West Bromwich Albion manager Valerien Ismael has admitted it may take time for the Baggies to negotiate a new deal with star shot-stopper Sam Johnstone, speaking to the Express and Star.
These comments from the 45-year-old come amid a report from The Sun on Sunday that contract talks are currently being put on hold by the goalkeeper, to focus on helping the Baggies get back to the Premier League.
His side has enjoyed a successful start to the Championship campaign, going unbeaten in all six of their league games so far this season and sitting at the top of the table following Fulham’s loss to Blackpool at the weekend.
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However, they could be set to lose their star man in the summer with Johnstone’s contract expiring next summer and fresh terms yet to be agreed between the second-tier side and the England international.
But it was only the Hammers that made a concrete move for the goalkeeper’s services during the previous window, submitting a £6m bid in July that was instantly rejected by the Baggies who opted to stay firm despite Johnstone’s current contract situation.
In the middle of August, it was confirmed by Valerien Ismael that the club had entered negotiations over a new deal for the 28-year-old – but in a mixed recent update from the Frenchman regarding the state of play regarding discussions – he said to the Express and Star: “It’s the same position (on Johnstone’s contract negotiations as before).
“I understand you will ask all the time.
“But I think that it will take time.
“I understand Sam’s side, I understand the club’s side as well.
“We want, for sure, to have clarity. But at the minute everything is fine.
“We are happy with his performances, he is happy.
“And we need to do our job first on the pitch to get results and then we will work really hard behind the scenes to make sure we can get the great result we want.”
West Brom fans will be feeling very mixed about this latest update from Ismael. Although the fact the manager isn’t panicking is a good sign, they will be fully aware the 28-year-old can negotiate a contract with other clubs in just a few months.
This will leave the Baggies penniless from his departure, something they will be desperately hoping not to happen after seeing him perform so well last season and seemingly become England’s second-choice goalkeeper after playing against Andorra earlier this month.
As long as he agrees a new deal at The Hawthorns, release clause in the fresh contract or not, that’s all that matters. But the longer the time goes on, the more nervous fans will be considering the January transfer window is just around the corner.
They will want to get at least a couple more years out of Johnstone before introducing a promising young shot-stopper like Josh Griffiths into the first team – but you just feel the England international will drag out negotiations until he gets a clearer idea of whether his side will be in the Premier League next term or not.
Even if they are promoted, there are no guarantees he would put pen to paper on a new deal. Amid previous interest from the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, he may decide to keep his options open over the next year.