It is that time of year once more in world football. The summer transfer window is almost upon us, and speculation over who will be changing clubs has started with a vengeance.
Alongside the roster of attacking and creative stars that are rumoured to be looking for a change in scenery come July, it is also worth taking a good look around the pitch; which is why today we will be identifying some of the best full-backs in the world who could be in line for a lucrative transfer.
As well as guarding the flanks of their teams, the men out wide in defence are also tasked with getting up and down the pitch, adding an extra attacking dimension and crossing the ball in from wide. It is not an easy job, which is why players such as the five here are so jealously coveted throughout the football community.
The admiration and respect between Eric Abidal and his club goes back to even before those moving scenes in 2011, when the left-back was given the captain's armband in the Champions League final and lifted the title after recovering from a liver tumour. Now, however, the Frenchman's time at Barcelona appears to be coming to an end.
Now 33 years old, Abidal has bounced back from another liver tumour and a transplant to return to the pitch, but his contract expires at the end of the season and he is yet to renew. According to COPE, the star does not believe he will be offered a new deal at Camp Nou and is already considering his future.
Barcelona have retorted this claim, with Sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta declaring to RAC 1 that "We have spoken to Abidal," although falling short of an announcement that a contract has been tabled. Abidal's future is still unknown, but should he remain a free agent, there would surely be no shortage of suitors ready to give the left-sided defender a new home.
As far as recommendations go, this one could not have come from a more flattering source. Javier Zanetti is currently fighting to resume his career after suffering a debilitating cruciate ligament injury, but the Inter legend has no doubt who he would like to see succeed him in Milan.
"I know that they are following [Gino Peruzzi] in the club, and the truth is that he plays very well. I really hope it can happen," the former Argentina captain told Ole when asked about Peruzzi, an attack-minded full back with Velez Sarsfield who has become one of the highest-rated youngsters around.
The 20-year-old defender came to prominence in 2012 when he marked Neymar out of the game in a Copa Libertadores clash against Santos, and since then, his stock has risen even further as he helped Velez take the 2012 Inicial title in December.
The meteoric rise of Borussia Dortmund to the summit of world football, making the Champions League Final despite operating on a far tighter budget than all of their European rivals has not gone unnoticed. As well as Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, Polish right-back Lukasz Piszczek has found himself in the transfer headlines as a move away from Signal Iduna Park is mooted.
The 27-year-old's attacking ability and unerring crossing talents, mixed with a solidity at the back and an impressive engine to get up and down the field, has unsurprisingly won him many admirers.
The inclusion of the Wales international and one of football's hot properties could cause a little controversy on this list. While Bale started life as a full-back with Southampton, in the last few years he has evolved to also become a quality winger, showing versatility and attacking flair.
This would not necessarily preclude him, however, from moving back down the pitch to somewhere like Barcelona. The Catalans' 4-3-3 set up would use the 23-year-old star in the same position that Dani Alves has made his own, nominally at the back with some defensive duties, but principally there to punch holes in the opposition out wide and feed the strikeforce.
Believed to be a Blaugrana target if Eric Abidal leaves, Bale has kept his options open over a move abroad.
Having signed for Real Madrid to great expectation in 2011 after sterling work with Benfica, things have never quite come together for Fabio Coentrao at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Portugal international has spent a lot of time as Marcelo's deputy on the left of defence, and when given the chance to shine, he has failed to take it. Now, with a clear-out planned at the end of the season, his time may be coming to an end.
Nuevo Futbol reports that Coentrao, along with stars such as Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol, could all be leaving Madrid in the coming transfer window. If supposed interest in Gareth Bale proves to be true, his way to the exit could be even more defined.