Despite being a second-tier division, the Championship still holds plenty of quality. Just look at the regularity of the clubs getting promoted who compete strongly in the Premier League. All three promoted clubs last season, Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield all stayed up, with most recent Championship winners Wolves taking points off Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United this time around.
It’s a division you have to to look at for potential signings even if you are a top-flight side, with plenty of potential contract expiry signings the perfect recruits to fill out your squad at the end of the campaign.
RealSport looks at all the best players in the Championship whose contracts are up at the end of the season. They have a CA (Current Ability) rating of above 120, and you can open negotiations with these players as of January 1, 2019.
For a full list of all the best contract expiry signings from the Championship, see the table at the end of this page.
Wilfried Bony (CA 135 – PA 150)
Country: Ivory Coast
Best stats: 18 balance, 18 strength, 16 first touch
Wage: £90,000 a week
It seems a long time ago that Wilfried Bony signed for Manchester City for £25 million, and it was at that exact moment that his career stopped progressing. Since that switch, he has scored just 13 goals in four and a half seasons, with a nasty ankle injury reducing to him only three appearances off the bench in the Championship thus far.
Bony would be great signing due to his strong 135 CA, and who knows, if you get him in the right form he could edge back towards that fantastic 150 PA. His stats of 18 balance, 18 strength and 16 first touch, earn him punch wages of £90,000 a week.
Leroy Fer (CA 133 – PA 137)
Positions: M (C), DM
Best stats: 16 balance, 16 strength, 16 composure
Wage: £36,000 a week
Leroy Fer has the unfortunate label of being relegated with three Premier League clubs, but the former Dutch international is in an exceptional footballer at Championship level. The 28-year-old has twice scored six goals in a PL season with floundering teams, so if you give the central midfielder a run in the side, expect him to deliver.
16 balance, 16 strength and 16 composure take Fer to a 133 CA, which can still improve to a reliable 137 potential. With wages of £36,000 a week, he may just tempt you to bring him into the top-flight one final time.
Mike van der Hoorn (CA 132 – PA 135)
Positions: D (C)
Best stats: 17 bravery, 16 tackling, 16 strength
Wage: £36,000 a week
A third Swansea player, Mike van der Hoorn looked like a useful man at the back for the Swans his first season at the club, forming a promising centre back pairing with Alfie Mawson. The 25-year-old lifted the Eredivisie title with Ajax before heading to Wales, and has gone on to make over 60 appearances for the club.
The central defender has a 132 CA on the game, which is only just shy of a 135. Van Der Hoorn’s best stats include 17 bravery, 16 tackling and 16 strength. The Dutchman’s wages are currently £36,000 a week.
Keiren Westwood (CA 132 – PA 135)
Club: Sheffield Wednesday
Country: Republic of Ireland
Best stats: 18 reflexes, 16 one on ones, 16 agility
Wage: £30,000 a week
Keiren Westwood came close to becoming a reliable Premier League goalkeeper, but the 33-year-old only made 19 league appearances for Sunderland between 2011 and 2014. He has found a home at Sheffield Wednesday, making 143 games for the club as well as 21 Republic of Ireland caps.
18 reflexes, 16 one on ones and 16 agility lift Westwood to a 132 CA, only three shy of his 135 potential. With wages of £30,000 a week, he may just be that bit too expensive for a back-up goalkeeper, but remember, you will not need to pay a transfer fee.
Nick Powell (CA 130 – PA 140)
Positions: AM (C), M (C)
Club: Wigan Athletic
Best stats: 16 flair, 15 dribbling, 15 first touch
Wage: £16,000 a week
Nick Powell once looked to be the next Manchester United prodigy, after joining Sir Alex Ferguson’s side after tearing up League Two with Crewe Alexandra. Still only 24, he has become Wigan’s star man, scoring 15 goals last season. Premier League football could beckon for the attacking or central midfielder, with his contract up in the summer.
Powell’s 16 flair, 15 dribbling and 15 first touch lead to a 130 CA, with the capability of reaching 140. Wages of £16,000 are likely to increase, but you will want to be first in the queue to snap him up.
Timm Klose (CA 129 – PA 145)
Positions: D (C)
Best stats: 18 jumping reach, 16 heading, 16 teamwork
Wage: £27,000 a week
Timm Klose suffered relegation with Norwich the same season after signing in January 2016, but has stayed loyal to the club as they look to return to the top flight. The Swiss international has now played over 100 times for the Canaries and has been an unlikely source of goals with nine to his name.
The 30-year-old Klose has stats of 18 jumping reach, 16 heading and 16 teamwork. The 30-year-old’s 129 CA may just be able to get back towards his 145 potential. With £27,000 a week wages, the centre back would be a fantastic addition to your squad.
Charlie Mulgrew (CA 129 – PA 135)
Positions: D (C)
Club: Blackburn Rovers
Best stats: 18 penalty taking, 18 free kick taking, 18 leadership
Wage: £14,000 a week
Most will remember Charlie Mulgrew for his six seasons at Celtic, but the Scottish international hopped south of the border last in 2016 to join up with Blackburn. Despite suffering relegation to League One in his first season at Ewood Park, the club bounced back to the second tier and lie in the top half of the table.
18 penalty taking, 18 free kick taking and 18 leadership make Mulgrew a clear asset to any squad. The centre back is rated with a 129 CA, which is only six away from a 135 PA, and he comes with reasonable wages of £14,000 a week.
