Picking a Best XI of Players Who Will Be out of Contract in the Summer
This summer it will be the big-money moves that receive star billing in the rumour mill but, away from the mega deals, there are plenty of footballers who will end up leaving for free.
We've selected a best XI of players whose deals are about to expire. Read on to see who made the grade, along with some very talented honorable mentions.
Anyone you'd add to the list? Let us know below!
GK: Victor Valdes
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has made no secret of his intentions to leave Camp Nou at the end of the season.
The 32-year-old has been with Barca for his entire professional career and his current contract is set to run out in June 2014.
In May last year, the World Cup, UEFA European Football Championship and three-time Champions League-winning stopper cited the "pressures" of playing for Barca as one of the reasons he will be leaving. As seen on BBC Sport, Valdes said:
Being the goalkeeper at the club is a big weight to carry and I have felt it since I was very young. There is a lot of pressure, and the demands I put on myself to make sure Barca win is a heavy weight to carry.
I consider that my cycle as a Barcelona player will come to an end when my current contract expires in 2014.
I understand that with 18 months' warning there should be sufficient time to find the best solution for the club and for the player, so that Barca keep on winning and so do I.
In January, I said I could see myself playing in other leagues, getting to know something different and looking for different sources of motivation.
As reported by Jack De Menezes in The Independent in October, the Spaniard has been attracting attention from Arsenal and Monaco.
Kasper Schmeichel's Leicester City contract runs out at the end of the 2013/14 season. Should the Foxes earn promotion into the Premier League, there is a good chances the 27-year-old will stay at the King Power Stadium. However, according to Sky Sports (h/t to the Independent's Samuel Stevens), AC Milan are interested.
RB: Bacary Sagna
By the time the summer rolls around Bacary Sagna could have signed a new deal with Arsenal.
However, already into the final six months of his contract at the Emirates, the right-back is allowed to listen to offers from other clubs.
According to John Cross in the Mirror, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is "desperate" to keep hold of the 31-year-old, who is reportedly being tracked by Galatasaray, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco.
With over 250 appearances for the Gunners, Sagna is a proven defender who still has a few years left at the top level. Signing him for free in the summer would be a steal.
Martin Montoya at Barcelona is so far refusing to sign a new contract beyond 2014. According to the Mirror's Alex Richards, Liverpool and Inter Milan are keen.
Daniel Opare, of Standard Liege, spent two years at the Real Madrid Castilla before moving to Belgium in 2010. The 23-year-old is a former teammate of Christian Benteke and was linked with Tottenham Hotspur last summer, as reported by the Mirror's Darren Lewis.
CB: Mateo Musacchio
At just 23, Villarreal centre-back Mateo Musacchio has a big career ahead of him.
The Yellow Submarine have been one of the La Liga surprises of the season, they are currently sitting fifth in their first season back in the top division following relegation in 2011/12.
Musacchio has been an almost ever-present figure in Villarreal's back line. Missing just three games this campaign, he has been a key player at El Madrigal.
With a contract that runs out in June, Villarreal will face a battle to keep hold of him. Reports from talkSPORT suggest that Manchester United and Fiorentina are already showing an interest.
John Terry's Chelsea deal expires at the end of the current Premier League campaign. The Blues skipper is attracting interest from Galatasaray, according to the Daily Mirror (h/t to Samuel Stevens in The Independent).
Rio Ferdinand's best days are behind him, but he is likely to get one last career move when his contract runs out. According to David McDonnell in the Mirror, a Major League Soccer side might come in for him over the summer.
With his contract set to expire in June, Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Alex is hopeful he can stay in Europe, if he leaves Parc des Princes.
Quoted on ESPN FC, the former Chelsea man told reporters at a press conference:
Personally, I'm waiting until the end of the season to better think about things. Right now, I'm trying to do my work as well as possible. It would be great to stay here, but the club will have the final word. We'll see, I'm not worried. The club comes before individuals.
