Derby County will once again be one of the favourites for promotion ahead of the 2017/18 Championship season.
The Rams were this time last year following the appointment of Nigel Pearson, yet that optimism was short-lived as the former Leicester boss departed in October to be replaced by Steve McClaren, who also lost his job as the season progressed.
And it was up to ex-Birmingham chief Gary Rowett to lead the side through the remainder of the campaign, and with a full pre-season and transfer window to follow, expectations are high that he can end Derby’s long wait for Premier League football next term.
Nonetheless, serious reinforcements will be needed given their shortcomings last season, and one man Rowett should seek to land is Bournemouth outcast Max Gradel.
The former Leeds United winger struggled for gametime under Eddie Howe last term, failing to make a single Premier League start, and back in April it was reported that he was looking to leave the Vitality Stadium due to his lack of first team football.
And Rowett should look to get a deal done for the 28-year-old, because Gradel could come in and do a job for the Rams on the wing, given his past record in the division, and indeed that Tom Ince could be set to leave the club this summer.
The 25-year-old was the club’s top-scorer last term with 14 goals in 45 Championship appearances, and alongside six assists, also the highest tally in the squad, it’s clear how integral he was in their campaign last time round.
However, reports suggest that Derby are willing to sell Ince for the right price, which would put an enormous strain on the rest of the squad to come up with the contributions in the Englishman’s absence.
But that is where Gradel comes in.
The 29-year-old made his name in English football because of a stunning spell in the second tier with Leeds United in 2010 and 2011, in which time he netted an extraordinary 18 goals and laid on five assists under Simon Grayson.
At one stage, Gradel was one of the hottest properties outside of the Premier League such were his efforts for the Yorkshire outfit, and although things haven’t quite worked out at Bournemouth, he did prove his credentials in France as well with Saint-Etienne, netting 31 times in 115 games for the club.
And what he made need is a fresh start somewhere to really get back to the form we have seen him produce for both Leeds and Saint-Etienne, and with the 29-year-old wanting out of Bournemouth, the club may be willing to do a cut-price deal for the winger.
Ultimately, like Ince, Gradel has the ability to be a match-winner. He’s not as good as Ince, but were the Rams winger to leave, Gradel has the prior track record in the Championship to somewhat replace his goals, and thus help Derby in their promotion quest.
Thus, Rowett should look to get a deal done for the Cherries man this summer.