Ipswich Town loanee Macauley Bonne has been a sensation at Portman Road so far this season.
Scoring 11 goals in 17 League One matches this term, the 26-year-old is looking like one of the Tractor Boys’ shrewdest signings out of the 19 they made during the summer, a great achievement for a man that spent a sizeable chunk of last season on the bench for parent club Queens Park Rangers.
He became an instant hit at Portman Road, playing a big part in lifting Paul Cook’s men from the relegation zone to their current position of 10th with his potency in front of goal, even keeping ex-AFC Wimbledon key man Joe Pigott out of the starting lineup after establishing himself as a leading talisman in the third tier.
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The goals have dried up recently after failing to get on the scoresheet in his last three competitive games, but he remains a trusted figure of Cook’s and you only feel it’s a matter of time before he’s firing again as an Ipswich-born player who is clearly loving life back in his hometown.
Nothing emphasises that more than his post-match comments at the weekend on his future, even going as far as saying he would be ‘angry’ if officials at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium recalled him from his loan spell in January.
With this, many people would argue the upcoming winter window would be the perfect time to act on that in an attempt to make his deal permanent.
They have a case considering loanee Andre Gray will still be in west London alongside Charlie Austin and Lyndon Dykes, keeping Bonne firmly out of Mark Warburton’s plans in the second tier.
However, the R’s would hold all the cards at the negotiating table with 18 months left on his contract still.
With the winter window arguably the last chance to generate a respectable sum for his potential sale and the 26-year-old scoring for fun, they have every right to hold out for a significant fee for his services, something the Tractor Boys may be unable to afford considering their summer investment and current third-tier status.
You could even argue Cook’s side shouldn’t be investing a penny more into their squad unless it’s really needed for depth, especially if they want to keep on the right side of the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability rules.
The summer could give the Tractor Boys a much better chance of recruiting him permanently, however.
Not only is there the possibility of Ipswich being promoted to the second tier, giving them license to spend the fee required to lure the forward to Suffolk permanently, but QPR are currently fighting for a top-six spot and could even be competing in the Premier League next term.
If they did reach the top tier, it would be hard to see them retaining Bonne, which may allow his current loan side to negotiate a cut-price deal at the end of the season.
Ipswich would also be in a stronger position than they would be in January with just 12 months left to go on his current deal at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in the summer – and you can’t underestimate the power of Bonne in this situation either.
Thriving in his home town, it looks more likely than not that he will be pushing for a return to the Tractor Boys at this stage, but his chances of success in this potential quest will be greatly increased when 2021/22 comes to a conclusion.
The fact he won’t have football to focus on then, with the campaign done and dusted at that point, will allow him to fully focus on getting his move – and it may also help that he will be back in west London ready to pressure officials into selling him.
A change in heart, especially possible if QPR remain in the Championship, Ipswich stay in League One and he’s being promised more game time in the second tier by Warburton or his potential successor, is why leaving his future until the summer comes with a risk.
But it would also be a huge gamble to spend a considerable fee on him now, with no guarantees Cook’s side will achieve a second-tier return this season.
This is why they need to play the long game with Bonne, whilst also lining up potential replacements for him ahead of the end of 2022/23 as a contingency plan.