During his update on Luis Suarez, Brendan Rodgers also spoke on the status of Glen Johnson. He's finally had the boot off his injured left foot, and sounds as though he's progressing well from his high ankle sprain. According to Rodgers, he's about two weeks out from a return, which likely puts him in line for an appearance away at Newcastle in the middle of October.
What might be more interesting is what Rodgers said when he was asked about the possibility of extending Johnson's contract. "It’s something the club will take up at the right time. I’m not sure where it’s at." On the surface, it's a perfectly benign statement, but if you look at the details of the matter, it gets a little more concerning.
Johnson's contract runs out at the end of next season, meaning we're at about 20 months out from his contract expiring, and 14 from him being free to sign a pre-contract with another club if he's not given a new contract first. This is generally the point where a club starts working on an extension if they seriously want to keep a player around, and if Liverpool is putting off those discussions it raises some questions as to whether or not he'll be sticking around in the long run.
Complicating matters are Johnson's current wages. At 29 years old and with a lengthy injury history, it's getting hard to justify his reported £100,000 per week salary. Yes, when he's on the pitch and in form he's one of the best right backs in the business, but he spends a fair bit of time injured, and his lapses in form tend to drag on for too long, as evidenced by his spring swoon last season.
That's not to say that the club should kick him to the curb straight away, though. Like I said, when he's on form, he's one of the best in the league at his position, and he was showing signs that he was hitting his stride when he got hurt. But with the club trying to be fiscally responsible as they try to get themselves back in to a more competitive position, giving an extension of those wages to someone who'll be almost 31 when his current deal expires seems like it's not such a hot idea.
So that begs the question as to what's going to happen. With Martin Kelly coming off a serious knee injury and arguably even more frail, we can be sure that Johnson will at least be around for the rest of the season. If he's not given a new contract, Liverpool would have to try to sell him in the summer or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. That's not a great situation to be in, as even with a promising talent like Ryan McLaughlin around, he's far enough away from realizing that talent that it leaves the club potentially vulnerable at an increasingly important position that doesn't have a lot of premium talent on it.
Even if Liverpool does offer Johnson a new contract, it's very likely that it'd be at a discounted rate. The question is to whether or not he'd take such a contract if he feels he still deserves a premium deal. From his perspective, it's not hard to see him wanting such a deal again. As one of the better members of a very thin position in both the league and the continent, it's not unreasonable for him to expect a contract that suits that status. As outlined above, though, Liverpool's likely position of wanting to give him a lesser deal is also perfectly reasonable.
Given the club's history with Glen Johnson, it's likely that everything will work out fine and there will be no ugly dispute of any kind, but, you know, Everything's The Worst and all that. Still, watching this unfold will be a good lesson on just how Rodgers value his fullbacks and their importance in his squad. The first and most important part, however, if for Johnson to get healthy and back to form, which hopefully will be happening next month.