, while Danny Ward could return to Huddersfield Town and Loris Karius struggled in his debut season at Anfield.
Pickford could add extra competition, either pushing himself or one of Mignolet and Karius to another level. Yet Liverpool need reinforcements elsewhere, and the expensive price for Pickford negates one of the advantages of buying from a relegated club, especially when that player is not a priority for the moment.
Possible targets at Middlesbrough
At Middlesbrough, their squad appears well-equipped to cope with life in the Championship but lacked enough Premier League quality – too good for one division, not good enough for the other.
Once a Liverpool target, Viktor Fischer moved to Middlesbrough last summer for a small fee from Ajax, but struggled with injury and form in the Premier League. He is only 22 but could soon be left behind at the highest levels.
Liverpool have also been previously linked with Gastón Ramírez and Adama Traoré – whilst both had their moments last season, they lack the consistency to succeed at Anfield.
Ben Gibson is the only likely potential option for the Reds. Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson – Ben’s uncle – would like to see his nephew lead the club back into the Premier League, and with Everton reportedly keen and a £25m fee touted, Gibson could make an instant return to the Premier League.
Gibson would represent a cheaper alternative to Van Dijk, and should be regarded alongside the likes of Burnley’s Michael Keane, also linked with a move to Anfield.
What about Hull City?
Finally, Hull City came close to survival, after appearing doomed under Mike Phelan, but even Marco Silva and his formidable home record were not enough in the end.
Abel Hernández could not bring his Championship form into the Premier League, with only five goals last season compared to twenty-two in Hull’s promotion campaign.
Years ago, the likes of Tom Huddlestone and David Marshall were mentioned as possible transfer targets for Liverpool, but whilst they are crucial to Hull’s hopes next season, Liverpool have long since moved on from the duo.
If the Reds are going to sign anyone from Hull, Andrew Robertson appears the best bet. Liverpool urgently need a left-back this summer, with midfielder James Milner deputising for all of last season. Whilst Milner performed admirably, the Reds need a specialist such as the 23-year-old Robertson.
A Scotland international, Robertson has been linked with Liverpool for a number of months and would save Klopp considerable funds when compared with Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy. Mendy, heavily linked with Manchester City, could command a fee of over £40m, whereas Robertson would cost much less.
Not too many choices then, but perhaps a couple of options to consider for Klopp and Liverpool from those sides relegated from the Premier League last season.
Robertson especially may follow the path to Anfield laid down by Ings and Wijnaldum, in what could be an unprecedented transfer window for Liverpool.