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David de Gea? Mesut Ozil? Five players who might have played their last game for their clubs

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John Stones

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ByAlexander Netherton
25/07/2020 at 18:31 | Updated 26/07/2020 at 17:07

After the final round of Premier League games on Sunday afternoon, we look at five players who might have made their final appearances for their clubs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen some players commit to their clubs as both parties elect to choose safety first. Olivier Giroud remains at Chelsea, for example, and Nemanja Matic is contractually committed to Manchester United for a couple of years more. Before Covid-19, neither of these looked like reasonable outcomes. On the other hand, the impact of the virus on club finances means that some players can no longer be indulged at their current salary. Here are some of the biggest names linked with an exit:

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Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Mesut Ozil of Arsenal takes on Dru Yearwood of Brentford during a friendly match between Arsenal and Brentford at Emirates Stadium on June 10, 2020

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Ozil’s situation at Arsenal is perhaps the most difficult to resolve. He stands to earn around £14 million before tax in the final year of his current contract, a wage of around £350,000 a week. Even if he were to move to the Chinese Super League, Major League Soccer or Qatar/the United Arab Emirates it is hard to imagine anyone would be willing to match his wages were he to move. A transfer within Europe might be just as difficult. None of the richest clubs will be in for him, and Arsenal do not necessarily have the cash to pay him off to leave early. Perhaps a move to Turkey could appeal, with some clubs occasionally able to afford outlandish wages for big-name signings.

It has been said that Ozil is content to collect the wedge he is entitled to, but given he is frozen out indefinitely under Mikel Arteta, his pride might ultimately entertain a move elsewhere. Just what he is prepared to settle for remains unclear.

David de Gea (Manchester United)

David de Gea before Manchester United's match at West Ham.

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De Gea’s position at United is getting close to untenable, with a string of high-profile mistakes over the last three years making him a cause of concern, where once he was a match-winner. He is another player on a hefty salary though. His wages are close to Ozil’s but more awkwardly for Manchester United the deal runs until 2023. Without being privy to contractual specifics, De Gea may be entitled to a payoff of tens of millions if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decides to make room for Dean Henderson.

While Ozil might find a new club difficult to find, it could be just as hard for De Gea. Paris Saint-Germain have Keylor Navas, who is more reliable if less prone to momentary brilliance. Juventus have Wojciech Szczesny, Mattia Perrin and the interminable Gianluigi Buffon to provide at least another season’s cover. Real Madrid are happy with Thibaut Courtois, so United may be left hoping that someone takes Jan Oblak from Atletico Madrid to allow De Gea a sentimental reason to leave, if not a professional one.

Willian (Chelsea)

Willian vom FC Chelsea

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Willian has been linked with a move away from Chelsea for the last few seasons, but his future is no clearer despite the end of his contract being on the horizon. The club are reportedly interested in offering him another year at the club, but are reluctant to offer him more than a single season, contrary to the player's wishes.

The 31-year-old Brazilian is available for nothing once his contract expires, so he is obviously not going to be short of suitors. He has apparently turned down one offer from China, and on this season’s evidence he is not creaking too much to need to slow down yet. His former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho would doubtless be happy to see him at Spurs after failing to bring him to Manchester United, and the Arsenal-Chelsea business line remains open and useful to both sides.

John Stones (Manchester City)

John Stones

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Pep Guardiola is not a happy man. Despite his side winning its appeal against a Champions League ban, he remains in a chippy mood. He wants an apology from people asking questions about the club’s actions, which still brought them a multimillion fine. He wants respect!

Perhaps more than respect, though, he wants a central defender. He could not persuade Vincent Kompany to stay at the Etihad when the Belgian was offered the chance to be player-manager at Anderlecht, and has seen what the rest of his defence can offer him. Aymeric Laporte is excellent. Fernandinho is an aged central midfielder, and John Stones remains alarmingly vulnerable despite being Pep-tutored and 26 years old.

It remains to be seen if City are willing to push the limits of spending again, and given Guardiola’s ruthless turnover of full-backs in his time at City so far, it would be no shock if he snips Stones from his squad to raise funds, and try something new. As for the player, Arsenal might be willing to take a chance on him if Arteta, once City’s assistant manager, thinks he can get something out of his former colleague, and most teams in the league would likely be willing to take a chance on a homegrown player whose talent remains clear.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool)

Xherdan Shaqiri und Jürgen Klopp (FC Liverpool)

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Liverpool’s two splurges, on Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk, brought them their first league title in three decades. It seems that such outlays brought forward spending so that this summer will be far quieter than you might expect from such a successful club. Covid-19 has probably done little to change that.

Stories suggest that Xherdan Shaqiri is one of the players ready to be moved on to trim the squad. He is far from deadwood, but at 28 there's not much more improvement to come. The same can be said for Divock Origi, the 25-year-old Belgian forward who can’t find a way past Liverpool’s brilliant front three. With Thiago seemingly close to a switch from Bayern Munich, Klopp seems ready to rely on his same strikers and to improve upon the midfield, perhaps his side’s weakest area. Shaqiri will doubtless be in demand in the Premier League and abroad, so could raise some useful funds for Liverpool’s future plans.

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