Han-Noah Massego was back training with the first-team as Bristol City players returned from their break for the World Cup. Antoine Semenyo is still out in Qatar with Ghana and could feature in the winner-takes-all match with Uruguay on Friday afternoon.
There was a welcome boost that Kal Naismith appeared in a video that City published, asking players to predict the score between England and Wales, with Gareth Southgate’s side winning convincingly. Massengo’s prediction was tipping his native France to win the tournament, and given their performances, they are one of the favourites to retain their crown.
The most important matter ahead though is his future at Ashton Gate which has been uncertain. He is out of contract at the end of the season and there has been no movement on him signing a new deal. Nigel Pearson’s admission in October was that Massengo’s intention was to look elsewhere and that the players committed to the club get a fair deal.
His lack of a new deal has affected his place in the team, his place on the bench against Watford in which he didn’t come on, was the first time he was included in a match-day squad in eight matches. Massengo did feature in the Under-21’s and his message to Pearson is that he is ready to be called upon, which the former Leicester City manager would be happy to take him up upon.
Over the World Cup break, City’s Under-21’s have played three fixtures, beating Newcastle United, losing to Sheffield United and drawing with Crystal Palace in the Premier League Cup. The rules haven’t changed and clubs are allowed five over-age outfield players, but Massengo has not been included in any of Ali Hines’ squad.
Massengo as a senior player may have been afforded time off like the rest of his teammates, which is understandable. It could show however that he is ready to be integrated back into the fold properly and that despite the lack of long-term commitment, could be what is missing in a side that were struggling before the break.
Pearson’s stance on Massengo makes sense in some ways that he is preferring the likes of Dylan Kadji over him, whose long-term future is at the club. There is also Matty James who is an important figure and here until 2024, as are other centre-midfielders like Andy King, Alex Scott and Joe Williams.
Massengo is not the only player out of contract in the summer, Jay Dasilva, Dan Bentley, Tomas Kalas, Nahki Wells, Max O’Leary, Chris Martin and Timm Klose all have their deals running out. The club do have a further option on O’Leary, Martin and Klose’s deals so there isn’t as much worry about them leaving on a free.
It was revealed at the Fans Forum in late October that no offers had been offered to those out of contract, with Pearson’s reasoning that it is too early. It’s an interesting stance given Massengo’s place in the side is affected over a lack of commitment, that his teammates could find themselves in the same position as him. The difference is that Massengo’s deal was offered to him reportedly in January of this year and so it has been in the hands of the French midfielder and his representatives, whilst his teammates are playing for their futures.
The January transfer window is on the horizon and it will be interesting to see whether Massengo remains a player at City. When the New Year comes, Massengo will be free to speak to clubs from abroad including teams from his native France about joining them on a pre-agreement. Pearson admitted before the break that he wanted to do some business but had been dealt with the issue that players would have to be moved off of the books first for anything to happen and Massengo could be a pawn in that.
City are not in the strongest of positions when it comes to negotiating a deal from other clubs Massengo, who as mentioned can speak about joining another team on a free transfer. This leaves them with a decision as to whether they should hold on to him until the end of the season, or try to move him on. One option could be to make him available for loan, commanding a loan fee as well as his wages being covered, which could then in turn allow City to reinvest that in a player for six months.
There is still plenty of time for City to turn their season around and go from a team near the relegation zone to the play-offs, but it will take a solid run of consistency and likely some new faces in January to make that happen. City have four games before the New Year so signing a loan player only makes any sense if they’re either serious about a play-off push or worrying about survival.
Pearson himself has spoken about how he isn’t against loans but how it has to be the right player and at times, they prove to be expensive, so do City push for a sale of Massengo? Given there are only six months left on his deal, they would be unlikely to command a major fee for him with clubs knowing he’s available in the summer. Leicester City and Southampton were linked with him last summer, as were Nice, who opted to sign British pair Aaron Ramsey and Ross Barkley.
Whilst getting Massengo off the books in January would perhaps see a small fee recouped and his wages off the books, would it majorly change things to allow Pearson to move in the transfer market? Maybe not. For things to drastically change, one of the big stars like Antoine Semenyo or Alex Scott would need to be sold for there to be big money available. City are also slightly more methodical in the transfer market, the four signings this summer were all free transfers that will have been identified a year in the making.
This is where it leaves City and Massengo both at a cross-roads. Massengo said he’d ‘make the most out of the situation’ he’s in, whilst Pearson is happy to use him when needed. Is the 21-year-old prepared to accept sporadic appearances for the first-team or is January the right time for the two to part ways?