Each summer, a handful of footballers move from one club to another at the buyers’ dream rate: nothing.
As part of the landmark Bosman ruling in 1995, a player whose contract is set to expire at season’s end can begin discussions regarding a new deal—either with his current club or a new one—six months in advance.
Andrea Pirlo took advantage of the arrangement when he swapped AC Milan for Juventus in 2011; Mathieu Flamini has twice made a Bosman move—in 2008 when he left Arsenal for the Rossoneri and just last year when he returned to Emirates Stadium.
Not surprisingly, there will be no shortage of players available on free transfers in July, and no doubt many of them will have deals in place with other clubs by the time the summer registration period begins.
The following slides reveal a team of them, a “Bosman XI” that are currently allowed to negotiate with whomever they wish.
The Barcelona stopper needs no introduction.
In parts of 12 seasons with the Catalan giants, the soon-to-be 32-year-old has won six Primera Division titles, two Spanish cups and three Champions League crowns.
It’s not often a goalkeeper of this standard is available for free.
Where has the time gone?
Bacary Sagna, who joined Arsenal from Auxerre in 2007, will turn 31 next month—and we all know what Gunners boss Arsene Wenger thinks of players over 30.
Of course, there’s every chance he may sign a new contract at Emirates Stadium, but if he doesn’t another club will get a serviceable right-back for nothing.
With Jose Mourinho back at Chelsea, the smart money would be on John Terry agreeing a new pact at Stamford Bridge.
Reports of his demise, which hit fever pitch last season, proved to be rather hasty, as shown by the 33-year-old’s generally solid performance so far this season.
Terry has also found the back of the net on 57 occasions since making his senior debut for the club in 1998.
Much of the vaunted United back line that was so instrumental in the club’s last five titles and 2008 Champions League success is out of contract in the summer—among them club captain Nemanja Vidic.
The Serbia international has been troubled by a series of injuries the past few years, and at 32 those problems are likely to become even more frequent rather than simply dissipating as a run of bad luck.
That said, Vidic can still do a job for just about anyone, and it’s hard to see United not retaining his services for at least two more seasons.
Like Vidic, Ashley Cole has had his share of injury problems this season, but while both Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta have deputised for him he still remains Chelsea’s best option at the left-back position when fit.
Still, Cole turned 33 in December and is on course to figure in the least amount of games for the Blues since his move from Arsenal in 2006.
One of a full-back’s biggest weapons is his speed, and when that goes it tends to be all downhill from there.
Quietly, Xabi Alonso became one of the finest central midfielders of his generation, as supported by a trophy case that includes a Primera Division title, a European Cup, two European championships and a World Cup.
But at 32 years of age, and with Real Madrid having paid big money for Asier Illarramendi during the summer, it’s looking more and more likely that he could be on his way out of the Bernabeu.
For a club looking to add strength and organization in the centre of the park, Xabi Alonso would still be a very sensible acquisition.
Andrea Pirlo took advantage of the Bosman arrangement when he joined Juventus from AC Milan in 2011, and since then he has re-established a reputation as one of the best playmaking midfielders in world football.
Although he’ll turn 35 in May, Pirlo’s smarts and passing ability remain as good as ever, even if his pace would perhaps limit him in the Premier League.
But if he doesn’t stay at Juventus, he’ll have no shortage of suitors representing all of Europe’s biggest leagues.
Another of Chelsea’s “golden generation” that delivered titles, cups and European success to Stamford Bridge, Frank Lampard will be out of contract at season’s end.
Like Terry, his situation could benefit by the presence of Mourinho at the club, although a big-money offer from a Major League Soccer outfit would surely be tempting for him as well.
This much is sure: At 35 Lampard can still do a job, and he needs only four more goals to hit double digits for the 11th campaign in succession.
Another Chelsea player available on a Bosman is Samuel Eto’o, who fled Anzhi Makhachkala for the London side during the summer.
With just five goals for the Blues so far this term the 32-year-old is obviously nowhere near the striker he was with both Barcelona and Inter Milan, but just the same, he is still too young and too talented to write off.
The only drawback for clubs interested in the Cameroon international will likely be his wage demands, which based on recent history, are likely to by sky-high.
The best forward in this team is Robert Lewandowski, who has allowed his contract to run out at Borussia Dortmund.
While Bayern Munich remain the most likely destination for the 25-year-old, he will likely receive plenty of attention from many of Europe’s other big clubs this month, and the only loser in the whole ordeal will be his current club, who will lose him for nothing.
Lewandowski has amassed at least 30 goals in each of his last two seasons, and with 16 so far this campaign, he is likely to hit the mark for a third straight campaign.
Dimitar Berbatov hit 15 goals for Fulham last season and has five so far this term, and it wouldn’t be anything of an exaggeration to suggest he could still do a job for a club that already generates quality service in the attacking third.
The 32-year-old was never the most mobile centre-forward, but he has excellent technique and is a decent finisher—attributes that will almost certainly make him an attractive option for a handful of clubs.
That he no longer represents Bulgaria internationally means the extent of his efforts (which aren’t always “extensive” with him) will go into his club career.
GK: Antonio Adan (Cagliari), Miguel Angel Moya (Getafe)
DF: Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Patrice Evra (Manchester United)
MF: Diego (Wolfsburg), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal), Juan Arango (Borussia Monchengladbach), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
FW: Diego Milito (Inter Milan), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Mainz), Cacau (Stuttgart)