As Swansea fans acclimatise to the fact that their team will be playing Championship football next season, eyes are firmly fixed on the incomings and outgoings that the summer transfer window will bring.
Quite possibly the club’s most important period to get right since its promotion into the Premier League, potential summer signings won’t even be considered until a new manager is appointed as Carlos Carvalhal’s successor – with Graham Potter expected to arrive any time now.
However, the lack of manager will not stop rumours linking the club’s top players away from the club. Yes, at this point we’re resigned to losing the top players – Lukasz Fabianski and Alfie Mawson the two players to point to in that regard. But what fans might not realise is that the departures of Mawson and Fabianski mean nothing compared to the possible sales of Oli McBurnie and Kyle Bartley.
Both players are wanted by Rangers and Leeds respectively, and there is genuine concern that the exit door is a definite possibility.
Having spent a season on loan at Elland Road in the 2016/17 season, Bartley (who eventually picked up the captain’s armband in Yorkshire) became an immediate fan favourite, and was treated like royalty up there. As for Rangers, Bartley spent a season on loan with them as well – the year before he signed for the Swans, and Steven Gerrard is believed to be keen on his return.
McBurnie to Leeds isn’t believed to be the most likely of moves this summer, but the 21-year-old grew up in Yorkshire, and if he’s not guaranteed game time in South Wales, a switch isn’t off the cards. The real worry is Rangers. A lifelong fan of the club and a Scotland international, McBurnie would be an absolute hit at Ibrox. It would be tough for him to turn down.
While Bartley is believed to be desperate to move to Leeds, there’s no word on McBurnie’s situation other than the fact that Swansea plan to offer him a new contract, with his current deal running out this summer. Bartley, who signed a new contract last summer, still has four years left on his.
So why are McBurnie and Bartley more important than Mawson and Fabianski? It’s relative.
If Alfie and Fabs stay, it would be a straight miracle – out and out. They’re gone. They deserve to stay in the top flight and are too good for the Championship. Bartley and McBurnie, on the other hand, are perfect for the second tier.
With both having proven themselves in the Championship – Bartley in his stint with Leeds and McBurnie in the second half of this season absolutely killing it with Barnsley – they can prove to be two absolutely huge assets for the club.
Having a leading Championship centre half, standing at 6’4, an absolute animal in the air and with leadership qualities, the backbone of the Swansea side would be tough to beat. Bartley’s hitting his prime and consistent game time next year is absolutely essential; not just for the season ahead, but for two or three after that – be it back in the Premier League or in the Championship.
The Swans don’t have that Championship experience in the side and his time with Leeds would prove essential in taking control of games in what is a notoriously cut-throat league. Keeping Bartley is a must. In a team full of mental fragility, he can genuinely be the man we turn to.
McBurnie, alternatively, offers something almost entirely different. Nine goals in 17 appearances with the Tykes, his first six months in the second division were almost flawless. Inexperienced, but with breathtaking finishing ability that the Swans haven’t seen since Michu, the team could quite literally be built around the low socked goal merchant.
His wages are nothing compared to those of Wilfried Bony and Jordan Ayew, and the Jack Army should genuinely hope that whichever manager is appointed for next season, they tell Oli that he will be our first choice in the return to the Championship.
With these two players, joined by one or two new signings, a plethora of excellent youth waiting in the Under-23’s, and whatever players haven’t been stripped away from the Liberty Stadium, Swansea’s rebuild might be easier than it may seem.
Selling Bartley and McBurnie is an invite to the further demise of the club. They have to be kept at all costs.