I'm optimistic. My wish is not to go back to Brazil. I want to do another year or two in Europe. The best thing would be to stay here. At least a year. I repeat, I'm optimistic.
Signing the Brazilian on a free this summer would be a boon for any team. The 31-year-old has made 20 appearances in Ligue 1 this season, more than Marquinhos and Thiago Silva—who are the other centre-halves in Laurent Blanc's side.
Nemanja Vidic, 32, has already announced that he will be leaving Manchester United at the end of the current season. The Serbian defender has been rumoured to be on his way to Inter Milan, as reported by Goal.com (h/t to The Independent's Simon Rice).
LB: Ashley Cole
Benched for considerable portions of the 2013/14 season, it appears likely that Ashley Cole will be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this season.
The 33-year-old could still perform for a number of clubs in the Premier League and in Europe and is reportedly attracting interest from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, writes Dave Kidd in the Mirror.
Cole won the Europa League with Chelsea last season, where he made 51 appearances in all competitions.
With the left-back's contract running out in June, Blues boss Jose Mourinho has recently refused to confirm that he will be given playing time at Stamford Bridge. As quoted on BBC Sport, Mourinho said, "I don't know. I'm happy with the way Azpilicueta is performing."
Without an extension to his current deal, Patrice Evra looks set to depart Old Trafford when his contract with Manchester United runs out this summer. He could make a valuable, experienced addition to a number of sides and is rumoured to be on his way back to former club Monaco, as reported by The Guardian's Jamie Jackson.
Turkish international Caner Erkin appears to be on the radar of several English clubs, if Nick Lustig's report in the Daily Star is to be believed. The Fenerbahce left-back has also played for CSKA Moscow and Galatasaray (loan) in the past.
Mid: Blaise Matuidi
Blaise Matuidi's Paris Saint-Germain contract is set to run out in the summer and the 26-year-old will not find himself short of suitors if he looks for pastures new.
The France international has been involved in all but one fixture for PSG this season, both domestically and in Europe.
In November, it was reported that his contract talks had slowed, due to a disagreement between Matuidi's former agent Jean-Pierre Bernes who has taken the player and his new agent, Mino Raiola, to court, as seen on ESPN FC.
In January he was being chased by Arsenal and Manchester City, according to Metro's James Boylan.
If PSG don't fight tooth and nail to keep him at the club, Matuidi could be the bargain of the summer.
It's 99.9 per cent likely that Andrea Pirlo will have his Juventus contract extended. His current deal will expire within the next six months, yet gossip suggests that a new deal with the Serie A side is imminent—seen here on ESPN FC. Good news for Juve, bad news for everyone else.
Esteban Cambiasso may be 33-years-old but his 21 appearances (and four goals) in a possible 24 Serie A games this season, show that he is still going strong. At Inter Milan for almost a decade, it looks like "El Cuchu" will be leaving the club after financial disagreements, as reported by the Daily Mirror (h/t to Samuel Stevens in The Independent). One last big move? Why not.
Diego Ribas da Cunha is likely to be on his way out of Wolfsburg at the season's end. Currently on loan at Atletico Madrid, the 28-year-old would be a great addition to a number of European teams.
Diego, formerly of Santos, Porto, Werder Bremen and Juventus returned to Atletico for his second loan spell at the club last month and, without even training with the first team, was named in Diego Simeone's side to face Real Sociedad.
The Brazilian scored in the Rojiblanco's 4-0 win.
With years still ahead of him, Diego has hinted at a move to the Premier League in recent months. Responding to rumours of interest from Arsenal and Southampton in The Sun (via the Daily Mail's Rob Brennan), he said:
It would be the ideal destination for me because their style suits my characteristics perfectly. Of course I would say “yes” to Arsenal.
Southampton have great organisation and discipline and big talents like Adam Lallana. But again there is nothing concrete.
Playing in England is a very attractive proposition at the peak of my career but I’m focusing on helping Wolfsburg to get in the Champions League.
