In a season that has been characterised by gloom, disappointment and negativity, the one shining light for Sunderland supporters has been the emergence of young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The 23-year-old is a local boy, born and raised in Washington, and whilst he ultimately failed to prevent The Black Cats from suffering relegation to The Championship there are few that could question his effort, attitude or application over the last twelve months.
In fact, Pickford has pulled off so many stunning stops, blocks and finger-tip acrobatics that he has cemented a reputation as being one of England’s brightest young goalkeeping prospects.
On Saturday he produced another Man of the Match performance in Sunderland’s two goal victory at the KCOM Stadium and his deluge of saves may well play a key role in dragging Hull City into the second tier of English football along with the beleaguered Black Cats.
However, Pickford’s starring performances have attracted an ever-lengthening list of admirers throughout the top-flight and Sunderland are now in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to fight to retain their young goalkeeper’s services or cash in over the summer.
The Telegraph have reported that Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and West Ham United are all keeping tabs on the 23-year-old and it would appear that it is simply a question of when, rather than if, a multi-million pound offer lands in the inbox at the Stadium of Light.
David Moyes, assuming that he retains his position as manager over the summer, now has a key decision to make.
Does he strive to ensure that Pickford remains a Sunderland player, providing the Black Cats with a quality goalkeeper as they look to challenge for promotion next season, or, knowing full well that transfer funds will be in short supply, does he look to cash in? His ultimate decision could decide the club’s trajectory for the next decade.
What next for Sunderland and Pickford?
Moyes has scoffed at claims that Sunderland have placed a £17,000,000 asking price on Pickford’s head and reports in the media suggest that the Black Cats are looking for offers in the region of £25,000,000. In a squad that currently lacks any valuable assets, barring their young goalkeeper, such a large income of cash would provide the club with a substantial amount of money to invest in players over the summer.
It would provide Moyes with the funds to rebuild and remould a team capable of bouncing back into the top flight whilst giving him plenty of room to wheel and deal in the transfer market. With continuing uncertainty surrounding the motives of Ellis Short and the lack of investment from the American over the last eighteen months, selling Pickford may be the only option for Moyes if he wants to fund an overhaul of the playing squad.
Whilst Sunderland’s primary concern will be to maximise the profit made on any potential sale, Pickford will need to ensure that he chooses a new club wisely. At the age of 23 and still very much in the infancy of his career the goalkeeper will require regular game time in order to continue his development – sitting on the bench at an elite club would be of no benefit.
With this in mind a move to Arsenal or Manchester United would not seem beneficial, with Petr Cech and David de Gea firmly cemented as first choices, whilst it is unclear as to what the thought processes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in relation to their club’s goalkeeping departments.
At the Etihad Stadium Joe Hart seems destined to depart in the summer with his replacement Claudio Bravo failing to impress whilst at Liverpool neither Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius have made the number one jersey their own this season. Pickford will certainly need guarantees that he will be first choice before seriously considering a move to either of the latter two clubs.
Everton and West Ham United would be the more logical options, although it remains to be seen whether Ronald Koeman or Slaven Bilic would be prepared to spend such an excessive amount on a goalkeeper.
If Jordan Pickford is to be sold in the summer it would undoubtedly break Sunderland hearts as well as his own. However, his sale could fund the rebuilding project that the Black Cats desperately need if they are to challenge for promotion next campaign whilst regular first team football at a top-half Premier League club could push the 23-year-old into consideration for a call-up to the senior England squad. It seems like the only question is when and for what price the young starlet will depart Wearside.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Tim Hickman (Tim Hickman)