The January transfer window is open. So what should QPR fans expect this month?
Rangers’ priority is to bring in at least one central defender.
Manager Mark Warburton made a host of signings during the summer but was disappointed he was unable to land Scott McKenna – Aberdeen turned down several offers for the centre-back.
QPR’s defensive shortcomings have been evident since, arguably highlighting exactly why Warburton felt McKenna could make a crucial difference.
There was initially every expectation that the club would try again for McKenna when the transfer window reopened.
However, given the kind of money Aberdeen are still looking for, he is currently not even on the list of possible targets.
Several other potential alternatives have been identified. There has been interest in Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Conor Masterson out on loan
Signed in the summer after being released by Liverpool, Masterson is 21 and well thought of but has still not made his senior debut – although he could be involved in Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Swansea.
Rangers want the young Irishman to get first-team experience out on loan during the second half of the season and a number of clubs have been made aware of his availability.
The hope is that Masterson impresses at a lower level in the same way Ebere Eze and Ilias Chair did – and that he will be a viable first-team option for next season, by which time Grant Hall and Toni Leistner might well have moved on.
Several other QPR youngsters might also go out on loan, including Olamide Shodipo.
Mlakar and Smith to depart
It looks increasingly likely that the season-long loans of Jan Mlakar and Matt Smith will be terminated.
Smith is well liked at Manchester City, who gave him a new long-term contract prior to his loan move and expected him to get significant first-team experience in the Championship. It’s not happened.
Similarly, Mlakar has barely featured since arriving from Brighton. His move was agreed before Rangers secured loan deals for Jordan Hugill and then Nahki Wells and as a result Mlakar has got very little game time.
And while a centre-back is QPR’s priority, they would like to sign a striker on a permanent deal to act as back-up for Hugill and Wells for the remainder of the campaign with a view to stepping up next season.
Several possible options have been looked at, including Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland. His scoring record is certainly impressive – he’s netted 22 goals in the Scottish Championship this season. The question is whether he could perform at the higher standard south of the border.
The top target last summer was Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah, who has been recalled from a loan spell at Leeds. Rangers recently enquired again but Arsenal have indicated that he is set to move elsewhere.
Discussions with Burnley over Wells
QPR will at least ask about a potential deal to sign Wells on a permanent basis.
His form this season means Burnley might well feel they can command a decent transfer fee for him in the final transfer window before his contract expires. That would require Rangers to pay for a player who will be 30 and out of contract in the summer.
There is also the possibility of course that Burnley might find another buyer for Wells. He has strongly indicated that he wants to stay at QPR.
Manning speculation to increase
As Manning’s representatives are negotiating a new contract with QPR, there are various reports of interest from Premier League clubs. Expect that to increase as those contract talks continue and as the agents of numerous Championship players look to convince top-flight clubs to take a punt on their client. It’s that time of year.
Manning and Bright Osayi-Samuel have rejected initial contract offers but are eventually expected to sign. Their current deals expire in the summer but in both case Rangers have the option of a one-year extension, meaning they are effectively under contract until 2021.
And what about Eze?
Eze to Tottenham? Speaking of agents and this time of year, the done thing is generally to start with the likes of Spurs – who are known for signing young English talent – and then work your way down the food chain if need be. Charlie Austin for example was linked with much bigger fish than Southampton before eventually joining them.
The bottom line though is that while there were question marks over the likes of Austin, Luke Freeman and others when Premier League clubs were circling, Eze ticks all the boxes for a big move. It’s surely a question of when, not if, he moves on.