By Alex Young
For clubs and fans alike, there are few more heart-breaking aspects in football than relegation.
Amongst the much-pondered initial questions circling the mind of every stricken fan is the future of the team’s key personnel if the worst happens. Will these players stick around, or be lured by the prospect of success and better financial terms at other clubs?
History shows the latter is far more likely.
With Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, QPR, Wigan and Wolves currently making up the bottom six in the Premier League, all could be threatened by this very circumstance come the end of the May.
But why would the more illustrious sides in the division be interested in a bunch of relegation-fodder?As the battle to stay up enters the final eight games, Goal.com takes a look at the select group of bottom six players who could be of interest to the Premier League's top sides in the summer.
|DARREN BENT - ASTON VILLA
The 28-year-old striker has undeniable talent. Aside from a poor record at Tottenham, where he found starts hard to come by and a tactical approach that did not suit him, Bent has a terrific goalscoring record.
Currently sidelined with ruptured ankle ligaments until the end of the season, Bent has proved his ability at Premier League and international level.
In a struggling Charlton Athletic side, he notched 31 goals in 68 appearances in his first two seasons in the top division.
That prompted Spurs to pay a then club record £16.5 million to bring him to north London but, after just 18 goals in 60 appearances, Sunderland still coughed up £10 million for his services. Their faith was rewarded and Bent soon re-found his clinical touch by netting 24 goals in 38 appearances for the Black Cats.
His overall stats while in the Premier League reveal that he scores or creates a goal every 1.8 games, with an average conversion rate of 24 per cent.
Since his arrival at Villa Park was triggered by a £24m bid, a figure over £15m would be required to sign the striker.
Ironically, former side Tottenham could be the best suited for him now but Liverpool, with the profligate Andy Carroll, would also benefit from his obvious eye for goal.
|CHARLES N'ZOGBIA - ASTON VILLA
Bent’s team-mate at Aston Villa has not had a good season.
N’Zogbia came to the Midlands on the back of a multitude of season-defining performances for Wigan as he, effectively single-handedly saved the Latics from relegation last season.
Netting nine times and assisting eight from the left wing - including two goals to cap a 3-2 comeback against fellow-strugglers West Ham on the penultimate game of last term - the 25-year-old Frenchman was a much coveted talent going into the summer transfer window.
Villa soon came calling with a £9m bid to go some way to replace the departed Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. However, it has not worked out for him this time around.
Rumours of a bust-up with manager Alex McLeish regarding an emphasis on defending in the Villans' tactical approach can go some way of explaining his decreased output of two goals and two assists.
He would command a similar price-tag if relegated with Villa, but the likes of Sunderland, former side Newcastle and, if they could afford him, Everton would all benefit from his power and guile.
Arsenal have been linked with the winger in the past, and could be interested once players such as Andrey Arshavin and Denilson are taken off the wage bill to supply support to Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and young star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
|JUNIOR HOILETT - BLACKBURN
In a largely forgettable season for Blackburn, Hoillett has been a shining light.
With six assists and six goals - including two away to fellow strugglers Wolves recently - so far this campaign, the Canadian winger is skilful with both feet, providing a threat either side of midfield or up front.
Blackburn are 9/4 with Paddy Power to be relegated from the Premier League this season.
The 21-year-old would prove a bargain as his contract expires in the summer, however a compensation fee would have to change hands due to the player being under 24.
To add further to his burgeoning profile, Hoilett was named as one of 13 players to watch in 2012 by Fifa in January.
Goal.com revealed earlier this month that Arsenal are the favourites to land the player, with Arsene Wenger a big admirer of the pace, creativity and versatility of Hoilett, despite reportedly coming close to signing for rivals Tottenham in a £7 million deal back in January.
Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich are also thought to be closing monitoring his situation, so - as his manager has already admitted - Blackburn face a fight to keep hold of one of their prized asset. Even if they survive.
|STUART HOLDEN - BOLTON
It speaks volumes of Stuart Holden’s ability and talent in the game that, despite playing just one game since March 19 2011 due to reoccurring injury, he is still thought of so highly.
