Jeremy Ngakia has refused to consider a short-term extension to his contract at West Ham and is unlikely to play a part in their battle against relegation when the season resumes, underlining the potential complications for Premier League clubs with players on deals that expire on 30 June.
West Ham were dismayed when Ngakia turned down a new deal last month, believed to be worth £5,000 a week, and are resigned to losing the young right-back on a free. The 19-year-old impressed after his senior debut in January, starting the final three games before the season was suspended, but it appears his mind is made up. Attempts to change the academy graduate’s mind have fallen on deaf ears, leaving West Ham to contemplate the likelihood that a player who has established himself in David Moyes’s side will walk out with seven games left.
It is not a unique dilemma given that out-of-contract players have been one of the main sticking points in discussions about Project Restart. Clubs have until 23 June to negotiate extensions, and Ngakia’s stance shows there are no guarantees players will agree to see out the season with their current employers.
What of the player who has lined up a move and does not want to get injured? Some agents have expressed that view privately, while others think there is a duty to play on. There is an opportunity for a bit of extra pay, though it has been pointed out that players could ask for exorbitant sums to stick around for a few weeks.
The situation is more pronounced in the Football League, where Charlton have said three players have opted not to play, but some top-flight deals remain unsigned. Whereas Chelsea have agreed one-year extensions with Olivier Giroud and Willy Caballero, there has been no breakthrough with Willian or Pedro, who is likely to join Roma on a free. Willian has had a decent season and although there is no chance of Chelsea bowing to his demands for a three-year deal, Frank Lampard will not want to lose the Brazilian before the campaign is done.
No case is the same. There will be clubs who want to get a player off the books as soon as possible. Bournemouth have decided to release Jordon Ibe, but Eddie Howe needs to keep Ryan Fraser beyond 30 June. Will Tottenhamkeep Jan Vertonghen and Liverpool Adam Lallana until the end of July?
West Ham are 16th, above 18th-placed Bournemouth only on goal difference, and already have a headache. Although Ben Johnson is regarded as a better prospect than Ngakia, he was injured when his rival got in the team. Ryan Fredericks’ injury gave Ngakia a chance to show he was a more reliable option at right-back than the ageing Pablo Zabaleta but he sees his future elsewhere and West Ham, whose only two games this month are Wolves at home on 20 June and Spurs away three days later, will need to adjust their back four.