With the European football season almost at an end, it’s time to start trying to second guess who will be on the move this summer.
While players such as Eden Hazard will be fetching upward of £100m, some of his counterparts will be heading to pastures new on a free-transfer as their contracts at their current employers come to an end.
We’ve compiled what we think is a competitive starting XI made up entirely of players who will cost absolutely nothing and we think they could at least get to the final of the Carabao Cup.
The legendary Italian goalkeeper arrived at Paris Saint Germain last summer in the hope of winning the Champions League to complete his trophy haul. In a cruel twist of fate, however, it was his mistakes that contributed heavily to the Parisian’s exit in the Round of 16 to Manchester United and the 41-year-old now looks unlikely to ever get his hands on the cup with the big ears. It’s also unlikely that PSG will activate the extra year on his current deal that expires next month, but a player of his stature surely deserves one last shot at trying to claim European club football’s greatest prize.
One of the few Old Trafford success stories following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the versatile Colombian is leaving Manchester United this summer after ten years at the club. Built like a brick sh**house, the 33-year-old was converted into one of Europe’s best-attacking full-backs by the Red Devils – which would have been okay if they had also nurtured him into one of the best-defending full-backs in Europe. Many scoffed at the idea when Fergie paid £17m to Wigan Athletic in 2009, but Valencia can always point to the fact that he has won more medals than Alan Shearer.
Just what Chelsea were thinking of when they sold the Brazilian international back to Atletico Madrid in 2015 after one season at Stamford Bridge Mourinho only knows, but the 33-year-old left-back has been one of the most consistent performers in La Liga ever since he returned to the Spanish capital. Now entering the twilight of his career, he will become a free-agent at the end of the current campaign and although the legs may be going, the brain is still fully functioning. So, it’s likely that we will still be seeing him plying his trade in one of Europe’s top-five leagues next term.
What more can you say about the Belgian international who elevated himself to god-like status at Manchester City following his wonder strike against Leicester City on Monday? Whether the big man will decide to hang up the boots after next weekend’s FA Cup Final is still to be decided, but City fans are already flooding radio phone-ins to try to convince the 33-year-old to slap on the make-up for one last hurrah next term. A job behind the scenes at The Etihad surely awaits and in the meantime, his former international boss Roberto Martinez could use him to make sure Thierry Henry never pulls on a Belgian tracksuit ever again.
If any club is ready to give a new home to David Luiz, then Chelsea will be more than happy to throw in his defensive partner Gary Cahill who is also out of contract in West London this summer. Unfortunately for Cahill, the first word that springs to mind when you mention his name is “failure” despite him being a double Premier League and FA Cup winner with the Blues and winning the Champions League in his first season at the club. Cahill you see will always be remembered for being part of the England team that surrendered so easily to Iceland in Nice at Euro 2016, but to give him his due, he’ll certainly do a job for someone on a bleak Wednesday night in February at Burnley.
A fans’ favourite at Old Trafford, it seems as though the 29-year-old Spaniard will be bid farewell to Manchester United this summer and who can blame him; when he looks around the dressing room and sees lazy b**tards like Alexis Sanchez taking home 500K-a-week for doing sweet FA, then surely he’s entitled to a pay-rise and another year at the club. Unfortunately for many United fans, the power brokers at the Theatre of Dreams don’t agree, so the combative midfielder looks likely to be heading back home after five years in England thinking to himself that he’s better off out of it.
On the same flight out of Manchester will be Herrera’s countryman Juan Mata who is also surplus to requirements at Old Trafford this summer. The nearest thing the club has had to Paul Scholes has been criminally neglected this season, as United continue to be the laughing stock of world football. The 31-year-old has kept his counsel as contract extension talks have stalled with him reportedly having a host of would-be suitors to choose from before the start of next season. What’s the betting that he will return to Old Trafford to haunt his current (soon to be former) employers?
Football’s most boring man’s last game for Liverpool will probably be the Champions League Final on June 1. The consummate professional, 33-year-old Milner is adept at playing in any position including goalkeeper and you know he’ll never let you down. He is the sort of guy you could trust with the Christmas club money and someone who would never try to get off with your girlfriend. As people start to talk about a possible statue of Jurgen Klopp outside Anfield, surely, it’s Milner who deserves a fitting tribute like this.
The man who was once so fast he could cross a ball to himself is set to leave Bayern Munich this summer after ten years in Bavaria. Arjen Robben is the sort of player you know exactly what he’ll do with the ball but can do nothing about. Now 35, the former Dutch international star has scored the majority of his career goals cutting in from the right wing before unleashing an unstoppable left-foot howitzer into the bottom corner and try as they might; many of the world’s best full-backs have failed to keep him quiet. Ten years of having to wear Lederhosen every October has also taken its toll on Robben, who is ready for one last new challenge before hanging up his boots.
A medical student’s wet dream, England striker Daniel Sturridge is available for nothing this summer due to the fact that his contract at Liverpool is at an end and the Merseyside giants have run out of masking tape to try to hold him together on match-days. Any club (apart from West Brom) knows what they’ll get if they sign the 29-year-old; around ten games a season (if they’re lucky) but with the odd moment of brilliance that could mean the difference between relegation and survival in the Premier League. Surely Norwich City has already considered making an offer for the boy from Birmingham, to try to cement their place in the top-flight next season.
If Sturridge will give you ten games a season, then “Super” Mario Balotelli is good for about five before the wheels come off once again. Currently driving his £200k Lamborghini around the narrow streets of Marseille, the 28-year-old Italian is certain to be looking for pastures new this summer after falling out with the club from the port city. Brilliant on his day, infuriating on every other one, Balotelli will surely look back on his career when he’s matured fully and wonder what might have been. Still, there’s always a chance that he might just see the light (which he didn’t when he burnt his hotel room down in Manchester) somewhere in Europe and for that reason alone it’s worth taking the gamble.
Check out our free agent XI in full below:
You can almost hear the contract signing pens clicking already!