After West Brom’s relegation to the Championship, they are left with a very difficult situation regarding goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
28-year-old Johnstone, who is currently away with England ahead of the European Championships after being selected over Aaron Ramsdale, only has one year left on his deal at the Hawthorns and Premier League sides including West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur were previously said to be interested in acquiring his services, according to Football Insider.
After spending much of his career out on loan from Manchester United, Johnstone finally made his big breakthrough at Aston Villa, where he spent the second half of the 2016/17 season and the entirety of the following campaign as a frequent starter between the sticks – guiding the West Midlands to a much improved fourth position in the Championship and the playoff final in 2017/18.
However, it would be rivals West Brom who would make a permanent move, signing the 28-year-old for £6.5m in July 2018. Johnstone has excelled under multiple managers at the club ever since.
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And after recently making his first cap for England in their last friendly against Romania, putting in an excellent display against the Eastern European country, interest in Johnstone will only intensify throughout the summer.
This leaves West Brom with an extremely difficult decision to make: sell him now, try and persuade him to sign a new deal or wait and see if they return to the Premier League and offer him a contract just before he becomes a free agent.
Choosing the latter would be an extremely dangerous policy, with clubs able to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with a player six months before their contract is due to expire.
At 28, Johnstone would leave for nothing.
However, the club may have difficulty trying to agree a new deal with Johnstone while the Baggies are still in the second tier.
As this summer has shown, if Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope or Dean Henderson sustain an injury, the West Brom keeper has every chance of making the England squad.
Unlike competitor Aaron Ramsdale who is still only 23, Johnstone is getting to the age where he needs to start pushing for more regular England caps.
Although he could potentially do this in the Championship, the England international may prefer to stay in the Premier League to maintain Gareth Southgate’s attention. Therefore, option two will also prove to be difficult.
With the interest surrounding Johnstone, they may also be able to sell him and raise funds for the new manager to build his squad ahead of the new season.
However, the goalkeeper has been a man West Brom can count on and to lose him at such an uncertain time, with no manager yet in place for the Baggies, this could have a severe impact on their Championship results.
Their £20m asking price is also unlikely to be matched, with Johnstone on course to become a free agent next summer unless he signs a new deal.
For fans who are desperate to keep him at all costs, the Watford Observer’s report earlier this week surrounding the Hornets’ lack of interest in him will come as welcomed news.
So unless Johnstone surprisingly signs a new deal, West Brom are left with a dismal choice: reduce their asking price and sell him to make some profit, or risk losing him for nothing next summer.