Derby County will be aware of the image they might present this coming summer. There are a pool of players in Wayne Rooney’s squad seen as saleable assets, who could well be shifted on in a bid to raise funds and balance books in the money-pit of the Championship.
It’s never a good look selling your best players or brightest young talents. Fans will level at the board that they are showing a lack of ambition by doing so, but sometimes in the Championship you can benefit from pulling a team together that work for each other rather than leaning on an individual.
Taking a close look at the Derby squad sitting 18th in the Championship table at this stage, you see potential there and, for the sake of this article, plenty of ‘saleable assets’ that could be used to raise funds for Rooney when the summer comes along.
Max Bird and Jason Knight are two 20-year-olds that will have admirers elsewhere, whilst midfield teammate, Louie Sibley, never finds himself too far away from transfer speculation.
Football League World reported last week that Sibley was likely to leave Pride Park this coming summer, with the 19-year-old’s exit a chance for Derby to prevent themselves slipping into a difficult financial situation in the current climate.
That isn’t news that supporters will want to read, of course. They want to hear about Erik Alonso and his fresh takeover approach, what he can do for the club heading into the summer and if he can retain the club’s best players ahead of 2021/22, throw a couple of million at the squad and get them back in top-six contention.
However, there’s a blueprint for losing players of Sibley’s ilk in the Championship and still going on to be successful.
Norwich City moved on James Maddison to Leicester City in the summer of 2018. Maddison had just scored 14 goals and registered eight assists for the Canaries in the Championship, but Norwich invested what he brought back into the club well and won the title in 2018/19. Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia were signed, with that pair taking on the burden Maddison was leaving behind.
Up in South Yorkshire, a similar story unfolded with Sheffield United. David Brooks’ breakthrough season had caught the eye in the Premier League and he was bound for Bournemouth as Chris Wilder kicked off a second Championship campaign.
The Blades’ reaction was to sign Dean Henderson, John Egan, Oliver Norwood and David McGoldrick; a mixture of loans, free transfers and, in Egan’s case, a club-record fee. That was the spine of Wilder’s side, who edged Leeds United to second in an entertaining chase for automatic promotion.
Maddison and Brooks were influential in the season that went before their move to the Premier League, but that’s not proving to be the case for Sibley.
The midfielder broke onto the scene with five goals and two assists in the Championship last season, which included a hat-trick at Millwall after the division’s restart in June. However, in a difficult 2020/21, he’s failed to register a goal involvement in 21 league appearances and last night’s 0-0 draw with Barnsley saw him get the final five minutes from the bench.
Nevertheless, Football League World understand that potential suitors for Sibley are being sounded out and the fact the teenager’s exit is likely suggests Derby are confident they will find a suitable agreement.
Fresh talk of a takeover could change the look of the horizon at Pride Park and there might not be the financial need to give Sibley’s exit the green-light.
Whilst Derby remain a Championship outfit, though, they will continue to lose money. It is what happens in the division and no club is immune from having to sell their better players; particularly one like Derby who haven’t tasted Premier League football for so long.
However, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if the Louie Sibley’s of this squad are moved on. Norwich and Sheffield United have recently shown the way if these financial decisions have to be made.
Investing in a team rather than an individual can take you a long way at this level.