Piotr Zielinski, though highly-rated still has some way to go. Used sparingly by Udinese in Serie A this season, it appears that he has been attracting interest from Manchester City, per talkSPORT. Just 19, we think there are big things to come from the Poland international.
Aaron Hunt is currently Werder Bremen's longest-serving player and the club's captain. Born in Germany to an English mother, the 27-year-old attacking midfielder will be a free agent this summer. Southampton are already in talks with Hunt, claims Alan Nixon of the Sunday People.
LW: Thomas Ince
Currently getting Premier League experience on loan at Crystal Palace, Thomas Ince's contract will run out at parent club Blackpool this summer.
The 22-year-old winger appears to be on the wishlist of a number of clubs including Monaco, Swansea City and Stoke City, as reported by David Kent in the Daily Mail.
In June, there will be a long line for the England Under-21 international's signature.
Last summer, Ibrahima Traore claimed that he had received a lot of offers to play in the Premier League. The Stuttgart winger has made 87 appearances for Die Roten since joining in 2011, and he has scored eight goals and registered 18 assists. The Guinean international has not ruled out a move away from the Bundesliga when his contract runs out in the summer, as told to BBC Sport.
RW: Jeremy Menez
Jeremy Menez has started just six games for Paris Saint-Germain this season and, with his contract up in June, it's fair to assume he'll be looking elsewhere to find regular playing time in the not-too-distant future.
The 26-year-old was being tipped to leave the Parc des Princes in January, following transfer rumours that suggested he was being tracked by Monaco, Liverpool and Juventus. But Sky Sports reported that the Frenchman committed himself to seeing out the 2013/14 season with PSG.
As the summer approaches, expect a long line to start forming for Menez's signature.
CF: Bafetimbi Gomis
Bafetimbi Gomis started the season on the Lyon bench with reports indicating that the 28-year-old striker was being forced onto the sidelines by manager Remi Garde.
As written by Ian Holyman on ESPN FC last November:
Gomis, 28, was frozen out of Remi Garde's first-team squad last summer as Lyon tried to recoup some of the 15 million euros they paid Saint-Etienne to sign him in 2009.
OL president Jean-Michel Aulas even warned the striker he would have to find another club if he harboured ambitions of playing in the World Cup, but faced with Gomis' determination to stay, Aulas had to concede defeat.
Since then, Gomis has made his way back into his manager's plans and has averaged a goal every other game for the Ligue 1 side.
The Frenchman finished last season as Lyon's leading scorer and looks like he will be on his way out of the club at the end of the current campaign. The Daily Mail's Joe Bernstein has indicated that Inter Milan, Newcastle and Marseille are all interested in the striker.
Samuel Eto'o might be in the twilight years of his career but there's a good chance that he will find a new club when his current contract runs out at Chelsea. The 32-year-old has made 16 appearances for the Blues this term, where he has put away six goals and assisted a further four.
The Cameroonian looks set to join MLS side L.A. Galaxy when his time at Stamford Bridge comes to an end, as reported by Dominic Fifield in The Guardian.
CF: Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba might be 35, but the thought of acquiring him as a free agent will be an attractive prospect for many clubs this summer.
Still looking as fit and as powerful as he was in the English top-flight, the Ivorian has missed just one Turkish Super Lig game this season (through yellow card suspension) and has notched 12 goals in all competitions for Galatasaray this term.
Drogba's contract will be up this year and Gala do have the option to extend the current deal when June rolls around. They'd be crazy not to.
Niklas Bendtner, so often the subject of derision when he takes to the pitch for Arsenal, it wouldn't be surprising if a move somewhat reinvigorated his career. It's already happened for Gervinho, who has enjoyed a great season since making the switch from Arsenal to Roma.
Diego Forlan is another striker who is still going strong in this 30s. At 34, the Uruguayan has just signed for Japanese side Cerezo Osaka and he will be representing his country at the approaching World Cup.
Last season, he scored 10 goals in 34 games for Brasileirao side Internacional and his move to the J-League will probably not be his last.