The January transfer window is shut but that doesn’t mean clubs are standing still with a view to the future.
As we move deeper into the second half of this campaign there are players whose current deals are set to expire once everything is said and done. We’ve picked out some of the most notable free agents come season-end.
1. Paul Pogba
Club: Manchester United
Paul Pogba signed a six-year contract when he re-joined Man Utd in 2016 and he has finally entered the final six months of that deal. The Frenchman has had good and bad times at Old Trafford but remains a quality player when fit and loved, as shown by his seven assists in four appearances at the start of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign.
He recently returned to training after a protracted stint on the sidelines with a thigh injury, and interim manager Ralf Rangnick said only last week that the midfielder may be driven to perform to put himself in the shop window over the coming months.
He said: “He wants to show the whole world what kind of player he can be, even if it’s for only showing up for a new contract elsewhere, he will be highly motivated to do that.”
Paul Pogba has now provided more Premier League assists in four games this season (7) than his previous two seasons combined (6).
No stopping him this term. 💪 pic.twitter.com/bSBVEIBdGu
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 11, 2021
2. Franck Kessie
Club: AC Milan
Franck Kessie has quietly become one of the top midfielders in Europe right now and he could be on the move soon with AC Milan unable to secure him on a new deal. The Ivorian only joined AC Milan in 2017 on an initial loan move from Atalanta, but has played 205 times for the club and will be on the radar of a number of European clubs.
3. Ousmane Dembele
Things just haven’t worked out for Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona due to a variety of reasons including injury problems. The Frenchman was meant to be the next big thing when he joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 and the potential is still there. It may just be a case of Dembele moving elsewhere to finally realise his potential.
And a move could be on the cards this month after Barca’s director of football Mateu Alemany told reporters that the winger must leave the club with “immediate” effect after he rejected their latest contract offer.
“We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project,” he said.
“We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don’t want to have players who don’t want to be at Barca.”
Dembele ultimately hit back in the wake of Alemany’s comments. The Frenchman took to social media to say that contract talks remain “ongoing”, and he will be available to play for Barca should Xavi need him.
Dembele wrote on his Instagram: “Don’t think I’m out of the project. Don’t speak of intentions I never had.
“I have a contract and I’m available for Xavi. I’m not gonna give up.
“There are contract talks ongoing. My agent is on it – I’m only focusing on the pitch.”
4. Antonio Rudiger
Antonio Rudiger is one of four defenders Chelsea are in danger of losing in the summer due to their contract running out, and he could be their biggest miss and most popular name in the market. The German is at the peak of his game, helping Chelsea win the Champions League in May and having also made a quick start to the season, before injuries hampered Thomas Tuchel’s defence. And he’s catching the eye of a lot of clubs according to reports, including Real Madrid.
5. André Onana
The final chapter of André Onana’s career at Ajax is a sad one. After receiving a lengthy ban after testing positive for a banned substance, the Cameroonian goalkeeper — once a universal fan favourite — decided his time in Amsterdam was over much to supporters’ chagrin. Though nothing is made official the feeling among reporters is that his immediate future will be at Inter Milan where he’s set to succeed long-term Nerazzurri servant Samir Handanović.
6. Andrea Belotti
Andrea Belotti was once one of the most popular strikers in Europe, outside of the big names, and he remains a top goalscorer in Serie A. Now he could be on his way out of Torino, with club president Urbano Cairo saying in December: “I don’t see big chances to extend his contract, but we’ll see.”
7. Andrej Kramaric
Andrej Kramaric did not enjoy his time in the Premier League with Leicester but since joining Hoffenheim in 2016, the Croatian striker has been on fire. He has 99 goals in 202 games for Hoffenheim across all competitions, but the German club could be losing Kramaric soon with no signs of a new deal right now.
37': Andrej Kramarić assists
78': Andrej Kramarić assists
87': Andrej Kramarić assists
Another hat-trick of assists in the Bundesliga, this time from Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramarić. pic.twitter.com/Bl8bWTfEiN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 14, 2021
8. Noussair Mazraoui
Ajax are known for producing quality players and Noussair Mazraoui is just the latest of a long list of stars. But he could also be the latest of a long list of players produced by Ajax to leave the club before their peak. The Moroccan full-back is out of contract in the summer and has been tipped to leave Amsterdam either for a fee in January or for free at the end of the season, with the defender himself saying there’s only a “5%” chance he stays.
