In late September, many people had already written off newly-promoted Burnley as dead certs for relegation. Without a win to their name, and more importantly just one goal in their opening five matches, they looked dead and buried.
However, their goal-shy start to the season was mostly due to the absence of super striker Danny Ings. The 2013/14 Championship player of the season’s return to the side reinvigorated Burnley, transforming them from goal-shy relegation favourites to a dangerous attacking side that holds a realistic hope of survival. His nine goals and four assists account for 54.2% of Burnley’s goals in the league, and five goals in his last six games show Ings is growing more and more comfortable in the Premier League environment. He is even being mooted for an England call-up for the end of March.
Ings’ prosperous spell with Burnley is to come to an end, however, as his contract expires this summer with no chance of the forward signing another one with the Clarets. The 22-year-old has offers from both home and abroad, but what would be the right move for this promising English centre forward?
Staying in England- Liverpool
Whilst there has been reported interest in Ings from both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, Liverpool looks the most likely destination for him should he choose to remain in England. Whilst the Reds failed to tie up a deal for Ings in January, they look certain to swoop in again in an attempt to avoid the striking problems they encountered early in this season.
Anfield is the preferred destination for Ings of Burnley manager Sean Dyche, who says that the Southampton born forward should be looking to play at a “top-end” Premier League club. Furthermore, Burnley are keen for Ings to remain in England as they would be entitled to around £5 million in compensation due to Ings’ age, whereas a move abroad would only entitle the Clarets to just £200,000 under FIFA rules. It is clear to see why a financially limited club such as Burnley are keen for Ings to remain in England.
A move to another English club would suit Burnley best, but would a move to Liverpool be the correct move for Ings? Should Daniel Sturridge remain fit, it will be almost impossible for Ings to displace his fellow countryman in the starting line-up. Furthermore, Liverpool have already invested £10 million in young Belgian striker Divock Origi, who will arrive on Merseyside this summer after a loan spell at Lille. Game time could prove tough to come by.
If Ings were to make the move to Anfield, the level of competition would most probably restrict his game time, and possibly stifle his development. However, Ings is certainly better suited to Liverpool’s style of play than the slow and lazy Mario Balotelli or the ageing Ricky Lambert. If Liverpool were to suffer another long-term injury to Sturridge, Ings would be an ideal replacement, stretching defences with his pace, allowing space for their star-studded midfield, and tucking away chances with his lethal finishing. As a back-up to Sturridge, he could prove to be a very good fit for the Reds.
Whilst a move to Anfield may be the choice of Sean Dyche and Burnley, Ings would have to consider how much game time he would get should Daniel Sturridge remain fit. Ings certainly has the talent and style of play to fit in at Liverpool, but a lack of playing time may affect his development. He would be a great back up for the Reds, but Ings needs to question whether being initially restricted to cup games and substitute appearances is worth it for a chance to prove himself at a big English club.
Moving abroad- Real Sociedad
In recent years the debate about whether British players should make the move abroad has resurfaced, especially with Wales’ Gareth Bale’s world record transfer to Real Madrid, and Ings could realistically be the next Brit to try and make his name on the continent.
Having reportedly already flown to the Basque country to discuss a move with David Moyes, Real Sociedad looks a realistic option for Ings to further his young career. The 22-year-old would reportedly quadruple his wages at the San Sebastian club, and also develop his game in ways other young English stars such as Harry Kane and Saido Berahino wouldn’t by playing in the slower, more technical Spanish league.
Furthermore, moving to a club like Real Sociedad would mean less competition for places than at a top English club, which should allow him to develop from more playing time. However, he would struggle to replace star man Carlos Vela up-front so would once again need to be wary of extended periods on the bench should he struggle to fit in, but he is, on balance, more likely to get more game time in Spain.
Whilst a move to Spain may be a brave move, it is incredibly risky, with a large probability of failure. Of the nineteen Englishmen who have moved to La Liga, only seven of those have lasted more than one season, showing just how difficult it is for an Englishman to adapt to Spain both on and off the pitch and build a lasting career. History suggests that the cultural differences between England and Spain will result in a swift return to England for Ings.
Should Ings choose to leave the Premier League, a move to the Anoeta would probably be the best place to go. The British connection provided by David Moyes should ease the transition to the playing style of La Liga, but the move to Spain itself carries many risks, as the chances of settling into a new culture could significantly affect his form. As a young man, his career would be far from over should he fail in Spain, but he must be wary that his career may stall should the move not work out. On balance, though, he has the necessary attributes to succeed in Spain if he settles.
Ings has certainly proved that he has the necessary qualities to fit in at a top end club, but he needs more time to develop before he can establish himself as a first-choice striker for a top team or an international player. For these reasons, Ings should take the plunge and head to the Basque country in order to further his development. Whilst the move carries an element of danger, at 22, Ings should be able to recover and still make as career in the Premier League and for England should the move fail. However, if the move were to succeed, which it realistically could under Moyes, Ings will improve vastly as a player, adding a continental experience and flair from his game that has been lacking from English strikers for some time. A successful spell in Spain will develop Ings into a great forward who could lead the line for a club, in either the Premier League or Europe, as well as the England national team in the coming years. It would be a risk, but could give him the edge on his contemporaries, making a move to Spain the best option for Ings at this moment in his career.