The Scotland-born American international is an attacking midfielder with an eye for dictating play. He has the ability to start attacks, be it with short or long range passing, while also looking to make runs from midfield to snake between the defence.
His effectiveness in the defensive side of his game is also strong. Come the end of January 2011, under two months before the premature end to his campaign, Holden was ranked first when it came to attempted tackles in the entire Premier League.
Bolton are 6/4 with William Hill to be relegated from the Premier League this season.
Joining Bolton in early 2010, Holden won the club’s Player of the Year award after his first full season at the club.
Naturally, his injury record is grim reading and that will no doubt deter potential suitors but, with his contract only having a year to run, a relatively small figure could force Bolton’s hand.
However, after sticking by their man throughout his rehabilitation, Holden may feel compelled to show loyalty to the Trotters.
|BOBBY ZAMORA - QPR
Despite signing a two-and-a-half year contract at new club QPR in January, the seemingly inevitable relegation of the west London side could see Zamora leave the club for a fraction of his £6 million fee.
According to reports, the striker, along with other January signings, were lured to the club with the promise of a high salary and no wage-cut clause.
The striker had a slow start to his playing career, joining Bristol Rovers at a relatively late 19-years-old, but has reaped the rewards.QPR are 3/10 with Sportingbet to be relegated from the Premier League this season.
After an anonymous spell at Tottenham - and a frustrating one at West Ham - Zamora joined Fulham in 2008. A poor first season was consigned to history in his second as he took Fulham almost single-handedly to the Europa League final, scoring eight goals in 17 appearances en route.
But a clinical return is not Zamora’s forte. An incredibly strong, yet agile, striker, is far more adept in a supporting role to hold-up play and allow others to join the attack.
With the elite of the Premier League unlikely to invest in the 31-year-old, a position at Everton, Stoke or joining his former boss Roy Hodgson at West Brom is not unfeasible due to their tactical approach and eye for a bargain.
|HUGO RODALLEGA - WIGAN
Hugo Rodallega must be a frustrated soul. He is capable of the sublime, but often has to cope with the ridiculous.
Joining Wigan for £4.5m in 2009 off the back of an impressive spell with Mexican side Nexaca, the six-foot striker has adapted well to the tough nature of the Premier League, becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer in the division.Wigan are 9/4 with Bet365 not to be relegated this season from the Premier League.
He swiftly became an integral part of boss Roberto Martinez’s plans, but has suffered the brunt of being the focal point of an eternally-struggling side.
North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham have both been linked with Rodallega in the past, with Wigan thought to have turned down approaches in the January transfer window. But with the Colombian's deal at the JJB Stadium set to expire in the summer, Martinez will know he faces a real fight to keep the versatile 26-year-old, who can play several positions along the front line.
A move to a lower-half team is far more realistic, however, as the likes of Fulham or Swansea look for a mobile forward to compliment their play.
|STEVEN FLETCHER - WOLVES
The stereotypical ‘fox in the box’, Steven Fletcher has made a name for himself by getting in the right place at the right time to slot home from inside the area.
At 25-years-old, he would be a very attractive purchase for the majority of the Premier League, and would not command a large fee after joining for just £7 million, albeit a joint club-record signing.
After initially being overlooked in favour of Kevin Doyle, an injury to the Irishman allowed Fletcher the chance to shine. And shine he did, scoring five goals in the next five games and averaging just under a goal every two games in his first season.
He has kept his place ahead of Doyle in the 2011-12 season and continued to improve. To date he has 10 Premier League goals in 20 appearances as Wolves struggle at the wrong end of the table.
Liverpool have been mentioned as potential suitors in the past, along with Tottenham, and both sides could do a lot worse than the Scot.
He thrives from balls into the box, a trait seen time and time again from the Reds and Spurs as they both play with attacking wide men. Other teams such as Sunderland and Norwich could also benefit with their tactical game.