A Premier League best XI in this predicament come 1 July:
Ben Foster. The 37-year-old is a consistent shot-stopper and has nine clean sheets from 29 games for Watford this season. Without a player of his calibre, Watford would not have climbed out of the relegation zone.
Jan Vertonghen may have not had his best season with Tottenham but he has more than 300 Premier League appearances and a fresh start could inspire a return to his best. At the other end of the spectrum José Mourinho has in Japhet Tanganga another talented centre-back whose contract is due to end. The 21-year-old has been one of the few positives from a difficult period at the club. Tanganga withstood a baptism of fire on debut against Liverpool despite switching from right- to left-back in the second half.
At right-back, Timothy Fosu-Mensah has not played for Manchester United since May 2017, though he has been on loan at Crystal Palace and Fulham, and his future appears insecure considering Aaron Wan-Bissaka is an Ole Gunnar Solskjær signing. He is back after a serious knee injury and at 22 a return to full fitness should give him a chance to reach the level that earned him three Netherlands caps. The cupboard looks a little bare at left-back but Christian Fuchs is a Premier League winner with Leicester. The little playing time the Austrian has had this season and last should mean he has plenty in the tank even at 33.
Adam Lallana, Jeff Hendrick and John Lundstram. Lallana has featured only in patches for Liverpool but has shown he can drive his team forward. When called on late by Jürgen Klopp he delivered an equaliser against Manchester United to save the leaders’ unbeaten run in October.
Burnley’s once-record signing Hendrick scored a game-saving goal of his own against Brighton and a winner against Everton. After a dip Sean Dyche’s team have impressed with Hendrick a key part of the industry that has led to a five-game unbeaten run, their best this season.
Lundstram has shone in his first season in the Premier League with Sheffield United. He was the fall guy after Sander Berge signed for a record fee in January but a return to the starting lineup in United’s final game before the shutdown paid off for Chris Wilder. Lundstram’s delicious cross for Billy Sharp was the creative spark needed to beat Norwich.
Ryan Fraser admitted in January he had not “played for the team” at Bournemouth in the first half of the season and the left winger’s form has suffered. With a change of scenery he could bounce back. Fraser managed seven goals and 14 assists last season and the lack of such a contribution has been missed by Eddie Howe.
Chelsea’s Willian and Olivier Giroud complete a formidable front three. The Brazilian is one of Frank Lampard’s most consistent players, as is his touch, range of passing and delivery from free-kicks. A match-winning double at Tottenham in December showcased his devastating ability. Giroud has been frustrated by Lampard using him sparingly while Tammy Abraham was injured. Giroud finally got a start against Tottenham in February and link-up play was so good it resulted in a goal for himself in Chelsea’s win. Giroud’s header found Mason Mount, who squared to Ross Barkley and the latter’s shot rebounded for Giroud to lash past Hugo Lloris.
A Europe XI
Nice’s Walter Benítez is the best goalkeeper available, with Gianluigi Buffon on speed dial should he not sign a new deal with Juventus. The Argentinian kept the most clean sheets in Ligue 1 last season with 16. Benítez will need to be on his toes too as Paris Saint-Germain’s attack-minded trio Thomas Meunier, Tanguy Kouassi and Layvin Kurzawa slot into defence with their experienced teammate Thiago Silva. The 17-year-old Kouassi showed his eye for goal with a pair of headers that helped drag PSG to a 4-4 draw with Amiens in February.
In midfield Milan’s Giacomo Bonaventura and Bayer Leverkusen’s Charles Aránguiz flank Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze. Götze has declined since he won the World Cup for Germany in 2014 but, if he can stay fit, he has a lot to offer at 27.
The front three have an eye-watering 811 league goals between them: Napoli’s Dries Mertens, PSG’s Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are up for grabs, assuming the one-year option is not triggered at Milan on Ibrahimovic’s contract.