DIRTY HARRY: Prince set for Royals exit as contract talks break down
Prince Harry could soon be on his way out of the Royal Family with his contract set to expire in the summer and no new deal on the horizon.
Sources indicate that The Queen is reluctant to offer the midfield talisman a fresh extension due to the growing influence of his agent, Meghan Markle, who has been working with the Duke of Sussex since 2016. The agent has reportedly clashed with the head of the Royal Family over the future of the Prince and thrown Buckingham Palace into crisis.
Markle believes that the time is right for Windsor, who scored 0 goals in 201 public appearances last year and turns 36 in September, to continue his career in North America amidst fervent interest from a number of franchises in the Canadian Premier League. Inter Milan are also rumoured to be interested should they fail to acquire Ashley Young.
Over the next few days, The Queen will be joined by the most trusted members of her backroom staff for crunch meeting with the wantaway star. It is believed that Markle, already dubbed the new Mino Raiola and in Canada negotiating on behalf of her client, will dial-in for the emergency talks.
The showdown is the result of ongoing speculation that Harry is deeply unhappy at the club and would welcome a 'progressive new role' elsewhere, perhaps as the advanced midfielder in a loosely structured 4-3-1-2, taking inspiration from the success of Aaron Ramsey's free-agent move Juventus.
Alternatively, it has been suggested that the player's association with Markle has rankled senior backroom figures to the extent that he is now being forced out of the club. Even Prince William, who forged such a strong partnership in the middle with Harry that it frequently drew comparisons to Newcastle United's Sean and Matty Longstaff, seems all but resigned to watching his brother leave.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more, we’re separate entities,” he told a friend, perhaps the clearest indication yet that the Queen has finally lost control of the Sandringham dressing room.
The playing squad had been extremely tight-knit for a number of seasons but now appears to have reached breaking point. Several off-the-field incidents have rocked the club over the last few months, with Prince Andrew the biggest name to be dropped from the first team and made to train with the under-23s. And then on his own. The Duke of York even refuted claims that he doesn't work hard enough on the pitch by citing his chronic 'inability to sweat', further driving a wedge between the team and its frustrated supporters.
Faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding on the fly midway through the season, the Queen has thus far failed to target adequate reinforcements for a quickly depleting squad. One of the major criticisms of her reign remains: she is still notoriously frugal in the transfer market.
This is despite a beyond-substantial kitty afforded her by the Great British taxpayer, which it is often claimed she hoards like a dragon rather than reinvesting back into the club infrastructure. Her refusal to splash the cash has led to such disquiet amongst fans that some are even questioning whether she is still suitable for the job she has held since 1952.
There is also growing concern that the Royals are relying too heavily on their academy setup, which has seen the likes of Prince George, Prince Louis, Prince Charlotte and most recently Archie Mountbatten-Windsor come through the ranks and make debuts despite their vast inexperience, all whilst their top-level talent grows increasingly thin. The photograph of Prince Philip of returning from hospital looking like Charlie Adam did little to reassure supporters that the current stars aren't past their best.
With the club in turmoil, Harry's transfer demands couldn't have come at a worse time for The Queen as she must now attempt to fend off foreign interest whilst the transfer window remains open and quash the increased authority with which Markle appears to be operating.
Despite the obvious difficulty of the task, there is still hope in some quarters that the Prince completes a miraculous U-turn and stays with the Royal Family. "All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the same team,” William said, according to the Sunday Times, perhaps hoping that the two might one day reunite at Manchester City like Kolo and Yaya.
There is even the faint possibility of some kind of loan arrangement being struck up that sees the Prince split his time between Europe and North America, a system both David Beckham and Robbie Keane benefitted from during their time in the MLS.
It remains to be seen if an agreement will be reached this week, but whatever happens, a desperately overdue club restructuring becomes increasingly likely. Prince Charles, The Queen's long-term number two, has forever been rumoured to be taking the top job when Her Majesty does eventually step down. Given that Mikel Arteta was made a similar promise but instead chose to leave Manchester City for Arsenal, his patience could be tested.
As for The Queen herself, she will no doubt look at the situations of two other long-serving managers, Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe, both struggling, and wonder if it is time to pass the torch onto the next generation - whether that be Charles or another promising younger manager, Crystal Palace's Roy Hodgson. Expect speculation on her position, and Prince Harry's next move, to persist into the summer.