Busy summer agenda awaits Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Whichever division Norwich City are preparing for, a busy summer awaits.
Sporting director Stuart Webber and his recruitment team are helped by Daniel Farke’s squad being in such a strong promotion position with eight games remaining.
Sitting 14 points clear of third ahead of tomorrow’s return to Championship action at Preston has allowed Premier League preparations to be stepped up early, in the hope that a place in the top two can be sealed in the next few weeks.
The summer transfer window will of course be the key focus but there are many issues in need of attention.
Whether promotion is confirmed or not, the volume of new arrivals seems likely to be dictated by any big money sales.
Max Aarons, Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell are likely to be in demand but, as City fans know, the club’s financial strength means only big bids from big clubs will have any chance – although remaining in the Championship would undoubtedly alter that.
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- 4 City ace Krul reflects on Premier League interest
- 5 Spurs loanee Skipp discusses his future and potential of Canaries return
- 6 City lose Giannoulis appeal; three-game ban stands
- 7 PRESSER LIVE: City v Watford - Hanley, Pukki, Cantwell injury doubts
- 8 Pressure on Hornets for title-hunting City
- 9 'I rate him. He's a fantastic player' - Farke open to Skipp return
- 10 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 defeat against Watford
Webber’s negotiating position is also strengthened by all three having plenty of time to run on deals signed following promotion in 2019. Aarons and Buendia are contracted until 2024 and although Cantwell’s deal was until 2022, City do have the option for a further 12 months.
Beyond that, promotion is expected to see two loan deals become permanent for significant fees, with influential centre-back Ben Gibson set to join from Burnley for a reported £8million and Greek international left-back Dimitris Giannoulis from PAOK for around £6m.
Xavi Quintilla’s loan from Villarreal hasn’t worked out so it seems unlikely the Spaniard will remain but that would leave a left-back vacancy to be filled.
Sam Byram could be a contender if he returns to fitness during pre-season but after his injury problems and with the potential for the need for an Aarons replacement on his natural right side, a left-back is likely to be on the shopping list.
Sam McCallum is due to return from a season as a Championship regular for Coventry, with the 20-year-old primarily playing as a wing-back, so will come into the conversation and fellow youngster Bali Mumba has also played on the left.
Canaries fans know all about the step up in quality once in the top flight though.
Orjan Nyland and Michael McGovern are both due to be out of contract, so unless both are to sign new deals, at least one goalkeeper will be needed to compete with number one Tim Krul.
A centre-back, a central attacking midfielder and a striker could well be on the shopping list as well but a summer saga is already potentially brewing around the future of Oliver Skipp.
If Spurs do want the talented defensive midfielder back in their squad, that will be a crucial cog in Farke’s machine that needs replacing.
Another issue to be resolved is Moritz Leitner, who remains in Germany and not training with City after being frozen out last summer, with a contract until 2022.
One area that promotion is likely to benefit is being able to sign players from overseas, with work permit regulations since Brexit making it difficult to sign players who are not regulars in top-flight football or at international level for a club ranked inside Fifa’s top 50.
Unlike Leitner, some players did manage to secure loan deals to ensure they kept playing football this season.
Tom Trybull has played reasonably regularly in the Championship for Blackburn this season but is under contract until 2022, with the option for a further year.
As with Swiss striker Josip Drmic, the German appears unlikely to have a future with the Canaries. Drmic’s deal does expire in 2022, with the 28-year-old former Bundesliga regular having scored once in eight games since joining Croatian side Rijeka in January.
Veteran defender Timm Klose has been a regular in the Swiss top flight for Basel this season but his loan was arranged with a view to a permanent deal, with his contract also due to expire in 2022.
Philip Heise will also still have 12 months left on his deal, despite having played just once for City since joining in January 2019. The left-back has suggested in recent days that he would be interested in remaining with Karlsruher having featured regularly in Bundesliga Two this season.
Luxembourg international Danel Sinani has been on the fringes at Belgian loan club Waasland-Beveren recently and was only signed last summer, but the Premier League would appear to be a big step up for the 23-year-old.
Alongside several talented youngsters, including centre-back Akin Famewo impressing in League One for Charlton during an injury-disrupted campaign, is midfielder Louis Thompson.
The 26-year-old midfielder’s injury issues have continued while back at MK Dons for a second loan spell, being restricted to six starts in League One. Thompson is another out of contract in 2022 but with City having an option for a further year.
There are more immediate contract considerations though, aside from the already mentioned uncertainty for keepers Nyland and McGovern.
Webber had revealed that talks with midfielders Alex Tettey and Mario Vrancic were due to be held during the current international break, with their deals set to expire this summer.
Tettey turns 35 on Sunday but has only started five Championship games this season. Vrancic turns 32 next month and with three goals and five assists this season he has remained a regular.
Both are popular players but if they want to stay, are unlikely to receive assurances about game time next season, regardless of which division is being prepared for.
After promotion two years ago, new contracts were given to 13 first-team regulars as a show of loyalty and reward for that title triumph.
It seems unlikely that quite as many would follow if the Canaries can seal an immediate return to the top tier, with the only current first-team regulars out of contract in 2022 being midfielders Lukas Rupp and Marco Stiepermann.
On the back-burner as well, of course, is City fans being well aware that Farke and Webber’s contracts are due to expire in 2022.
On the agenda
The return of supporters to Carrow Road will be a major focus over the summer, with everyone in football desperately hoping the success of Covid-19 vaccines will allow full houses from August.
Promotion would also see the return of VAR (video assistant referee) technology and would mean eight fewer games, with entry to the League Cup in the second round adding to a less hectic schedule – especially when compared to the current unprecedented season.
The other big impact is undeniably financial though, with City having braced for a total loss of expected income of around £30m since the pandemic first brought a three-month suspension to the 2019-20 season.
Carrow Road season ticket holders were able to complete payment for 2020-21 in the knowledge that they were actually paying for the 2021-22 campaign, when it became clear that most of this season was behind closed doors – or could claim a refund of their payments if they needed the money.
With the team that finishes bottom of the Premier League earning close to £100m over the course of one season, with parachute payments to potentially follow for a minimum of two years, returning to the world’s most-watched football league will play a massive part in City’s self-funding model navigating those undoubted financial challenges.