Michael Bailey: Norwich City’s contract game explained – and the clues over how it’s going
While potential new faces grab the headlines, it’s the group waiting for them that shows how healthy things at Norwich City really are – MICHAEL BAILEY looks into the Canaries’ current contract state of affairs within their squad.
The close season comes into its own for several reasons: recovering, holidaying, reliving, reviewing, dreaming, transferring - and least appreciated, no hiding.
If a club has a well run football department - or not - then it becomes patently clear once the season is over and you start to have the time to pore over the potential players coming in, who's coming back from their loans, those hanging around in the squad and more pertinently, how long that bit of paper they signed says they will stay at the club.
Not every detail is made public of course and while some options for an additional year - and who holds that option - are revealed, not all of them are.
But even with those limitations, the picture tells an accurate story.
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For example in June 2016 following Premier League relegation and by my records 25 senior players on the books, 17 had contracts due to expire in 12 months. Only four of them carried an additional year's option.
For the record, all four options were not taken up: John Ruddy, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, Steven Whittaker and Kyle Lafferty.
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In fact, of the 17 only three got new deals to stay beyond 2017: Wes Hoolahan, Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey. In the end it actually made City's huge transition since, that much easier.
It's all important context too, when a further three years down the track from that top-flight relegation, Norwich City are preparing for their Premier League return in the kind of health that the money involved in English football's top table generally likes to corrupt.
The squad looked reasonably balanced on the pitch last season, and it looks likewise on paper this summer: 28 senior professionals in contention for next season as it stands, 13 contracted until June 2022 and beyond, six for two more years and nine currently holding 12 months on their deal. The additional options are then dotted about.
- CONTRACTED UNTIL JUNE 2023
The four contracted for four more years include two of City's primary assets in flying full-backs Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons - as well as Friday evening's breaker as Onel Hernandez committed to another two years. Indeed, the three other deals are relatively fresh too - being confirmed in late 2018.
- CONTRACTED UNTIL JUNE 2022
The June 2022 tranche ensures City have plenty of banked value - including Emi Buendia, Moritz Leitner and Ben Godfrey who has an additional year's option in the mix. You imagine that probably won't stop Rio Ferdinand touting around the City star for the benefit of Rio's New Era sports agency.
The same group includes Philip Heise, who signed in January and hasn't been seen since - and Ben Marshall, who's contract may be more useful in terms of protecting his value should he find himself back out on loan next season.
From here on in life gets a little more interesting, and City are in a nice position.
- CONTRACTED UNTIL JUNE 2021
Of the six players with two years left to run on their deals, Norwich will effectively make a decision during next 12 months: whether to make it clear they want the player around longer, or they feel they need to see how things play out - which would naturally come with being relaxed over the possibility they could eventually leave for free.
Dennis Srbeny, Tom Trybull and Christoph Zimmermann are the trio still set to be under 29 when their two years expire, while any indications Teemu Pukki can switch seamlessly from prolific in the Championship to clinical in the Premier League may yet have a positive impact on his current deal.
Which leaves us with the final group: those now entering the final year of their contract. If you're getting it wrong as a club, this is where it shows.
- CONTRACTED UNTIL JUNE 2020
Fortunately, Norwich's list looks in good control.
The nine include one loan signing in Patrick Roberts, four returning loanees that will have a serious task to get anywhere near the first team next term - and City may well consider their exits as a matter of natural course.
Aston Oxborough is young goalkeeping cover in need of games, while Alex Tettey is the experienced head that never dreamed the second year of his 2018 deal would see Norwich City back in the Premier League, where it all began for him in 2013.
Which leaves the two anomalies. Todd Cantwell, whose agent currently seems reticent to follow the same development path as Lewis, Aarons and Godfrey - and Mario Vrancic, now 30, whose remarkably efficient amount of action may well have left him needing a new and extended contract to be properly rewarded for helping City get back to the top-flight.
It wouldn't be a football club without the odd contractual issue to resolve - but at the same time, it's a logically organised group that has been well managed across a number of months and with it, saving the summer for figuring who to bring in, for how much, and for how long.
If City can continue on the same path off the pitch, they will also manage to ride out the storms of whatever happens on it.
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