Some of Europe’s finest footballers face uncertain futures at present having entered the final months of their contract, a host of names sure to tempt rival sides keen to secure a marquee free transfer signing.
We’ve picked out some of the very best players potentially available for nothing in just a matter of months, here are five superstar footballers out of contract this summer:
Sergio Ramos’ future is once again dominating the headlines at the world football’s biggest club, the Real Madrid captain yet to put pen to paper on an extension at the Bernabeu.
Ramos and Real Madrid have been synonymous with each other for the best part of two decades, though the Spanish champions may have to face up to the prospect of losing their inspirational figurehead should a compromise not be found.
The 34-year-old wants a two-year deal and Los Blancos have so far failed to waver from their policy of handing players over 30 one-year extensions, even for a star whose list of successes includes winning five league titles and four Champions League trophies.
Despite his advancing years the 178-cap Spain international remains a fine player and the undisputed leader of the Real Madrid side, and whilst his departure would usher in a new era his quality and will to win would be difficult to replace at the Bernabeu.
🗣️ Özil on Sergio Ramos: "He’s been world class for over a decade – and what a leader he has become. His ambition and will to win is amazing. I would say he's the world’s best defender from my generation."#UCL | #AskMesut pic.twitter.com/ZNPNLWmi4N
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 11, 2021
Paris Saint-Germain have been linked as a potential destination with the Parisians understood to be keen on adding Ramos and Lionel Messi as they bid to build a Champions League-winning team in the French capital, whilst the defender has previously been linked to the Premier League and moves to both Manchester United and Tottenham – the latter managed by former Real boss Jose Mourinho – have been mooted.
Ramos has established himself as one of the greatest players in Real Madrid’s history and there are many who were confident he would retire in the Spanish capital, though as negotiations stall could one of the best defenders of his generation now be tempted by one final challenge?
It’s not often that a player of David Alaba’s quality becomes available whilst still in their prime, even rarer as a free agent with the Austria international set to depart Bayern Munich this summer.
Alaba has spent his entire career to date with the Bundesliga giants but will walk away from the club at the end of the season, Bayern having withdrawn their contract offer to the 28-year-old with no breakthrough having been found over an agreement.
Bayern were unwilling to hand the defender a deal that moved him closer to the club’s highest-paid players and Alaba will now have a queue of Europe’s super clubs at his door to negotiate.
Alaba has won nine league titles and two Champions League trophies during a glittering career in Bavaria, forming part of the side that won a historic treble under Hansi Flick during the 2019/20 campaign.
Real Madrid are the favourites to sign a player who is comfortable at left-back, centre-back and in midfield, though there is believed to be Premier League interest with Liverpool amongst those credited with being keen.
The star is understood to be demanding an annual salary of around €12m per year and would represent a significant investment even on a free transfer, but there are few who would doubt the value with Alaba regarded amongst the best defenders on the continent.
There has been very little noise regarding a contract extension for Sergio Aguero with the possibility increasing that this will be the final season of the forward’s Manchester City career, the club’s all-time record goalscorer having entered the final months of his deal.
Aguero has starred as arguably the greatest player in the club’s history over the past decade and has scored a staggering 256 goals in 379 appearances in all competitions, becoming the highest-scoring overseas player in Premier League history and winning four league titles.
Injuries have prevented the 32-year-old from contributing of late, however, with Aguero having made just two league starts during the current campaign, knee and hamstring injuries having limited his impact for Pep Guardiola’s side.
The continued doubts surrounding his fitness could lead to City moving in a new direction at the season’s end, Paris Saint-Germain having been reported as suitors with new manager Mauricio Pochettino keen on a deal for his compatriot.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 12, 2021
Finding a successor, however, will be hugely difficult for City and whilst there have been tentative links to the likes of Erling Haaland, securing a deal for a suitable replacement will not come cheap or easy.
Much may depend on how Aguero – who has previously spoken of his desire to finish his career in Argentina – fares over the remainder of the campaign, City currently in a ‘stick or twist’ predicament regarding the future of the club great.
Angel Di Maria
Whilst Paris Saint-Germain have seemingly been linked with every high-profile free agent on the market, the Ligue 1 champions have their own contract issues to sort in the form of Angel Di Maria.
The Argentina international has enjoyed a successful five-and-a-half year spell in the French capital after a disastrous single season at Manchester United, winning four league titles and forming a fine understanding with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Di Maria remains an integral part of the side but much will depend on the direction new manager Mauricio Pochettino wants to take the side, with the former Spurs boss set to assess his options over the second half of the season at the Parc des Princes.
Di Maria has previously stated that he would like PSG to be his final club in Europe ahead of a potential return to Argentina, though Juventus – a side known for securing high-profile free agents – have been linked in recent weeks and a deal could lead to the winger reuniting with Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin.
The 32-year-old has made 12 league starts for the Parisians this season, scoring twice and providing five assists.
The biggest fish in the free agency pool, could this be the summer that Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona?
Messi made no secret of his desire to quit the Camp Nou last summer following the faltering fortunes of the Catalan club in recent seasons, spiralling debts and questionable ownership leaving the arguably football’s greatest ever player disillusioned with life at the club he has spent his entire career to date.
Barcelona’s embarrassing Champions League exits in recent campaigns had seemingly turned the head of Messi, the 33-year-old desperate to secure more success in club football’s biggest competition.
Manchester City – where he would be reunited with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola – are regarded as the favourites to secure what would be an incredible signing, though PSG, quite predictably, have also been linked.
🎯 Lionel Messi has scored 45 league goals from outside the box in the last six years – from 467 shots.
23 more than the next player…
🇦🇷 Messi: 45
🇦🇷 Dybala: 22
🇧🇷 Coutinho: 22
🇧🇪 De Bruyne: 21pic.twitter.com/WWfQqIAziS
— thesportsman (@TheSportsman) January 11, 2021
The prospect of Messi moving to PSG would offer the tantalising prospect of a forward line containing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, a frightening array of firepower that could lead the French champions to a maiden Champions League title.
Barcelona’s presidential elections later this year will have a huge say on whether Messi ultimately decides to walk away from Catalonia this summer, and there will be many who hope he turns down free agency and remains at a side where he has become their most iconic figure.