There are 103 Scottish Premiership first-team players who will see their contract expire at the end of this season. Here are six who are the most likely to fly the nest despite the wishes of their clubs.
Dedryck Boyata - Celtic
He wanted a move to the English Premier League so badly that he went in a big cream puff when an approach from Fulham was rejected prior to the protracted transfer window closing south of the border. The authoritative yet capricious centre-back has the talent to play down there, with his standing in the Belgium national side certainly not hurting his chances, and he’ll likely back himself when it comes time to negotiate his next deal. He has been prone to error-strewn bouts in the past. And even though a recurrence of such shortcomings would be greatly unwelcome for a Celtic side lacking assurance at the back, that would represent their best hope of keeping him long term - if they even want to.
Glen Kamara - Dundee
A ubiquitous summer rumour regarding the impending exit of Kamara rebounded around the Dens Park faithful as the fanbase braced itself for an offer the club could not refuse. It didn’t come and the Finnish midfielder remains a Dens Park favourite - if such a thing still exists in their current form - for the time being. He’s reportedly on the radar of both halves of the Old Firm while clubs in England are also said to have taken a liking, so it seems likely the former Arsenal graduate will be on his way come the summer. Two things would have to occur for the alternative to become reality: Kamara would either have to continue struggling with injury or post a below par campaign compared with the last one, and Dundee would have to get a lot better despite this.
Arnaud Djoum - Hearts
A significant portion of Hearts fans would be happy to see the back of Djoum. In some ways it’s understandable. He has failed to live up to the expectations set by a sparkling debut campaign. And he naively gave an honest answer when asked if he wished to play in England one day, before doing so again and again. However, he remains one of the most naturally gifted players at the club in terms of his technique, composure and close control, and the management team would be daft to let him go without a fight.
Craig Halkett - Livingston
The defensive darling of Scottish football in 2018/19 so far, Halkett has been an ever-present in a Lions defence which has played a hugely influential role in the West Lothian club defying expectations and presently residing in the top half of the table. His centre-back partners Declan Gallagher and Alan Lithgow have been equally impressive, but with fewer miles on the clock and no off-field troubles to speak of, it’s Halkett other teams are going to take the keenest interest in when his contract expires next year.
Chris Cadden - Motherwell
Cadden’s ropey form in 2018, coupled with his affinity for Motherwell, may improve the club’s chances of keeping him long-term. However, unless there’s a drastic change, the versatile midfielder may look outside Lanarkshire to progress his career as it’s currently stalling with the Steelmen. He may be forced into sticking around if no other side is willing to pony up the compensation fee, probably around £300,000, but his immense potential should convince a suitor to invest if he sees his future away from ML1.
Tony Watt - St Johnstone
Having turned out for umpteen different clubs in his still relatively young career, the best thing for Watt’s long-term prospects may be to stay put and build on what he’s started at St Johnstone. Then again, due to his high profile, any sort of consistent scoring form would alert an array of clubs with deeper pockets. He’s still 24, impressed in the English Championship not so long ago, and will rightly feel there’s a higher level to aspire to if he’s able to get some momentum behind him this campaign.
Others to be concerned about...
Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen), Paul McGowan (Dundee), Mikel Miller (Hamilton), Efe Ambrose (Hibs), Declan Gallagher (Livingston), Gael Bigirimana (Motherwell), Cammy Smith (St Mirren)
Mackay-Steven has been in the form of his life through two months and could attract interest from the English Championship if it continues; McGowan may seek new team-mates in which to scream at for 90 minutes; Accies’ striker Miller has shown real promise in the early part of this season for a club without a lot of creativity; Ambrose could stick with Neil Lennon (the Ambrose whisperer) but he remains the most likely Hibs player to go; Gallagher, as alluded to before, has a prior conviction for assault which will dissuade some but not all clubs, and Bigirimana might seek a team that wishes to play more passing football.