Who are the top out of contract players in England and across Europe? Here, Sky Sports has picked the two best line-ups of this summer’s free agents…
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Sam Johnstone has run down his contract at West Brom as he wants to play in the Premier League next season, and is reportedly set to join Crystal Palace. Johnstone, who kept 13 clean sheets in 36 Championship games for the Baggies this season, has two years of experience in the Premier League and would certainly be a reliable goalkeeper for any mid-table side. Johnstone could also make a late push for Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup in Qatar if he impresses in the first few months of the season.
Including James Milner at right-back may seem harsh, but if it’s good enough for Jurgen Klopp, it’s good enough for us. The ever-dependable Milner, now aged 36, is out of contract at Liverpool at the end of June and there is yet to be an official announcement on his future. Klopp has spoken openly about his desire to keep Milner, who he has continued to rely on this season, but Liverpool are yet to reach an agreement publicly. The addition of Milner would be a coup for any side with ambitions of Europe next season.
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Burnley may be going down to the Championship but James Tarkowski will not be joining them. His contract is up at the end of June and he is proving to be one of the more sought-after defenders among Premier League clubs this summer. Aston Villa are understood to be in talks but are facing competition from a host of other Premier League sides, including Everton and Newcastle. Tarkowski would be a massive coup for any Premier League side on a free, having been priced out of a move previously due to Burnley’s high demands.
Wolves defender Roman Saiss will be playing for a new club next season after the Moroccan announced on May 31 he would be leaving Molineux at the end of his contract. Saiss has been a stalwart for Wolves since signing from French club Angers, helping the club achieve promotion from the Championship and consolidating their place in the Premier League. At 32, Saiss does not have an abundance of time left playing at the top level, but could be a smart piece of business on a short-term deal for any top-flight club.
Jeffrey Schlupp, just like Milner, offers so much versatility. He can line up at full-back, in midfield and as a wide forward. Schlupp played 29 Premier League games for Palace this season under Patrick Vieira, scoring four goals and providing two assists. It would be a surprise if Palace do not offer Schlupp fresh terms at Selhurst Park, he has been a crucial member of their squad this season. Trying to sway him would be worth a go for any interested Premier League clubs, as Schlupp is a reliable operator and delivers the odd goal.
Manchester United are finally set to bid farewell to Paul Pogba after six underwhelming seasons back at Old Trafford. The midfielder’s quality is undoubted but he has struggled to set the Premier League alight and will benefit from a move away as he looks to bring his form with France to club football. Juventus have held talks about bringing Pogba back to Turin, but Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are also reportedly interested as well.
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It feels odd to select an almost exclusively Manchester United midfield after the season they have had, but Nemanja Matic still oozes class, even if he has lost a few yards at 33 years old. Matic’s better days may be behind him, but he would certainly be a valuable asset to plenty of sides. There has been talk of a second reunion with Jose Mourinho at Roma, The idea of a move to Europe makes sense for Matic, where the pace of the game is slightly slower. Either way, this is an opportunity that should not be sniffed at.
Christian Eriksen’s return to the Premier League with Brentford has been a revelation. Few knew what level he would be at following his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, but his six-month spell in west London has re-established him as one of the most sought-after midfielders in the transfer market. Whoever pulls off this free transfer can count themselves lucky as it is not often a player of Eriksen’s quality is available without a fee. Brentford are hopeful of keeping Eriksen, but they are expected to face strong competition from elsewhere.
Jesse Lingard’s nightmare 2021/22 campaign is over and he is free to leave Manchester United and find a club that can guarantee him first-team football as he looks to earn a spot in England’s World Cup squad. It’s been a dreary final season at Old Trafford for Lingard, but interested clubs should not forget his loan form at West Ham at the back end of last season when considering a move. The attacking midfielder would be a smart signing for any club aspiring to break into the top six next season. West Ham and Newcastle are interested, but it is unclear where his future lies.
Juan Mata has bid his final farewell to Manchester United after eight years at Old Trafford as he prepares to make what will likely be the final move of his career. A transfer back to his native Spain feels appropriate for Mata, who has lost most of his speed at 34, but still possesses a magical touch and an eye for a killer pass. The former Chelsea midfielder thrives in a central role, a position he has not been able to spend too much time playing in at United. One last hurrah for him is no less than he deserves.
Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette is out of contract at the Emirates at the end of June and looks set for a move away this summer with an agreement yet to be made over his future. The goals have dried up for Lacazette at Arsenal this season, despite spending large periods of the campaign as their main striker. The 30-year-old ultimately lost his place in the starting line-up to Eddie Nketiah for the final period of the season. The Frenchman is not prolific but did score 71 goals in 206 games for the Gunners. It remains to be seen where he could end up next season, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he extends his stay at Arsenal due to a shortage of strikers at the disposal of manager Mikel Arteta.
