Three years ago, Arsene Wenger gave a prediction that has turned out to be incredibly prescient to the transfer market in 2021, with more and more top players set to become free agents.
“There are players who do not want to renew and players who expect higher wages so don’t want to sign the contract because they expect huge wages due to the inflation,” Wenger said amid Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil’s contract sagas.
“So that results in more and more players going to the end of their contracts.”
That’s certainly proving true this year, with some of the best and most valuable players in world football into the final months of their current deals.
Here are 10 of the most high-profile players that are set to become free agents in the summer.
After the clusterf*ck whereby Lionel Messi openly stated he wanted to leave last summer, feeling the spirit of an agreement with Barcelona had been betrayed, the six-time Ballon d’Or win ended up staying to avoid a bitter legal fight with a club where he enjoys bonafide legend status.
But both parties simply kicked the can down the road, and he remains free to sign with whoever he pleases come July. The unthinkable prospect of arguably the greatest player in history in another kit draws closer.
Bayern Munich withdrew their contract offer for David Alaba back in November, refusing to put the versatile Austrian on the same pay grade as their top earners Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer.
So it looks like that’s that for Alaba in Bavaria, inevitably prompting tabloid talk linking him with Chelsea, Man City and pretty much everyone else.
Real Madrid are reportedly winning the race, though, which is good for them because they might need a new defender…
In the words of George W. Bush, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Uh, in other words, we’ve been hoodwinked by a Sergio Ramos contract dispute before, when it looked like he might actually join Manchester United back in 2015.
We’re taking this one with a pinch of salt, then, but Florentino Perez is playing a dangerous game, especially with newly-appointed PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino openly flirting with the Los Blancos captain.
“We see the market opportunities and bring in those who can improve on what we have. We’ll see in the coming months. Here, Ramos would find a great club with the obsession of always winning. PSG are one of the greats in the world,” Pochettino said.
One of our favourite football facts (via James Horncastle) is that Gianluigi Donnarumma was born in Naples, Italy, unlike his near-namesake Donna Summer, who was born in Naples, Florida.
Gianluigi Buffon’s successor as Italy’s number one could be set to leave Milan after making well over 200 appearances since making his debut as a 16-year-old back in 2015. A Scudetto would be the perfect parting gift.
Represented by Mino Raiola, expect plenty of shenanigans behind the scenes in the coming months.
Fourth in the all-time Premier League top scorers list behind Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole, unthinkably Sergio Aguero has now gone over a full calendar year without scoring in the competition.
As injuries continue to mount up, is 2021 the time to say a painful goodbye?
Barcelona couldn’t afford Memphis Depay in the summer, in spite of the Netherlands international reportedly being at the top of Ronald Koeman’s wishlist.
Still, they should be able to revisit it when he becomes a free agent. It might be all their budget allows.
This story has run and run behind the scenes at Liverpool this season, with reports reportedly ongoing.
Another Dutchman that’s been tipped to link up with his compatriot at Barcelona, he’s now free to enter contract negotiations with whoever he likes.
The Catalan club have quite the track record when it comes to Dutch players. No pressure.
One of the most decorated defenders of his generation, the German World Cup winner was written off after being sent off during Die Mannschaft’s disastrous group-stage exit in 2018.
But he rolled back the years to play a major role in a second treble with Bayern last year, while they’re in pole position for a ninth successive Bundesliga title this season. Not a bad way to bow out, that.
The Turkish international has taken some time to hit the heights expected of him at Milan after moving from Bayer Leverkusen, but he’s doing so in style in 2020-21 as a key player in their push for the Serie A title.
Still just 26, he’ll have no shortage of suitors come summer.
*Latest top 5 leagues chance creation waffles* pic.twitter.com/DmP1LsxEX2
— Peter McKeever (@petermckeever) January 4, 2021
Angel Di Maria
The PSG forward recently said it would be a wish to play alongside Messi at club level, having spent many years together at Argentina.
“I had the chance to play with Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé. Playing with Leo… I could retire happily,” he said.
“My wife told me ‘if Leo comes, we stay and at the very least you can stay on as a cook.’ That tells you everything. It would be the best. I couldn’t ask for anything more in football.”
He might well have to be on chef duties, with no news yet of a new deal in the French capital.