The modern game is certainly filled with some difficult moments.
It doesn’t matter whether you are one of the biggest football clubs in the world or not, when it comes to constructing a football team, it is never easy.
Just because the Premier League is one of the most luxurious divisions in the world, it doesn’t mean English clubs can keep their best players with any longevity.
The top-six Premier League sides are currently dominating above everyone else, with sixth-placed Manchester United a massive 11 points clear of Watford in seventh.
But nothing is ever guaranteed in football, meaning that the top six need to ensure that they can keep their current squads together for as long as possible.
How realistic is that? Squawka have decided to look into which top-six Premier League sides are the most future-proof, looking into the duration of their players’ contracts and seeing how long they have left until their respective expiry dates.
Should they be worried?
Average squad contract length: 2021.32
Contract expires 2019: Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck, Nacho Monreal, Petr Cech, David Ospina and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Contract expires 2020: Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscielny.
Contract expires 2021: Sokratis, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Shkodran Mustafi.
Contract expires 2022: Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Emiliano Martínez, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi and Mattéo Guendouzi.
Contract expires 2023: Bernd Leno, Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira and Konstantinos Mavropanos.
It is already common knowledge that Ramsey’s time in north London is coming to an end, with reports of his move to Serie A giants Juventus now seemingly just a formality.
Letting a man of Ramsey’s quality leave the club on a free is extremely poor business from Arsenal, who will also see Premier League great Cech depart the club at the end of the campaign.
With Welbeck currently out injured, Ospina away from the club, Lichtsteiner yet to showcase his worth to Unai Emery’s side and Monreal edging towards his mid-30’s, it’s hard to see any of these players showcasing their talents at the Emirates next season.
The good news for Arsenal is that they have got most of their key players under contract for the foreseeable future. Losing club captain Koscielny next year wouldn’t be ideal but he would be nearing 35-years of age and unlikely to to feature regularly.
One problem could be that they have one player who is still well under-contract in Ozil, who is not only out of the Arsenal starting XI of late but also paid roughly £350,000 per week to warm the bench. The German’s situation represents a problem for Emery to try and work out one way or another.
However, having promising youngsters Guendouzi, Torreira, Maitland-Niles and Iwobi tied down to the club alongside key strikers Aubameyang and Lacazette will only hold Arsenal in good stead.
Future-proof rating: 7/10 – A few decent players are dangerously close to leaving but overall Arsenal shouldn’t be worrying too much.
Average squad contract length: 2021.035
Contract expires 2019: Robert Green, Willy Caballero, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Mateo Kovacic (on loan), Olivier Giroud and Lucas Piazon.
Contract expires 2020: Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro, Marco van Ginkel and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Contract expires 2021: Victor Moses, Jamal Blackman, Davide Zappacosta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Contract expires 2022: Cesar Azpilicueta, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rudiger, Alvaro Morata, Emerson and Andreas Christensen.
Contract expires 2023: Jorginho, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante and Ethan Ampadu.
Contract expires 2025: Kepa Arrizabalaga.
At the end of this campaign, there are one or two players who you could imagine Blues boss Maurizio Sarri would like to remain at the club for the near future.
David Luiz is performing relatively well and, after already selling him once before, it’s doubtful Chelsea would want to lose him for free this time around.
Giroud is the other player who may still be needed although he has hardly hit the ground running since his move to Chelsea last year. With Cahill likely to leave, the departures of Green, Caballero and Piazon are unlikely to unnerve any Chelsea supporters.
What is unnerving is that this summer could be arguably a decade-defining summer, with world-class talent Hazard now less than 18 months away from his contract expiring.
The Belgium international could be off to Madrid this summer, especially if Chelsea want to make sure they don’t let the playmaker leave for nothing.
Three other playmakers are nearing the end of their respective deals, with Willian, Pedro and Hudson-Odoi – the latter linked with a move to Bayern Munich this summer – all assets to the club.
The majority of Chelsea’s talent is contracted until at least 2022 with Kepa – the world’s most expensive goalkeeper – set to stay put until at least 2025.
Future-proof rating: 4/10 – The loss of Hazard would be terrible, while Luiz and Hudson-Odoi’s potential departures would be pretty bad too.
Average squad contract length: 2021.78
Contract expires 2019: James Milner, Daniel Sturridge, Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno.
Contract expires 2020: Adam Lallana, Joel Matip and Divock Origi.
Contract expires 2021: Dejan Lovren, Georginio Wijnaldum and Simon Mignolet.
Contract expires 2022: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Contract expires 2023: Jordan Henderson, Xherdan Shaqiri, Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Fabinho and Naby Keita.
Contract expires 2025: Alisson, Andrew Robertson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Looking at the above names and their relative contract expiry dates, Liverpool look to be in decent shape.
Milner has proven to be a valuable addition to the Liverpool ranks, with Jurgen Klopp utilising Milner’s talents across the pitch consistently over the past few years.
Losing him would be a blow but it could be considered likely that he will be offered an extra year for his efforts throughout this campaign, especially if they win the title.
