The 22-year-old spent the 2021/22 campaign with the Lions, making 30 league appearances and playing a big part in ensuring Gary Rowett’s side remained solid at the back once again last term, conceding just 45 goals in 46 league games.
With this, it’s no surprise that the Lions want to pursue a fresh agreement for the defender who is thought to be available for a permanent move away from the Emirates Stadium this summer, with Ballard unlikely to break into Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad considering the 40-year-old’s current options in north London.
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The R’s could be one potential option for the central defender, who are reportedly interested in him despite not having a successor for Mark Warburton yet. They will need a replacement for Dion Sanderson who has returned to Wolverhampton Wanderers on the expiration of his loan deal at Loftus Road.
However, the west London outfit and the Lions may not be the only sides in this transfer race with this Evening Standard report revealing that Burnley, Cardiff City, Sheffield United and Stoke City have also scouted him this season.
The Clarets may no longer have the advantage of top-tier football to offer the 22-year-old – but are set to lose James Tarkowski and with Nathan Collins also being linked with a move away – he could potentially be on their list of targets ahead of the summer.
As mentioned before, QPR need a replacement for Sanderson to provide competition for the likes of Yoann Barbet, Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne and it wouldn’t even be a surprise to see him replace Barbet in the starting lineup if he was to come in.
This is why this would be a good move and with Ballard able to stay in the English capital if he does join them, that could provide them and Millwall with an advantage in the race for his signature, so this is definitely a link to keep an eye on.
The Blades should also be seriously considering a move considering the lack of depth they have in central defence following the departures of Filip Uremovic and Charlie Goode – and Stoke will also need to compensate for the departures of Liam Moore and Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
Ballard, Phil Jagielka and Harry Souttar could be three solid options for Michael O’Neill and his potential addition, along with Souttar’s return from an ACL injury, could help to guide the Potters to a much more promising league finish at the end of the 2022/23 campaign.
With these sides in the race, you just feel Cardiff will be priced out of a potential move unless the Gunners are willing to sanction another loan move, something they may be reluctant to do.