No one likes to see their team relegated. Dropping down a division can often cause the better players to jump ship and cause a team to spiral. There is a silver lining when it comes to Football Index though, and that is that those shining stars that look to be getting relegated often become hot property. To prove this, here are a few examples from last season. Southampton looked almost certain to go down last season and as it became more apparent, the likes of Ryan Bertrand began rising pretty quickly. In the end the Saints survived but that didn’t stop him peaking at £1.30 (at a time where £1.30 was considered a high price, but before the most recent share split). This is also a good example of the fact that the team doesn’t even have to end up being relegated for you to have a window to profit.
A good example of a player that followed the jump-ship theme was Xherdan Shaqiri, who joined Liverpool shortly after Stoke's relegation from the top flight. You can see below that you could have picked him up at less than a pound this time last year when relegation began to threaten Stoke. That is the beauty of this strategy - it can be very low-maintenance but highly rewarding.
So, on to this year’s candidates. There are plenty of potential bargains for clubs to pick up in the summer from all around Europe’s top leagues. Let’s start at home with the English clubs.
The most obvious one (and for that reason, the most expensive) is Ryan Sessegnon at Fulham. He ticks all the boxes for the current market positives since he is young and English. At £1.44, you may think he’s too expensive already, but as I have expressed before, market prices in positive situations don’t seem to impact buying. If he starts getting links, people will buy because they think he will go up, those who already hold love to see more green and continue to hold and therefore the price increases. So I don’t think £2 is out of the question at all, and along with the rest of the players I am going to mention, you have to consider the fact that many will take money out of performance-based players and put it into transfer targets at some point which potentially boosts the price ceiling for all of these targets higher than we would currently expect.
Another player at Fulham that might be worth a look is Jean Michael Seri, who was chased by Chelsea last summer before surprisingly opting for a move to Fulham. He will almost certainly not be playing Championship football so, at sub-50p, he provides a nice option to pick up transfer links.
Looking at Huddersfield Town, who are very much on the ropes, the pickings are slim in terms of players you’d expect to be staying in the Premier League. The only one who has seen some action after a pretty impressive season in the top flight is 22-year-old Phillip Billing. He has the highest average on Sofascore for the Terriers by some margin at 7.21 (the only player currently above a seven rating) and at 49p post-share split, he could be quite attractive should rumours begin to emerge.
Burnley, on the other hand, are fighting relegation, but that hasn’t stopped people picking up on the talent of Dwight McNeil who is now priced at £0.84. James Tarkowski also has to be a man in demand after his recent England call-ups and it is unlikely he’ll settle for Championship football should the worst happen and centre-back is certainly a position plenty of top clubs are chasing. With Chelsea (A), Man City (H), Everton (A) and Arsenal (H) in their last four games, they need to pick up a few points in the coming matches or they will definitely be in the dogfight come May.
If we look at La Liga, there are definitely a few gems in danger of the drop. Huesca are pretty much down but there is not a lot on offer there. Rayo Vallecano are also looking likely to go down. The key player fighting to keep them up is Raul De Tomas, who has bagged 11 goals this campaign. The 22-year-old does return to Madrid at the end of the season after his loan spell but with Zidane back at the helm and a high probability of a big spending summer, someone could definitely get a bargain by taking De Tomas off their books. In February, he said, “I have a contract with them, it’s something I have to respect. Once I’m there we will see what happens.” At £0.52, he could be a great Football Index bargain too after scoring 35 goals in 56 appearances since arriving on his two-year loan at Rayo when he was just 19.
Surprisingly, Villarreal are looking in danger of relegation after a fifth-place finish last season. They have a pretty talented team but the stand-out player has to be Pablo Fornals, who has already attracted interest from Arsenal and Spurs. Samuel Chukwueze is another one Villarreal may have to lose after the 19-year-old has shown great potential in his debut season.
If it’s not Villarreal that drop out of La Liga then Celta Vigo could be in trouble as they currently sit four points adrift of 17th. Again, a surprise to see them down there, but certainly a lot of talent to be picked out by others. The stand-out talent is Maxi Gomez at £0.97 who has been linked with a £35million move to Liverpool in recent weeks, as well as Barcelona supposedly sniffing around, however, they have apparently been hesitant to come in for him due to him not having an EU passport. Former Liverpool forward Iago Aspas (£0.57) would also likely be looking for the exit after another impressive season with a double-digit goal tally and an impressive 7.42 WhoScored average.
Moving on to Italy, Chievo and Frosinone look all but down with the third relegation spot still “up for grabs”. Empoli could be in trouble and regardless of that, Empoli’s president confirmed Ismael Bennacer is 'destined' for summer exit in February, with Arsenal and Napoli keeping tabs on the central midfielder. The 21-year-old is currently only £0.42 on Football Index. Udinese find themselves in a similar scenario and also have their own star man in Rodrigo De Paul. He has bagged seven goals this season with an average of 7.46 and currently sits at £0.72.
The other leagues are offering little in terms of basement bargains but there are a few knocking around. In France, the son of World Cup-winning Lillian Thuram, Marcus Thuram (£0.90) at Guingamp looks destined to leave with Arsenal and Dortmund currently the clubs seriously interested. The left winger’s contract expires in 2020 so it appears a sale in the summer is the only way that Guingamp will get any money from his departure.
Over in Germany, surprisingly Schalke could be in trouble, sitting just three points outside the relegation zone. They have some big talent that could jump ship after such a poor season, regardless of whether they go down or not. Breel Embolo (£0.47) was someone who was chased by many when he emerged as a talent but opted for a move to Schalke instead. After a couple of underwhelming seasons, you have to expect if they get relegated, he will be heading for the exit. They also have ex-Spurs man Nabil Bentaleb (£0.31) and USA hotshot Weston Mckennie (£0.51) on their books who would definitely have people sniffing around them should they become available. Finally, a quick note on Hannover. They look all but down in the Bundesliga and although their team isn’t incredible, there are a few cheap punts available in the shape of Ihlas Bebou (£0.34) with the 24-year-old picking up 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 matches as well as Waldemar Anton (£0.29), a highly rated 22-year-old centre back, who is yet to miss a game this season.
Overall there are plenty of opportunities to profit from the sinking ships around Europe! Below you can compare the players’ prices mentioned with the current probability of their team's relegation indicated by the best odds available on them going down. Some may like to use this as a risk assessment but survival often doesn’t mean they are destined to keep hold of their stars who are sick of being a big fish in a small pond!
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I hope this article has been useful in preparing your portfolio for the week ahead, happy trading and I’ll be back same time next week!