As the calendar year draws to a close attentions in the Premier League will quickly turn towards the winter window, the opening of the January transfer window set to start the rumour mill.
Several notable names have entered the final months of their contracts and will be free to negotiate pre-contract agreements with foreign sides in just a matter of days, with clubs on the continent likely to be eyeing up some bargain buys from English football.
Ahead of the winter window we’ve decided to look at some of the most high-profile players approaching the end of their contract, here is one player from each ‘big six’ side available on a free transfer next summer:
Arguably the biggest name still currently in the free agency pool, Sergio Aguero’s future at Manchester City is yet to be decided beyond the end of the current campaign.
Aguero has established himself as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever forwards during a decade spent at the Etihad, becoming the highest-scoring non-English player in the division’s history and City’s all-time record goalscorer.
Few players have had a greater impact on City’s ascent to becoming England’s most successful side over the past decade, Aguero having won four Premier League titles amongst his 10 major honours.
At full fitness there are few players as ruthless when in the confines of the penalty area but the 32-year-old has struggled with injuries of late, making just two league starts so far this season due to knee and hamstring issues.
City have lacked a cutting edge in his absence and Gabriel Jesus has not quite shown he can be the long-term solution as the club’s number nine, with Pep Guardiola facing a decision on whether to hand Aguero an extension or enter the market for a replacement.
Aguero has previously spoken of his desire to return to Argentina and end his career with boyhood club Independiente, and the lack of noise over a renewal at City perhaps points to this being the final season of his record-breaking career in the club’s colours.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s future has been headline news for much of the season to date, the Liverpool midfielder rapidly approaching the end of his current deal with no breakthrough over an extension at Anfield.
Wijnaldum has been a key figure in the Reds’ recent successes and the Premier League champions are keen for the star to remain beyond the end of the season, having tabled a new contract offer to the Netherlands international earlier this month.
The 30-year-old is understood to have asked the club for time as he considers his future, Barcelona having expressed an interest in signing Wijnaldum on a free transfer with manager Ronald Koeman keen to again work alongside a player he previously coached at international level.
Liverpool are well stocked in central midfield but Wijnaldum remains a firm favourite of Jurgen Klopp, an intelligent player who protects possession and works tirelessly to implement the Reds’ pressing style of play.
Wijnaldum’s departure would be a blow given his levels of consistency since arriving on Merseyside from Newcastle four-and-a-half years ago, though there is an acknowledgement that this will likely be the last major contract for a player who turned 30 in November.
Liverpool will hope the midfielder decides to stay and challenge for further major honours in the coming seasons, though will likely have contingency plans in place should Wijnaldum decide on a new challenge at Barcelona or elsewhere.
Mesut Ozil’s fall from grace has been spectacular in recent seasons with Arsenal’s highest-paid player currently exiled from the first-team set up at the Emirates, left out of the squads for the Premier League and Europa League this season.
Ozil became the most expensive player in the Gunners’ history when signing from Real Madrid in 2013, and whilst he was often excellent during his early years with the club his fortunes have nosedived since signing a record-breaking new deal in January 2018.
Few players can match Ozil’s ability to carve out opportunities for teammates, but his languid style is at odds with the intense pressing play often favoured by Europe’s leading clubs in recent years.
There is little room for luxury and Ozil’s lack of work ethic has seen him become an increasingly peripheral figure under a succession of managers, before his complete omission from the Arsenal squad under Mikel Arteta this season.
Ozil has watched on this season as Arsenal’s lack of creativity has contributed towards their worst ever start to a Premier League season, though there appears to be little chance of an unlikely return to the fold for the 32-year-old.
The German has insisted he will see out the remainder of his deal before leaving on a free transfer next summer, but his lack of football this season could prompt a rethink and potential exit this winter.
Olivier Giroud has continually battled to win favour since signing for Chelsea almost three years ago, mixing spells of fine form with prolonged periods on the sidelines.
Giroud has averaged less than 10 league starts per season since moving across the capital from London rivals Arsenal and has spoken of his desire for more regular involvement, with France manager Didier Deschamps admitting the 34-year-old’s situation must change if he is to retain his place at international level with Les Blues.
Recent weeks have suggested that Giroud still has plenty left in the tank, a four-goal haul against Sevilla seeing the forward become the Champions League’s oldest hat-trick scorer and earning him a run in the side, scoring further goals in Premier League clashes with Leeds, Wolves and Aston Villa.
Chelsea spent a combined £155 million on Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner & Kai Havertz last summer 💰
Olivier Giroud has scored more goals (9) than all of them this season 😜 pic.twitter.com/u5TaTJXEkz
— Goal (@goal) December 28, 2020
Giroud has spoken of his desire to win trophies with Chelsea this season and his recent return to favour may persuade him his future remains at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season at least, though there is likely to be a long list of clubs considering the star should he fail to sign a new deal with the west London outfit.
West Ham have been linked with a player who recently became France’s second-highest goalscorer of all-time, Giroud’s professionalism and style of play meaning he has plenty left to offer interested parties despite entering the twilight of his career.
After forming part of the England squad which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup just a little more than two years ago, Jesse Lingard’s fortunes have faltered drastically with the player now a forgotten figure at Manchester United.
Lingard has fallen out-of-favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and looks hugely unlikely to remain with his boyhood side beyond the end of the season, having made just two substitute appearances for the Red Devils since the Premier League’s restart in June.
The 28-year-old has not made a single Premier League appearance this season and has only been included in three match-day squads, his only football of the campaign coming during Carabao Cup clashes against Luton and Brighton.
United reportedly have the option to extend the midfielder’s contract and exercising that option would protect the club from losing Lingard on a free transfer, though there is likely to be an acceptance that it is best for both club and player to part ways.
Lingard came through the academy ranks at Old Trafford and scored the winner in the 2016 FA Cup final before winning a League Cup and Europa League double the following season, in addition to scoring four times in 24 caps for England.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 29, 2020
The midfielder’s energy and versatility will attract interest from elsewhere with the likes of Sheffield United and West Ham amongst the clubs to have been linked with Lingard of late, a player who could represent a shrewd signing if he can rediscover his finest form.
The second member of England’s 2018 World Cup squad to feature here, Danny Rose’s difficult relationship with Jose Mourinho was played out in front of the cameras during Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur’ documentary series.
Rose had become unhappy with his lack of football and was shipped out on loan to Newcastle over the second half of last season, underwhelming during his 11 league appearances for the Magpies who opted against signing him on a permanent basis during the summer.
The presence of Ben Davies and summer signing of Sergio Reguilon further emphasised there was no way back for the 30-year-old in north London, where he has remained in exile after not being handed a squad number ahead of the 2020/21 season.
Rose – who has won 29 caps for England – was left out of Spurs’ squads for both the Premier League and Europa League this season and will be desperate to move on as he enters the final months of his contract.
Next month’s January window could provide an opportunity for the left-back to find a new challenge, though his arrest on suspicion of dangerous driving last week will no doubt have raised concerns from potential suitors.