That time of year is rapidly approaching. With just a month to go until the summer transfer window in Europe opens, clubs are already planning their reinforcements for next season; or conversely, deciding which players will be expendable for the upcoming campaign.
Today, we take a look at one of the most important positions on the football field, that of the defensive midfielder. Call it pivot, anchorman, deep-lying playmaker, whatever you like; there is no doubt that in recent years, and especially given the rising popularity of formations such as 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, the role of the men in the middle guarding the defence is crucial to a team's success.
So who are the men who will be coveted by every coach come June? And who will be the players looking for new homes after falling out of favour in the last six or 12 months?
We have compiled a list of 10 of the top defensive midfielders who could start the 2013-14 campaign in a new home...
The Cameroon international followed the same route as Cesc Fabregas in 2012, leaving Arsenal to sign with Catalan giants Barcelona. While the Blaugrana fans took easily to their prodigal son, the same has not been true for Song, as he has struggled to make his mark.
The defensive midfielder failed to prove himself during his maiden season, as he was shuttled across the pitch from the middle to the back line, and with a Barca renovation planned during the summer due to that crushing defeat against Bayern, he could well find himself on the way out.
The player's cousin, Rigobert, affirmed recently to Metro that Song was miserable in Catalunya and looking for a move back to Arsenal, although the player himself denied he was considering leaving, reported in the Evening Standard.
It would take a big transfer fee to tempt Barca into selling just a year after they made such a big investment. But if the right offer comes in, Song's time at Camp Nou could well be ending.
Although born in Germany, Jermaine Jones elected to play for the United States football team and for the last three years has represented the nation of his father, all while starring in the Bundesliga with Schalke.
But at the age of 31, and with over 12 years playing at Germany's highest club level under his belt, the cultured midfielder is reportedly considering a sensational switch to see out his career on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The first hints came during a tour last year in Philadelphia, when Jones admitted in a press conference that he was looking ahead for a move to the United States, going as far as to name L.A. as a favoured destination.
That move did not come to fruition in 2012, but the rumours have begun again for the coming summer, a Goal.com exclusive stating that a move to MLS is more than possible.
As recommendations go, the one afforded recently to Gary Medel—known affectionately as "Pitbull" thanks to his, shall we say, tenacious qualities in the middle of the pitch—is about as flattering as they get.
Estadio Deportivo reports that the Sevilla man, formerly of Boca Juniors and Chile's Universidad Catolica, has been personally named by Xavi to Barcelona directors as the man the Blaugrana need to sign if they are to improve on 2012-13's showing and challenge once more for the Champions League title.
Barca's lack of athleticism and fight were exposed deeply by Bayern Munich in that semi-final mauling, and both are attributes that the Chilean possesses in vast quantities. They may have to fight for Medel's signature, however; according to Radio Marca, the Catalan club's bitter rivals Real Madrid are also keeping close tabs on the midfielder and may come in with their own bid.
Despite obvious talent on the football pitch, things have never quite gone to plan for Anderson in Manchester. The former Gremio wonderkid moved to Old Trafford from Porto for a reported £20 million fee back in 2007, but he has never been able to hold down an undisputed place in the first team.
With the arrival of David Moyes at the end of the season, Anderson's role at Manchester United will come under increased scrutiny. The Everton manager is, according to The Sun, ready to take Marouane Fellaini with him, which would leave the Brazilian even more marginalised.
The Mirror names Anderson, along with fellow first-teamers Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia and Nani, as prime candidates to be sold once Moyes assumes command.
A defensive midfielder by trade but with a great capacity to break forward, Joao Moutinho's partnership with Argentine Lucho Gonzalez in the middle of the pitch has been a key factor in Porto's domination of the Portuguese league in recent years.
With his reputation both home and abroad safely secured, the 26-year-old could now be ready to take a step up in class and try his luck in one of Europe's top leagues.
According to the Daily Express, Moutinho's departure from the Primeira Liga giants is already decided. Clubs such as Tottenham, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco are reported to be interested by the newspaper, but they will have to first meet the Portuguese club's £20 million fee for one of their brightest stars.
