Birmingham City are set for a very busy transfer window after it was announced 13 players would be leaving the club upon the expiry of their contracts. Headed by captain Troy Deeney, the list of departees creates plenty of uncertainty and leads to a clear summer recruitment plan.
Blues’ defence has been utterly tattered by the end of loans and the expiry of various deals as Kevin Long, Harlee Dean, George Friend, Maxime Colin, Auston Trusty and Dion Sanderson will all leave St Andrew’s. Rather remarkably, that leaves just Marc Roberts, Nico Gordon and Josh Williams at the back.
John Eustace often prides his team for how well they work defensively but the head coach will have to start afresh with a new group to try and rebuild the solidity seen so often last season. Finding players as passionate will be difficult, especially with limited financial resources.
What does the released/retained list mean for Blues’ summer transfer plans?
The takeover from Tom Wagner and Shelby Companies Limited is of course an exciting proposition but it doesn’t mean the cash will be splashed at a crazy level. Blues will still have to adhere to the strict Financial Fair Play rules in order to get by without any further punishment from the EFL.
Not only has the defence been depleted by players departing but the midfield and attacking areas, too. Deeney’s departure leaves a void for a new target man signing, whereas Hannibal Mejbri and Krystian Bielik going back to their parent clubs gives Eustace a headache in the centre of the park.
Jordan Graham, Maxime Colin and George Friend have all left St Andrew’s as well, meaning depth will need to be added at full-back and on both flanks. Jobe Bellingham is also on the verge of a £3 million move to Sunderland. All of this adds up to form a clear and obvious vision for Birmingham – a complete revamp of the squad ahead of a new era.
Whether or not the scale of the clearout was desired awaits to be seen but it’s likely plenty of the departees have gone because of the high wage bill that’s hurt Blues over the last few years. Going forward, the recruitment plan will likely involve bringing in youngsters and free agents for smaller salaries.
That’s of course far easier said than done, but there are a whole host of options available. From the likes of Ben Osborn and Enda Stevens at Sheffield United to Nick Powell and Sam Clucas at Stoke City, the list of players available for free is lengthy and Blues are likely to exploit that.
Could any of the loan players come back to Birmingham?
As it stands, Bielik, Hannibal, Sanderson, Trusty and Reda Khadra have all returned to their parent clubs upon the end of the 2022/23 season. The agreements always meant their stays at St Andrew’s would come to a close after the final game of the campaign and that’s exactly what has happened.
Eustace has admitted on separate occasions that Hannibal and Trusty are both of a Premier League level and so deals are unlikely, whereas Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi wants to take a proper look at Khadra before any decision is made about his future. There is some hope for the other two, however.
Sanderson is yet to fully break through at Wolverhampton Wanderers, even after two successful loan spells with Blues and one at Sunderland. There’s talk that Wolves would be open to letting the defender go, so that’s one to keep tabs on. Meanwhile, Derby County are said to be open to selling Bielik.
Blues would have to cough up a fee to bring the Poland international to the club on a permanent basis but given how important he was to surviving relegation, this is a deal that’d likely be considered. Bielik played such a crucial role at the base of midfield and he perhaps looks like the likeliest to come back.