Which loan stars' futures are in limbo this summer?

Romelu Lukaku prefers Inter stay over Chelsea return, Folarin Balogun wants first-team football, and Man United are in no hurry to sign Wout Weghorst – who are the loan stars with their futures in limbo this summer?

  • A number of international stars will be returning from loan spells this summer 
  • Nathan Tella and James McAtee have both impressed in the Championship
  • But Joao Felix and Wout Weghorst have at times underwhelmed in the top-flight 

Days after the season draws to a close, players out on loan will begin to drift back to their parent clubs to be given the verdict on their future.  

Some players, like Folarin Balogun and Nathan Tella, have used their loan moves away from Premier League clubs to show off their perhaps under-appreciated talents,  

Others will have found it harder to settle, their hopes of rebounding successfully upon returning to their parent clubs as slim as being signed on a permanent basis. 

A few –  such as Romelu Lukaku – will return unwillingly, keen to prolong their stay but unable to force the hand of their loan club. 

Here, Mail Sport assesses the key Premier League loanees with question marks over their future this summer. 

Romelu Lukaku is rediscovering his form at Inter but the call on his future lies with Chelsea

Arthur Melo played just 13 minutes of competitive football across all competitions for the Reds

Nathan Tella left a Premier League club in Southampton for a loan spell at a Championship club with Burnley – and will return to a Championship club from a Premier League club

Romelu Lukaku 

As recently as March, Lukaku’s future at either Chelsea or Inter seemed untenable. 

The dreamed-of hero’s return to Milan after a torrid 12 months at Chelsea never came to fruition: the Belgian spent the first few months of the campaign sidelined by a hamstring injury before struggling to get back into Simone Inzaghi’s side. 

But the spring international break saw the stirrings of something different in the 30-year-old. Upon his return to Italy, Lukaku has scored six in his last five appearances, and although the striker failed to start both of Inter’s Champions League link-ups against loathed rivals AC Milan, his introduction as a substitute added threat. 

It may be a case of too little, too late. 

For £97.5m, Chelsea will want to see at least some return on their investment, and a strong finish to Inter’s campaign is unlikely to wipe the memory of two overwhelmingly lacklustre seasons in the minds of sporting directors shopping for strikers. 

Inter are hesitant to commit – club chief Beppe Marrotta was evasive when asked, saying only that Lukaku ‘wants to stay’ but that the decision lies with his club. 

Incoming Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is said to be mulling over how to get the forward back to his unplayable best, with the pair expected to discuss his plans when the season ends. 

But to avoid the scenario repeating itself, the Argentine must get Lukaku on side with the project and banish the lingering demons surrounding a return to Stamford Bridge. 

Lukaku has struggled upon his return to the San Siro but has no desire to return to London 

Joao Felix

The Atletico Madrid loanee arrived at Stamford Bridge in a blaze of glory in January, one of the countless recruits of Todd Boehly’s second transfer splurge, but a proven talent who had never reached his potential in Diego Simeone’s regime in the Spanish capital. 

It seemed likely he would impress – and he did! For all of 45 minutes, before being sent off on his debut for a high challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete. 

He was back in action after a three-match suspension but in a sense, Chelsea are still waiting for what was promised in that first half at Craven Cottage in January.

Felix has looked pacey and alert as a regular starter for the Blues, but he often fails to be a difference-maker. 

Felix has failed to register an assist in any of his Premier League or Champions League appearances, and despite scoring three goals in the league, the Portugal star has been unable to sharpen Chelsea’s blunted attack in a season where they scoring prowess has been woeful. 

The Portugal star has impressed at times but presents Chelsea with a conundrum over his form

The 22-year-old seems happy in west London but admitted that he doesn’t yet know his future. 

Atletico seem disquieted by speculation that Chelsea won’t meet the player’s steep fee, and Felix himself has brushed aside links that tie him to Newcastle as the Magpies seek to burnish their side ahead of next season’s Champions League football.

As with his almost-team-mate Lukaku, Felix will be waiting to hear Pochettino’s plans for him with bated breath. 

Arthur Melo

To say that Liverpool’s last-gasp signing of Arthur Melo was forced is to understate things.

Jurgen Klopp’s midfield – which would receive scrutiny for the remainder of the season – was already ragged, and when Jordan Henderson picked up a thigh injury against Newcastle days before the window slammed shut, there were hardly a wealth of options to replace him at short notice. 

