10 Jun 2023 - Manchester City v Inter Milan - UEFA Champions League - Final - Ataturk Olympic Stadium. Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips celebrates winning the Champions League Final in Istanbul.

12 ‘big six’ players that really ought to move before the transfer window closes

We’re now into the final weeks of the summer 2023 transfer window and there remain some talented, well-paid internationals who could still do with a move after being pushed to the periphery at clubs including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. 

It’s an increasingly common phenomenon that players that could theoretically be the best player at a club lower down football’s food chain end up rotting away on the bench at some of England’s elite clubs.

We’ve identified 12 players at ‘Big Six’ clubs that really ought to move clubs in the coming days if they want to play regular football in 2023-24.

Harry Maguire

Once the most expensive defender in history, it looks likely that Maguire will spend another season on Manchester United’s bench after dilly-dallying over an approach from West Ham. It’s a shame, because Maguire would’ve been well-suited to David Moyes’ Hammers and a considerable threat on the end of James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece deliveries.

Erik ten Hag has revoked Maguire’s captaincy and made it abundantly clear that he’s not in his first-team plans. The 30-year-old is left relying on an injury crisis if he’s to get opportunities.

With a new crop of talented centre-backs emerging, such as Chelsea’s Levi Colwill, there’s a very strong chance that Maguire sacrifices his place in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 plans if he endures another season without regular football.

Harry Maguire of Manchester United - Southampton v Manchester United, Premier League, St Mary's Stadium, Southampton, UK - 31st August 2019

READ: Harry Maguire: Revisiting the 6 alternatives Man Utd chased in 2019

Scott McTominay

“What’s clear is that Manchester United’s midfield needs bolstering,” former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville told Sky Sports after their 2-0 defeat to Tottenham.

“Ten Hag wants a number six who can play alongside Casemiro and, at the moment, the club can’t get players out to be able to fund that.

“If they look at the first two weeks, they have to fund it or there will be a big problem. What is clear is that Ten Hag doesn’t want to revert back to Scott McTominay.

“With Fernandes on the right, the midfield looks all over the place and the front three doesn’t look capable of functioning as one. Does he go back to McTominay? Ten Hag has made five substitutions and not used him. It’s almost as if he is managing him out of the club.”

Despite United looking so porous in midfield, and an injury suffered by new addition Mason Mount, McTominay has played just seven minutes of football for United so far this season.

The club perplexingly turned down a £35million offer from West Ham for the Scotland international despite him seemingly not featuring much in Ten Hag’s plans. If United do sign a new midfielder before the transfer window closes, it would surely be for the best that McTominay looks for opportunities elsewhere.

Donny van de Beek

Reuniting with the manager who got the best out of him couldn’t kickstart Van de Beek’s Manchester United career and it now appears near-impossible that the Ajax academy graduate will ever come good at Old Trafford.

It does sound as though Van de Beek will get a move away, at least on loan. The latest reports suggest that Galatasaray are negotiating with United, while Ligue 1 club Lorient represent an alternative option.

Kalvin Phillips

“My intention is to stay there. We have just won the treble, so there is no reason for me to leave, other than if I am not playing I will obviously have to think about it,” the Manchester City midfielder said at the end of last season.

“I cannot give it 12 months and say, ‘I am not playing so I am going to leave’. I came to Manchester City to win trophies and we won the trophies, but I didn’t play as much as I wanted to do.”

The England international played just 593 minutes of football for Manchester City last season and didn’t make a Premier League start until after the title was wrapped up.

Phillips cited Jack Grealish as an inspiration of how to kick on in year two, while first-choice defensive midfielder Rodri complained of playing too many minutes last term.

But for whatever reason, Pep Guardiola just doesn’t seem to fancy him. The 27-year-old is yet to make it off the bench this season and it looks as though he’s falling further down the midfield pecking order following the arrival of Matheus Nunes.

It’s easy to forget now that he’s been one of Gareth Southgate’s favourite players, and that City deemed him worthy of a £42million transfer just last summer. He’s worthy of so much more.

Zack Steffen

The goalkeeper has been capped 29 times by the United States but is currently third-choice at Manchester City behind Ederson and Stefan Ortega. And even then, it appears as though Pep Guardiola is satisfied for Scott Carson to fulfil that bench-warmer spot.

Steffen spent last term out on loan at Middlesbrough and could do with a similar move in 2023-24.

“I don’t think I’ll go back,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer back in March.

“No, I want to be playing. Although I had a great time at City and I love those guys, and obviously [it’s] an amazing club, I don’t really have any plans to go back.”

Unfortunately no solution has been found. He underwent knee surgery in the summer and is expected to be sidelined for a while longer, which complicates his chances of an exit before the deadline.

Hugo Lloris

It’s been made abundantly clear that Tottenham have moved on from long-serving captain Hugo Lloris, yet the French World Cup winner remains on their books in the dying days of the transfer window.

Roma, Lazio and Saudi Arabia have all been reported as potential destinations for the 36-year-old, but nothing has materialised just yet. He better get a move on.

Eric Dier

“Eric is in the same boat as all the other boys,” Postecoglou told reporters after Dier didn’t make Spurs’ squad for their 2023-24 opener against Brentford.

“Eric is part of this team. He’s working hard in training and is available for selection.”

The 29-year-old has been a loyal club servant to Tottenham and deserves to go out on his own terms, but the early signs suggest he’s not a big part of Postecoglou’s plans for the new-look Spurs.

He’s yet to play a minute this season and hasn’t been named on the bench for any of their four games to date. A fresh start might be best for all concerned.

Rob Holding

Still only 27 but with plenty of experience, Holding has rarely been a first-team regular at Arsenal but often a more-than-useful squad option. But now it appears as though Mikel Arteta is prepared to move on.

Luton are said to be interested in signing Holding on loan. Watch this space.

Emile Smith Rowe

Chelsea were said to be eyeing up a shock move for Smith Rowe, although such reports have quickly been shot down.

The 23-year-old has been one of Hale End’s finest graduates of recent years and was outstanding in his early breakthrough appearances under Mikel Arteta. However, his career has stalled a bit after injuries and it’s now difficult to see where exactly he fits in Arsenal’s 2023-24 plans.

He didn’t make a single Premier League start last season and has yet to play a minute in the league this season.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Emirates Stadium Arsenal's Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring his goal during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.

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Nathaniel Phillips

There’s an argument that Liverpool could do with the defensive cover, but Phillips is firmly behind Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in Jurgen Klopp’s pecking order.

Leeds and Middlesbrough were tipped to bring the centre-back in on loan, but now it sounds as though he’ll be joining Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic. A move that makes sense for all parties.

He’ll always have that San Siro turn.

Malang Sarr

Mauricio Pochettino’s “who?” told you everything.

Armando Broja

Chelsea have made approximately £200million in cashing in on homegrown talent in recent years and it wouldn’t be a total shock if Albania international Broja ends up playing a part in that FFP wrangling strategy.

The Cobham graduate looks a talented attacker and is approaching a return after a long period of rehabilitation. With no European football this season and no need for much rotation, it appears unlikely that Broja racks up many minutes for Mauricio Pochettino’s Blues in 2023-24.

Getting back up to speed as a regular starter out on loan might be the best thing for Broja.

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