Football Features

The best free agents & Premier League contract rebels in every position

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:33, 3 September 2019

The summer transfer window has come and gone, not just in the Premier League, but across Europe, leaving some players – and clubs – in very precarious territory.

As many high-profile names entered the last year of their contracts in July, the proceedings weeks were fraught with widespread rumours of possible departures.

Christian Eriksen was, of course, the most conspicuous among those, with his longstanding transfer saga involving Real Madrid failing to bear fruit, prompting him to since yearn for business in the real world to be like “Football Manager”.

However, amidst fear of losing key players on a free transfer in 2020, a few clubs decided to jump the gun in order to yield some sort of financial gain – even at a cut price – with Eden Hazard’s move from Chelsea to Real the standout example here.

But, those who failed to sanction transfers on players with just one year remaining on their present deals could find themselves in Aaron Ramsey/Adrien Rabiot contract rebel territory – Juventus are no doubt sniffing around already.

In less than four months’ time – as per the Bosman ruling – players whose contracts expire next year can agree to pre-contract deals with foreign clubs, and there are some huge names in the Premier League who fit that criteria.

So who are they? We’ve constructed a combined XI of the Premier League stars who could leave on a free next summer…

Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Man Utd) 

At various stages across the summer, club legends ‘leaked’ or intimated that the Spanish stopper is set to sign a new contract after months of intense speculation. Multiple sources detailed that the Red Devils tabled a lucrative offer worth in excess of £350,000 per week to De Gea, but as things stand, there is no official announcement that he has put pen-to-paper on fresh terms, leading to some doubt…

Right-back: James Milner (Liverpool)

Of course, Mr. Versatile, Liverpool’s utility man comes in as the auxiliary right-back, taking up a position he was proving rather good at prior to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s explosion. The seasoned pro is now in his final year at Anfield, but many Koppites will be eager to see Milner remain on Merseyside, such is his dependability and influence in the dressing room.

He has previously revealed that his representatives have asked questions of the club regarding his future, but he is yet to hear back.

Milner explained: “As it stands, last year we spoke to the club and asked them if they wanted to do something and they said not at that time.

“We haven’t heard anything since, so that’s where we are at.”

Centre-back: Joel Matip (Liverpool)

Despite flourishing last season when Joe Gomez was absent, due to injury problems, Matip appeared to be demoted to third-choice behind the England international this campaign, starting on the bench for the Community Shield and opening Premier League game. However, he has since returned to Jurgen Klopp’s XI and scored against Arsenal, as well as keeping a clean sheet against Burnley at the weekend.

As such, The Athletic have reported Matip could be rewarded with a new deal having regained Klopp’s trust. However, the report does add that Gomez is still seen as the future, so if the Cameroon international isn’t provided assurances regarding consistent first-team involvement, will he definitely sign on the dotted line if a new deal is offered?

Centre-back: Toby Alderweireld (Spurs)

Spurs avoided losing the Belgian this summer after they triggered a clause in his contract to extend his deal until 2020, but that subsequently activated a separate clause which would have allowed him to leave for £26m at least 14 days before the close of the Premier League transfer window.

However, they now find themselves back to square one having avoided that scenario, as the 30-year-old could opt to hold talks with foreign clubs in January, though the Lilywhites are reportedly confident he will sign a new contract.

Left-back: Jan Vertonghen (Spurs)

Bit of a makeshift back-four this, but we all know Jan Vertonghen’s credentials at left-back. Like his compatriot Alderweireld, Spurs took up the option of extending Vertonghen’s contract by a further 12 months, but this season has already been loaded with hints that he could be off next summer.

Vertonghen failed to make the starting XI in defeat to Aston Villa, with Pochettino claiming he selected a side made up of the players who deserved to start; later claiming the 32-year-old wasn’t fit enough, which Vertonghen took issue with. The Argentine was reportedly unhappy with the centre-back’s response at being dropped and omitted him from the entire 18. Despite being recalled for the Arsenal match, there remains some uncertainty.

Central midfield: Christian Eriksen (Spurs)

The dynamic Dane expressed a desire “try something new” earlier in the summer, and at times he looked nailed on to pitch up at either Real Madrid or Manchester United, though neither move transpired. Despite missing out on a stratospheric move, the 27-year-old doesn’t appear to be changing his transfer stance and rushing to the boardroom to thrash out new terms with Daniel Levy.

Central midfield: Fernandinho (Man City)

There has been a perennially panic at the Etihad that once Fernandinho left there would be a gaping void irreplaceable in the anchorman role, but Pep Guardiola has since astutely signed Rodri and they now look even better. Fernandinho was on an extended break following his Copa America triumph with Brazil, but returned against Brighton on Saturday, and reports suggest he has stalled on signing a new contract as he wants to see how the season pans out.

Right-wing: Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

Fraser terrorised the flanks last season, finishing as the second-highest assist provider (14) in the Premier League behind Eden Hazard, which sparked rumours of a move to a ‘Big Six’ side this summer, with Arsenal among the favourites. Interest naturally subsided as the Gunners splurged on Nicolas Pepe, but there remains an ominous silence from the Fraser camp.

Central attacking midfield: Willian (Chelsea)

He may turn 32 next summer, but the Brazilian trickster remains an elite-level winger of the highest calibre and losing him on a free could prove problematic for the Blues. Of course, Juventus have reportedly been keeping tabs on his situation, with Maurizio Sarri a big fan of the South American having worked along side him last season – could this be the latest freebie masterstroke from the Old Lady?

Left-wing: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)

Chelsea looked to have won the battle to keep hold of their fledgling phenom after intense interest from Bayern Munich, with speculation rife that the teenager had agreed to a £180,000-per-week deal back in July. But like De Gea, there is yet to be any confirmation of this new contract going through.

Striker: Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)

Benteke currently earns £120,000-a-week at Selhurst Park and recent reports indicate that he may opt for an extended stay in South London, but with the 28-year-old yet to really rediscover his shooting boots under Roy Hodgson, he may seek a change of scene.