James Morrison (CA 128 – PA 143)
Positions: AM (C), M (RC)
Club: West Brom
Best stats: 17 off the ball, 15 work rate, 15 flair
Wage: £30,000 a week
One of West Brom’s unsung heroes from their Premier League hay-day, James Morrison helped get the club promoted on two occasions to the top-flight. The Scottish international has picked up 330 appearances for the club, scoring 39 goals and assisting a further 37.
The versatile Morrison can operate as an attacking, right or central midfielder, and holds abilities of 17 off the ball, 15 work rate and 15 flair. For £30,000 a week wages you can get his CA, which has fallen some way from the 32-year-old’s 143 potential.
Stewart Downing (CA 127 – PA 146)
Positions: AM (L), M (RLC)
Best stats: 15 crossing, 15 passing, 14 stamina
Wage: £35,000 a week
A former England international, Stewart Downing perhaps suffered from being selected for the Three Lions too early in his career. The left winger or midfielder returned to his boyhood club Middlesbrough after spells at Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, but his failure to score in 35 England caps had echoes suggested he wasn’t able to take that next step.
Downing has 15 crossing, 15 passing and 14 stamina on FM, to give him a 127 CA. That has fallen by almost 20 from his 146 PA, so he may not be worth the £35,000 a week wages.
Chris Brunt (CA 127 – PA 142)
Positions: M (L), D (L)
Club: West Brom
Country: Northern Ireland
Best stats: 16 teamwork, 16 crossing, 15 long shots
Wage: £20,000 a week
Another man with a wicked left foot, Chris Brunt has been with West Brom since 2007. In 390 games for the club he has scored a useful 47 goals, and picked up a fantastic 84 assists. Career highlights include two promotions to the Premier League, but he cruelly missed Northern Ireland’s trip to Euro 2016 due to a ruptured cruciate ligament.
The 33-year-old Brunt still holds abilities of 16 teamwork, 16 crossing and 15 long shots on FM. A 127 CA has fallen someway from a 142 potential, but with a £20,000 week wages, the left midfielder or left back is worth a punt.
All the best Championship contract expiry signings
|Wilfried Bony||29||ST||Swansea||Ivory Coast||135||150||£90k|
|Leroy Fer||28||M (C) DM||Swansea||Holland||133||137||£36k|
|Mike van der Hoorn||25||D (C)||Swansea||Holland||132||135||£36k|
|Keiren Westwood||33||GK||Sheff. Wed||Rep. Ireland||131||135||£30k|
|Nick Powell||24||AM (C) M (C)||Wigan||England||130||140||£16k|
|Timm Klose||30||D (C)||Norwich||Switz.||129||145||£27k|
|Charlie Mulgrew||32||D (C)||Blackburn||Scotland||129||135||£14k|
|James Morrison||32||AM (C) M (RC)||West Brom||Scotland||128||143||£30k|
|Bakary Sako||30||AM (L) M (RL)||West Brom||Mali||127||130||£15k|
|Stewart Downing||30||AM (L) M (RLC)||Middlesbro'||England||127||146||£35k|
|Paul Coutts||30||M (C) DM||Sheff Utd||Scotland||127||128||£6k|
|Kieran Lee||30||M (C)||Sheff. Wed||England||127||138||£19k|
|Cheikh Ndoye||32||M (C) DM||Birmingham||Senegal||127||135||£12k|
|Chris Brunt||33||M (L) D (L)||West Brom||N. Ireland||127||142||£20k|
|Evandro||31||AM (C) M (C)||Hull||Brazil||126||136||£16k|
|Martin Olsson||30||D (L) WB(L)||Swansea||Sweden||126||135||£25k|
|Alan Hutton||33||D (R) WB (R)||Aston Villa||Scotland||125||130||£30k|
|Craig Bryson||31||M (C) AM (C)||Derby||Scotland||125||130||£20k|
|Bradley Johnson||31||DM M (CL)||Derby||England||125||134||£25k|
|Boaz Myhill||35||GK||West Brom||Wales||125||129||£15k|
|Ibrahim Afellay||32||AM (L) M (RLC)||Stoke||Holland||125||150||£16k|
|Gary Hooper||30||ST AM (C)||Sheff Wed||England||124||137||£20k|
|Tom Huddlestone||31||DM M (C)||Derby||England||124||143||£25k|
|Mile Jedinak||33||DM M (C)||Aston Villa||Australia||124||135||£50k|
|Billy Sharp||32||ST||Sheff Utd||England||124||124||£12k|
|Chris Basham||30||D (C) DM||Sheff Utd||England||124||130||£6k|
|Sam Morsy||26||DM M (C)||Wigan||Egypt||123||125||£6k|
|Connor Roberts||22||D (R) WB (R) M (R)||Swansea||Wales||123||137||£3k|
|Gareth Barry||37||DM M (C)||West Brom||England||123||155||£15k|
|Moses Odubajo||24||WB (R) D (R)||Brentford||Nigeria||123||137||£3k|
|David Nugent||33||ST AM (C)||Derby||England||122||136||£25k|
|Yoann Barbet||25||D (CL)||Brentford||France||122||130||£7k|
|Glenn Whelan||34||M (C) DM||Aston Villa||Rep. Ireland||122||132||£30k|
|Tommy Elphick||30||D (C)||Aston Villa||England||121||135||£25k|
|Nick Blackman||28||ST AM (RL)||Derby||England||121||129||£18k|
|Jonas Knudsen||25||D (LC)||Ipswich||Denmark||121||125||£7k|
|Joe Ledley||31||DM M (C)||Derby||Wales||121||134||£12k|