Sturridge has undoubted quality but his fitness levels are always a concern and it would be more of a shame rather than truly damaging if he were to leave this summer.
Next season, Lallana’s fitness levels, Matip’s lack of top-class ability and Origi’s struggles to establish himself at the club, concludes that it wouldn’t be a major blow on the pitch to lose any of the trio.
Speaking of trios, Liverpool’s famous front three all have plenty of time left on their deals and with age on their side, you can only imagine the havoc they will continue to cause together as they all enter their peak years.
Four of Liverpool’s solid back five all have long-term deals, with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold both committing themselves to the club recently.
Klopp’s side could be about to enter some extremely exciting times at Anfield.
Future-proof rating: 9/10 – Klopp should have no real contractual worries for a good number of years. Excellent work.
Average squad contract length: 2021.6
Contract expires 2019: Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala.
Contract expires 2020: Fernandinho, David Silva, Claudio Bravo, Fabian Delph, Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Contract expires 2021: Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Arijanet Muric.
Contract expires 2022: Nicolas Otamendi, Kyle Walker, Danilo, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Philippe Sandler.
Contract expires 2023: Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Benjamin Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte and Gabriel Jesus.
Contract expires 2024: Phil Foden.
Contract expires 2025: Ederson.
Such is the depth of Manchester City’s squad and pockets, there isn’t ever any true need to worry too much about the condition the squad will find itself in season upon season.
It is likely that club legend Kompany will depart the club this summer following his fantastic tenure at the club. He is at an age now where he is limited to what he can contribute on the pitch, leaving a space for a younger man to take his place as a City rock.
Two key players may be leaving next year too, as both David Silva and Fernandinho have less than 18 months on their respective deals. Like Kompany, they are reaching an age where it becomes tough to offer them the right deal and they may seek adventures elsewhere.
City have a fairly older squad but Pep Guardiola has been clever and bought wisely, building for the future by mixing younger players in with the older. Think, Aguero and Jesus, Silva and Sane, Kompany and Stones.
Long-term stars such as De Bruyne, Stones, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Mahrez, Ederson, Mendy and Laporte have plenty of time left on their deals, with City giving themselves breathing space to replace any outgoing legends.
Like Liverpool, City look prepared for anything that may happen and already seem to have their squad taking shape for the next five years.
Future-proof rating: 8/10 – Goodbye to the old guard and hello to the new generation.
Average squad contract length: 2020.55
Contract expires 2019: Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira.
Contract expires 2020: David de Gea, Lee Grant, Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matic, Marcus Rashford and Eric Bailly.
Contract expires 2021: Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Victor Lindelof and Joel Pereira.
Contract expires 2022: Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling.
Contract expires 2023: Luke Shaw, Fred, Scott McTominay and Diogo Dalot.
Things could be about to get extremely difficult at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have a massive eight first-team players who have less than six months to go on their current contracts.
Martial was an expensive transfer when the Frenchman joined the club so to lose him would be even worse than Arsenal’s handling of Ramsey.
Mata is a quality player when given the chance, while Jones, Valencia and Young are proven squad players, even if they aren’t quite what they either used to be or what was expected of them upon arrival at the club.
What with United signing Sanchez on a monumental salary, and with the likes of De Gea, Rashford and Bailly due for a contract discussion at some point soon, expect the majority of the class of 2019 expirees to leave the club this summer.
There are more players up until 2020 than beyond it, such is the nature of United’s squad at the moment. At least Smalling is sticking around for the long-term.
Future-proof rating: 3/10 – Major squad depth loss could be around the corner with key players leaving it tight to sign new deals.
Average squad contract length: 2020.55
Contract expires 2019: Michael Vorm and Fernando Llorente.
Contract expires 2020: Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Vincent Janssen.
Contract expires 2021: Moussa Sissoko, Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou.
Contract expires 2022: Hugo Lloris, Kieran Trippier, Erik Lamela, Serge Aurier, Paulo Gazzaniga and Juan Foyth.
Contract expires 2023: Lucas Moura, Heung-min Son, Harry Winks and Kyle Walker-Peters.
Contract expires 2024: Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Davison Sanchez.
At the end of this season, Spurs will have no real concerns about players leaving the club for free.
Both Vorm and Llorente are in their twilight years and will most likely leave the club with a pat on the back and a handshake for their minimal services.
The real issue will be ensuring the club don’t lose three vital players for free the following summer, with Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen all edging closer to that expiry date.
The two centre-backs are vitally important for Spurs but losing Eriksen could be a major blow in any further developments the club want to make under current boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Otherwise, Spurs are fine.
Two of England’s finest – Kane and Alli – are there for the long-term, with only a real monster bid from a rival club – most likely a world-record transfer going by the inflated prices of recent transfer windows – threatening to take them away from the north London.
Having Moura, Son, Winks and Sanchez on long-term deals represent a solid future.
Club owner Daniel Levy may have no choice but to invest heavily in player recruitment next summer in order to please the players, the manager and the supporters.
Future-proof rating: 8/10 – The majority of Spurs’ squad are there for a while, but they must sort out Eriksen’s situation before it is too late.