The year-long, deadline day move did not go according to plan. Within a month of arriving at Anfield, Arthur was undergoing surgery on a thigh tear that kept him out for three months. 

Finally fully fit, the 26-year-old, who had been viewed by the club as a second Thiago Alcantara, has been unable to live up to expectation, and has since failed to make it into the matchday squad. 

As it stands, Arthur has only played 13 minutes of football in a red shirt. 

Speculation is rife that Klopp may hand him his Premier League debut in Liverpool’s final match of the season against Southampton. But Juventus are under no illusion that Liverpool will take him off their hands. 

At his parent club, the situation becomes more complicated. Having missed on Champions League football due to a 10-point deduction reinstated on Monday, Juventus will be open to hearing offers for a number of their players as they seek to rebuild after a turbulent season on and off the pitch.

They will be in no rush to hold onto the player they so willingly let go last September. 

The Juventus player was looking for a move away but failed to find a solution at Liverpool

Joao Cancelo’s reported falling-out with Pep Guardiola makes a return to the Etihad difficult

Joao Cancelo

Few might believe Cancelo would be playing away from the Etihad at the start of the campaign, but by January, relations between the player and his club were strained beyond repair. 

As Manchester City faltered during the season’s midpoint, Pep Guardiola grew frustrated with the Portugal international’s attitude as the squad fought to keep pace with league leaders Arsenal. 

Cancelo felt increasingly sidelined and battled for playing time, and things came to a head after Cancelo was left out of the starting XI during the side’s 1-0 defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup.

A loan move to Bayern Munich was swiftly organised, with an option for the club to purchase the out-of-favour player at the end of the season. 

But Cancelo was unable to hit the ground running in Bavaria, under Julian Nagelsmann, and couldn’t show City what they were missing when Bayern travelled to the Etihad in the Champions League. 

As Bayern’s campaign has edged towards its conclusion, Cancelo has been started more regularly by Tuchel, but there’s no clear sense that he’s part of the manager’s plan for next season. 

A return to City feels unbelieveable: instead, his agent Jorge Mendes is said to be developing a loan move to Barcelona. 

More intriguingly, Arsenal are reportedly preparing a bid for the full-back – although it remains to be seen whether City will let more of their former players move south after the successful bedding-in of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus during last summer’s window. 

Marcel Sabitzer

Drafted in after Christian Eriksen picked up a mid-term injury in January, Sabitzer has shown up fairly well during his time at Old Trafford.

Quickly thrown into the starting XI by Erik ten Hag, the Bayern Munich loanee picked up a Carabao Cup winners’ medal after triumphing against Newcastle in February, and scored three times in 18 appearances. 

Marcel Sabitzer has distinguished himself in Manchester but he comes with a punchy price tag

Staying in Manchester could be the happiest option for all involved. 

Sabitzer has been vocal about enjoying his time working under Ten Hag, with the squad, and called the Premier League ‘the best in the world’.

Plus, Bayern are in no rush to call him back – Thomas Tuchel is said to have left him out his plans for next season. 

But when Bayern presented United with an updated price tag – £22m – there might have been a sharp intake of breath. 

Ten Hag is thought to be shopping around for midfielders, with Adrien Rabiot the latest in his sights, and the higher fee could yet cause problems as the club prepares to enter the window without a decision made over its ownership. 

If the uncertainty over whether Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Sheikh Jassim, or the Glazers are holding the purse strings rolls on much longer, a permanent move for Sabitzer could be one of the casualties. 

Nathan Tella

Being called back to your Premier League parent club after being farmed out to a Championship side for your development should be the best-case scenario for a young player. 

But when the tables are set to turn at the end of the season, the water can become a little murkier. 

Now that Nathan Tella has won the Championship he will be keen to see top-flight action

Southampton loanee Nathan Tella was nailed down to a three-year contract with the club in January 2022, before being shipped out to recently-relegated Burnley just six months later. 

But since his move north, the 23-year-old has been a relevation as part of Vincent Kompany’s fast-paced, fluid side. 

After scoring twice on his debut for the Clarets, Tella has gone on to score 17 across his 33 appearances this season.

That total is more than half than the Saints have managed as a club during this year’s woeful Premier League campaign. 

