Football Features

The best free agents & contract rebels in every position

By Steve Jennings

Published: 16:45, 5 June 2019

The summer is here, and so a plethora of footballers will be considering their futures at their current clubs.

Many high-profile players are out of contract at the end of this month, while others will see their deals expire in the summer of 2020. And then there are those already without a club, looking to revive their careers in the 2019/20 campaign.

Some of Europe’s top clubs are currently sweating over their star men. Indeed, it’s possible to make entire combined XIs out of the vast number of summer free agents and contract rebels. So that’s exactly what we’ve done.

There are so many, in fact, that we’ve included some honourable mentions for our two contract anarchist line-ups. But first, it’s the free agents.

Free agents

Enyeama; Gamez, Kaboul, Djourou, Kaboul, Evra; Affelay, Yaya Toure, Cabaye; Giovanni dos Santos, Rossi, Martins.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, young players don’t usually find themselves on the free agent list, which is why our XI is not lacking in experience. Former Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made 101 appearances for Nigeria, while full-backs Jesus Gamez and Patrice Evra have a combined age of 70. And it’s a long time since Younes Kaboul and Johan Djourou were going head-to-head in north London derbies.

The midfield is made up of a supremely talented trio, all of whom played for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Yaya Toure left Olympiacos for the second time late last year and Yohan Cabaye has been without a club since leaving Dubai’s Al-Nasr in January (there has been some confusion as to whether or not he has retired). Meanwhile, one-time Barcelona man Ibrahim Affelay mostly wasted four years of his career at Stoke before departing by mutual consent earlier this year.

In attack, Guiseppe Rossi – who trained with former club Manchester United recently to build his fitness – is supported by Tottenham flop Giovanni Dos Santos and Obafemi Martins, who averaged better than a goal every other game for Shanghai Shenhua in China last year.

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Expiring in 2019

Vorm; Valencia, Kompany, Godin, Filipe Luis; Herrera, Mata, Rabiot; Robben, Sturridge, Balotelli.

There are plenty of older heads in our second XI, too, but this lot will still be attracting interest when their contracts expire in the summer. Michel Vorm might be keen to explore pastures new after dropping to Spurs’ third-choice goalkeeper, while Antonio Valencia has already confirmed his time at Manchester United is coming to an end. Vincent Kompany will return to Anderlecht as player/manager, while Diego Godin is on his way out of Atletico Madrid. Filipe Luis may also leave the Spanish capital.

Adrien Rabiot‘s spell on the naughty step at PSG looks certain to come to an end soon. Juan Mata has been tipped to return to Spain unless Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks the Spaniard is worthy of an extension, while Ander Herrera is expected to join PSG.

Arjen Robben is set to leave Bayern Munich after 10 hugely successful years in Germany. At 35, a return to the Netherlands or a move to China could be on the cards. Mario Balotelli is only on a short-term deal at Marseille but his form should earn him a permanent stay. His former Liverpool teammate Daniel Strurridge will be leaving Anfield.

Honourable mentions: Matteo Darmian, Nacho Monreal, Danny WelbeckLeighton Baines, Pablo Zabaleta, Hector Herrera, Andreas Pereira.

Expiring in 2020

De Gea; Meunier, Alderweireld, Chiellini, Vertonghen; Eriksen, Fernandinho, Modric; David Silva, Rashford, Hazard.

As the contract expiration date gets further away, the players get even better. David De Gea is between the sticks after United reportedly triggered an extension in the Spaniard’s deal until the summer of 2020. Toby Alderweireld is in the same boat, although he’s likely to leave England this summer because of a £25m release clause in his Spurs contract. The more experienced Giorgio Chiellini has done enough to earn legend status at Juventus regardless of whether he stays or goes, and Jan Vertonghen will probably extend his Tottenham deal again in the coming months. Meanwhile, Thomas Meunier has admitted he could leave PSG this summer.

Luka Modric was heavily linked with Inter Milan last year and Zinedine Zidane’s squad refresh at Real Madrid might see that deal happen this summer. Christian Eriksen could be his replacement after announcing he is open to leaving Spurs. But Fernandinho might be a Premier League remainer; indeed, Pep Guardiola may try to keep the Brazilian at Manchester City while a long-term successor is bedded in.

It’s difficult to see City parting ways with such crucial players, but both Fernandinho and David Silva will be in their mid-30s next summer, so anything is possible. Eden Hazard has been flirting with Real Madrid for some time, so that’s a deal that could certainly happen. Marcus Rashford, however, is expected to stay where he is with Manchester United reportedly preparing a new bumper contract.

Honourable mentions: Keylor Navas, Laurent Koscielny, Thiago Silva, Ashley Young, Ilkay Gundogan, Willian, Edinson Cavani, Blaise Matuidi, Dries Mertens, Mario Mandzukic, Edin Dzeko, Jose Callejon, Nabil Fekir, Falcao, Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Pedro, Timo Werner, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabian Delph, Ryan Sessegnon, Adam Lallana, Mario Gotze.