For many, the most exciting thing to do on Football Manager 2020 is making signings, and lots of them.
Well, perhaps not depending on your club of choice. If the financial constraints are hampering your ability to assemble a fully-fledged squad, then perhaps a little bit of ingenuity in the market is required.
As per the good ol’ Bosman ruling, players in the final year of their contracts can enter negotiations and sign pre-contract agreements with foreign clubs from January onwards.
And there are some clubs who have benefitted immensely from this transfer loophole in the past – we’re all looking at you, Juventus! So, why not follow in the footsteps of Europe’s pre-contract masters and lure some of football’s most prized assets to your club for zilch?
When the New Year strikes on your save, there will be an abundance of players whose contracts are set to expire in the summer. Last year we all enjoyed prising Adrien Rabiot away from Paris, but who is up for grabs this time around? Here are 12 of the best.
1. James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)
The Colombian phenom returned to Real Madrid from Bayern Munich last summer after a two-year sojourn in Bavaria, and nope, Zinedine Zidane still doesn’t fancy him. At 28, James is in the prime years of his career, but he is yet to rediscover his 2014 World Cup form. Perhaps you can end his Bernabeu nightmare and make him the centrepiece signing of your side.
2. Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)
Surely PSG can’t lose another key player on a free transfer two years in a row? Cavani may be 33 but he is still one of Europe’s most devastating No. 9s. Despite the French tycoons boasting some of the deepest pockets in world football, a number of players seem desperate to leave the Parc des Princes – ahem Neymar. Why not compound further misery on Thomas Tuchel and pluck this lethal striker from his clutches?
3. Blaise Matuidi (Juventus)
Now here’s a chance to play Juve – or Zebre as they’re known on FM 2020 due to licensing issues – at their own game. The Old Lady have enticed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Aaron Ramsey, Paul Pogba and Emre Can to Turin for free, so here lies a perfect opportunity to hit this pre-contract doyen where it hurts most. Matuidi is one of Europe’s most tenacious, energetic and sophisticated midfielders; his experience and turbocharger exploits are sure to enhance any side.
4. Dries Mertens (Napoli)
One player who looks destined to leave Napoli is diminutive forward Mertens, though perhaps not for East Asia; president Aurelio De Laurentiis has already crucified the idea of Mertens moving to China, stating: “If they [Mertens and Jose Callejon] want to sell themselves out in China, overpaid to live a life of s*** for two or three years, it’s their problem.” Perhaps a move to the Premier League would keep emotions in check.
5. Jose Callejon (Napoli)
The San Paolo landscape looks set to undergo huge changes these coming months and another player who could be on the move is former Real Madrid winger Callejon. As mentioned, De Laurentiis doesn’t appear keen for his versatile forward to join Marek Hamsik in China, but recent reports are suggesting just that. Here is your chance to save the Napoli boss from further strain and add the Spaniard to your ranks – providing you’re not managing Dalian Yifang that is.
6. Willian (Chelsea)
Back to the Premier League, so those managing on these shores, look away now. Barcelona may finally get their bizarre wish of adding the Brazilian to a squad already replete with world-class wing talent, and it won’t cost them around £50m either. But you could pip the Catalonian giants to the post by agreeing terms with Willian. It will cost you north of £120k per week mind.
7. Pedro (Chelsea)
This situation threatened to offer Frank Lampard a wide-man quandary at the start of the campaign, but as it goes, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Pedro have rotated effectively of late. That said, Pedro may be deemed surplus to requirements come the end of the season. The ex-Barca winger still has plenty to offer and would be a wise investment for any top-flight club.
8. David Silva (Manchester City)
Silva has already announced his decision to leave the Etihad at the end of this current campaign, closing the curtains on an illustrious decade in the North West, but my word, he is certainly showing no signs of slowing down. At 34, Silva is very much in the twilight years of his career, but you wouldn’t think it. The elegant playmaker is of that rare breed of footballer who appears to age like a fine wine – think Pirlo – and will no doubt spice up any midfield.
9. Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain)
David’s namesake is also on the market, but unfortunately for us FM aficionados it’s not Bernardo, but rather stalwart Thiago. The seasoned Brazilian defender has just turned 35 but he is still meanly locking the Parisian backline and could flourish under the right manager. His experience would also prove invaluable for anyone looking to develop a young centre-back.
10. Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
Despite fitness and injury troubles, on his day Lallana is still a fine playmaker. His Dribbling, First Touch and Technique attributes make for a very competent No. 10. He could be the star of the show for a middling top-flight club or an excellent squad player for any Champions League side.
11. Stefan Savic (Atletico Madrid)
A pupil of Diego Simeone’s defending school, Stefan Savic is still a useful member of Atletico Madrid’s squad in reality. But on FM, you can make him part of your team and instantly make your defence a little bit more solid. His impressive Heading and Anticipation make him ideal for mid-table clubs who choose to sit back against the big boys.
12. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Jan Vertonghen has struggled during the final year of his Spurs contract, making an exit more likely than was assumed at the beginning of the campaign. His deterioration has not been as extreme on FM, and he’d be a decent addition to any Champions League or Europa League squad as a utility defender who can play in the middle or on the left.