Tella’s team-mate Josh Brownhill said he was ‘shocked’ Southampton didn’t recall the winger in the January transfer window, but there’s no confirmation on anything other than a return to St Mary’s at the end of the season.

After firing Burnley back into the Premier League, another spell in the Championship could feel very unfair indeed. 

Wout Weghorst 

Just as Tella may not have imagined staying in the Championship after a stellar season at Burnley, Weghorst might have found it hard to imagine he would be starting for United after falling out of favour at Turf Moor shortly after the club’s 2022 relegation. 

But desperate times (Cristiano Ronaldo’s bombshell Piers Morgan interview and subsequent absconding to Saudi Arabia) call for desperate measures (the recruitment of swiping of Weghorst from initial loan destination Besiktas during the January window). 

Unfortunately, things at United quickly turned desperate, with Weghorst scoring only twice in his 29 appearances across all competition, and is yet to find the net in the Premier League. 

His future remains unclear: Weghorst doesn’t fit easily into Kompany’s model at Burnley, where he’s due to return at the end of the season, although the manager is looking to hold talks with the player to discuss potential involvement. 

United have their sights on bigger prizes, keen to lure Harry Kane, or Victor Osimhen, or Goncalo Ramos north to lead the line. 

Wout Weghorst has failed to impress at Old Trafford, and is yet to score a Premier League goal

By contrast, Folarin Balogun has found the back of the net 21 times in a Reims shirt this season

Folarin Balogun 

Balogun settled one question mark over his playing career at the start of the month – the forward will turn out for the USA, not England.

Balogun switched allegiances after a prolonged campaign by the USMNT, and they will be lucky to have him. Another larger question is much more slippery. 

The 21-year-old is still, in spirit, an Arsenal player, but since 2020, Balogun has only made two appearances for the Gunners. 

After a spell at Middlesbrough last season, Balogun was shipped off to France, where the striker has set Ligue 1 alight at Reims. 

The 11th-placed side are keen to hang onto the 21-goal forward, who is ranked third in Ligue 1 for the highest number of shots on target. But Balogun is ready to go home – with a caveat. 

His sights are set on first-team football, rather than playing understudy, something that Eddie Nketiah already grapples with on Mikel Arteta’s bench. 

Unable to assure him of a regular start, Arsenal are said to be looking to use his sale to raise funds for transfers in key areas – midfield and defensively. 

AC Milan have been vocal about their interest in the player as a potential replacement for Olivier Giroud. 

Hannibal Mejbri

Hannibal registered just three appearances during his senior debut season for United, before being sent on season-long loan to Birmingham City. 

There, the Tunisian international has seen consistent playing time, making 41 appearances for the Blues during his spell in the Midlands. 

Hannibal Mejbri has seen consistent playing time at Birmingham after moving last summer 

A return to Manchester was never far from his mind. 

After scoring his only goal of the campaign – a free-kick against West Bromwich Albion which was later voted the club’s goal of the season – Hannibal teased that he was sure Ten Hag had Sky, and was therefore able to watch his performance. 

‘But I just need to focus until the end of the season and we will see in the summer,’ he added.  

The midfielder has shown a raft of promise during his youth career, but it could be a while longer before his manager feels he can be tested at the highest level. 

But the player could be contented with another move, and didn’t rule out returning to St Andrews if the loan was extended. 

James McAtee

The ‘Salford Silva’ has done more than enough to impress whilst on loan at Sheffield United, becoming one of Paul Heckingbottom’s standout players as the club powered up the table to seal automatic promotion. 

But fighting one’s way into Manchester City’s playing squad is a taller order than most. 

Guardiola has long kept an eye on McAtee – despite being unable to watch him during the two teams’ FA Cup link-up.

And the club is said to have opened discussions with the young player over a new contract. 

But should McAtee want regular playing time, the 20-year-old would no doubt be wise to seek a move away. 

Whilst Guardiola has shown faith in promoting academy products such as Cole Palmer, Rico Lewis, and Phil Foden, the journey to first-team starter is a long way off. 

Against the backdrop of discussions, a number of clubs have become to circle. 

Bournemouth, Brighton, Aston Villa, and Brentford are amongst the Premier League clubs that have registered their interest in the starlet, but the most thought-provoking offer could come from Kompany’s Burnley. 

James McAttee was Sheffield United’s ‘Young Player of the Season’ and potential suitors are swarming around the City academy graduate

Source: Read Full Article