The imminent retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United, the club where he has presided for the last 26 years to glittering success, stole all the headlines in the football world over the past week. Of almost equal significance was the naming of his successor; David Moyes, currently manager at Everton.
Attention immediately turned to the players Moyes would bring in during the transfer window to start building his own dynasty, and few have sounded louder than Marouane Fellaini. The afro-sporting Moroccan has been playing in a more advanced position under the Scot at Goodison Park, but considers his best position as a defensive midfielder with the ability to kick start the attack from deep.
The Sun affirms that Moyes will raid his former club for Fellaini, but despite the warm relationship between the pair, a transfer may not be as straightforward as it seems. According to the Daily Mail, Real Madrid, Chelsea and rivals Manchester City are ready to battle the manager-elect for the star's signature.
The signing of the conservative, level-headed and solid Xabi Alonso from Liverpool back in 2009 was evidence of a sea change in the transfer policy of Real Madrid. Gone was the age of the Galacticos, big names who were thrown into the team without much thought over the role they would play; there was now a space for the unassuming workers around which every great side is based.
After four years of exemplary service for the Merengue, which has included a Liga and Copa del Rey title, it has been reported that the 31-year-old could be ready for a change of club. The expected departure of Jose Mourinho and a disappointing season would be grounds for a clearout in the Bernabeu, and there would be no shortage of suitors for Alonso.
Chelsea recently admitted to ESPN that they were keen on signing the star, and it would be a logical move should Mourinho assume command at Stamford Bridge for the second time. A return to Liverpool, where he lifted the Champions League in 2005, is also not out of the realms of possibility.
Markel Susaeta is a shining example of the work carried out in Athletic's famed Cantera. The Basque star spent his formative years at feeder clubs of the San Mames outfit, before breaking into the first team at just 19. Since then, he has never looked back.
The sale of Javi Martinez in 2012 ensured that his midfield partner would be staying put in Marcelo Bielsa's side, but it will be hard to once more keep Europe's top clubs from taking this battling yet elegant and versatile midfielder away to new climes.
Athletic should be in no rush to sell, having tied Susaeta to a five-year contract just last year. But interest 12 months ago was furious, with clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea both looking to sign him; according to AS, the player rejected a tempting offer from the former, and the club moved to tie him down on a long-term deal.
Although the current season has not quite lived up to the excitement of 2012's journey to the Europa League final, interest will once again be fierce around the Basque battler.
While not as eye-catching as the likes of Ribery or Robben, and not as integral to the team as a Schweinsteiger or Lahm, Luiz Gustavo's role in the current Bayern Munich side should by no means be underestimated.
Slotting in the middle as a rotation option, the powerful Brazilian helped Die Roten maintain the strength in depth necessary to fight on three fronts during 2012-13. Despite playing second fiddle behind Schweinsteiger and new arrival Javi Martinez, Gustavo has still managed to play 33 games of the current season, also pitching in with three goals.
Is this useful substitute role fitting for a player gifted in his own right, though? The 25-year-old would slot in to almost any first team in Europe, and there is bound to be attention surrounding him during the summer.
Scores of young South American hopefuls have made the mistake of seeking a European club too early and have been burned in the process. Corinthians maestro Paulinho should be held up as an example of what loyalty to the club which made you a star can bring.
The midfielder, who is just as dangerous going forward as he is powerful and efficient guarding the back line, has repeatedly turned down moves across the Atlantic to stay with the Timao. His faith has been richly rewarded; he has lifted a Serie A title, the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup during his time in Sao Paulo.
At 24, the time would appear to be right to make the switch across the Atlantic. Corinthians director of sport Edu Gaspar recently told Internews the Italian club's interest was real, while the same source affirmed that Chelsea were also ready to enter a bidding war.
Any move will have to wait until Corinthians' defence of the Libertadores comes to an end, but the future looks very bright indeed for this Brazil international.