When quizzed by Dutch media on were he will be next season, Mazraoui responded: “That’s a good question.
“I think the chances of me remaining at Ajax are very small, maybe 5%.
“I am open for something new, I have played here for 16 years and I think it’s a good moment to leave.”
9. César Azpilicueta
A surprising inclusion given his status at Stamford Bridge, since joining Chelsea from Marseille in the summer of 2012, the multifunctional César Azpilicueta has not only become a relied upon stalwart but Chelsea’s skipper. They say familiarity breeds contempt, maybe after ten seasons and winning everything in sight the 32-year-old defender feels there’s another challenge that awaits him.
10. Paulo Dybala
Before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo it was commonly accepted Paulo Dybala was Juventus’ main man. His departure saw him reclaim that mantle. Once heralded as Lionel Messi’s successor the Argentine forward has enjoyed an up-and-down last few seasons. That being said, he’s not without his suitors, if Dybala doesn’t come to an agreement with the Old Lady then expect a number of them making a final pitch to acquire his signature.
11. Jesse Lingard
Club: Man Utd
Jesse Lingard remaining at Manchester United is a surprise to many. Hardly a regular starter the England international spent the 2020/21 campaign at West Ham and there was the possibility of reuniting with the Hammers although nouveau riche Newcastle United were sniffing around. According to reports United were not prepared to send him on loan to a top-four rival (West Ham) and their valuation of him put the Magpies off from making a proposal. But what’s clear is that Lingard is set to enter the final months representing his boyhood club.
Jesse Lingard was directly involved in 13 Premier League goals for West Ham:
◎ 16 games
◉ 9 goals
◉ 4 assists
Only Harry Kane (14) was involved in more during Lingard's spell in London. ⚒ pic.twitter.com/vtA9dFlzZW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 19, 2021
12. Jason Denayer
It really is centre-back season this year with Jason Denayer another player who would be available to talk with other clubs over a free move in January. After spells with Galatasaray and Lyon, the Belgian has become a top defender and at the age of 26 is still yet to hit the peak of his game. And this is a known fact around Europe, with the likes of Newcastle, AC Milan and Real Madrid being linked with a January move for Denayer.
13. Ivan Perisic
Club: Inter Milan
Ivan Perisic has been at Inter Milan for almost seven years now but it appears his time at the club is finally nearing its end. He now has just six months left on his contract and may want to look elsewhere as his career winds down, though Perisic isn’t worrying too much about his future right now. “We haven’t talked, we still have six months,” he said of his contract with Inter.
14. Federico Bernardeschi
Federico Bernardeschi is perhaps an under-appreciated name at Juventus, certainly among those who don’t follow the club week-in-week-out. But he may get a move away from the Italian giants as his contract is set to run out in the summer. The Italian, who played four games for the Azzurri at Euro 2020, is currently being linked with a move to Barcelona – who would certainly be looking for free transfers given their financial situation.
15. Corentin Tolisso
Another big central midfield name who could be available for a free move is Corentin Tolisso, who has really struggled at Bayern Munich since joining in 2017. It hasn’t been his fault though, with Tolisso struggling from injury problems, and the quality is certainly still there for someone to sign in the summer.
16. Andreas Christensen
Another defender in Chelsea blue that could soon be saying goodbye. Christensen hasn’t always been first choice — see the amount of times he’s been sent out on loan before — though under Thomas Tuchel he’s become a mainstay hence why his potential departure stings. Christensen’s love for the Blues reportedly has ruled out moving to another Premier League club meaning his future lies on the continent with Bayern Munich seemingly keeping tabs.
17. Kylian Mbappe
One bonus name as all signs point to a contract renewal, including a cheeky picture with teammates for his birthday, but if he wanted to, Kylian Mbappe could refuse talks and leave PSG as a free agent this summer. Who wouldn’t want to sign one of the best players in the world on a free transfer?