David Ospina’s reputation in England was not helped by an error-prone four-year spell at Arsenal, but he rebounded with Napoli, where he established himself as the No 1 as the Italian side secured a Champions League spot. But the Colombia international is yet to commit to extending his four-year spell at Napoli, which has reportedly caught the attention of Real Madrid and Villarreal. While he would no doubt serve as back-up to Thibaut Courtois, the fact the Spanish champions would consider a move for Ospina shows he is still held in high esteem around Europe. At 33, the goalkeeper still has gas in the tank and would be a bargain signing.
It’s 20 years since Dani Alves first moved to Europe with Sevilla and, remarkably, he’s still competing at the top level, having just completed the campaign with Barcelona. The 39-year-old has been open about his desire to extend his second spell at the Nou Camp, but news on an extension is yet to be forthcoming. Despite his advancing years, Alves remains effective, finishing second for assists and chances created per 90 minutes among defenders in La Liga last season. While he probably cannot be relied upon to start every week, the three-time Champions League winner could be a canny short-term pick up.
Felipe’s claim to fame among English audiences this season was his rough treatment of Phil Foden that ultimately earned him a red card and sparked a mass brawl as Atletico Madrid exited the Champions League to Manchester City in April. But in Spain the centre-back is seen as a key member of Diego Simeone’s defence, a role he has occupied for three years since arriving from Porto. Reports earlier this year suggested Felipe would extend his stay in Madrid, but that new deal is yet to be confirmed.
If Alessio Romagnoli’s seven-year stint at AC Milan is indeed at an end, then the club captain has signed off in the best possible way – lifting the Serie A trophy on the final day of the season to end their 11-year wait for the title. In truth, the Italian struggled for games at the San Siro this season thanks to the performances of Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu, but at 27, the centre-back is young enough to establish himself elsewhere. Chelsea, Lazio and city rivals Inter Milan have all been linked with Romagnoli.
Mattia De Sciglio
Mattia De Scigio is being shoehorned into this line-up slightly at left-back, but it’s a role the Juventus defender is perfectly capable of fulfilling. While De Sciglio is a right-back by trade, the majority of his Serie A appearances this season came on the left of a back four or at left wing-back, which demonstrates the versatility that would make the 29-year-old a useful signing. While he may not be a household name, De Sciglio has 40 caps for Italy and has also represented AC Milan and Lyon, which does not happen by accident.
Isco was one of the next big things when he left Malaga in the summer of 2013, and was strongly linked to a reunion with Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City before eventually joining Real Madrid. The midfielder has won three La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues with the Spanish club, but the feeling remains his undoubtedly huge potential has been unfulfilled at the Bernabeu. Isco has made just 11 La Liga starts in the past two seasons and has confirmed he will be moving on this summer, with Tottenham and Wolves among the clubs linked with the 38-cap Spain international. At just 30, Isco could have plenty left in the tank for a club willing to take him on.
Corentin Tolisso’s situation resembles more than a passing similarity to Isco, who he will be sharing the midfield in this XI. The France international moved to a European superpower – in this case, Bayern Munich – in his early 20s and racked up the trophies, with his haul including five Bundesliga titles and a Champions League. But Tolisso has struggled to hold down a place in Bayern’s midfield in recent times, with the quality of competition and injuries limiting him to just 15 Bundesliga starts in the last two campaigns. However, Tolisso is only 27 and is a World Cup winner, meaning he may not be short of suitors if he leaves the Allianz Arena this summer.
Ousmane Dembele is probably the most high-profile free agent of the summer thanks to the back and forth that has taken place between Barcelona and his entourage this season. The Spanish club told the 25-year-old to leave in January so they could receive a fee for him, but Dembele refused, saying he would not give in to “blackmail”. However, the winger was then reintegrated into the first team by manager Xavi, and talks have taken place over extending his contract. But as things stand, Dembele can sign a deal with a new club, and after recording 13 assists in just 21 La Liga games this season, he will have plenty of interest. Chelsea and Liverpool are among the clubs to be linked with the World Cup winner.
Along with Dembele, Paulo Dybala could be one of the most sought-after players in Europe this summer. Rarely are clubs presented with the opportunity to sign a player with 32 caps for Argentina, five Serie A titles and more than 50 Champions League appearances to their name, for free. Dybala is no veteran looking to wind down his career away from the high-pressure environment at Juventus. The forward is only 28 and was desperate to remain in Turin, as shown by the floods of tears on display after his farewell game. But Juventus have decided to let Dybala walk away for nothing, which has reportedly caught the attention of a number of their domestic and continental rivals, including Inter Milan, Roma and Tottenham.
Gareth Bale’s tumultuous nine-year spell with Real Madrid will finally come to an end this summer, and no one seems sure what his next step will be. The winger signed off from the Bernabeu with a fifth Champions League title, which, along with his three La Liga titles, made his time in the Spanish capital hugely productive. But Bale came to be jeered by some of his own fans, fell out of favour under managers and played just seven times in his final campaign at Real. The 32-year-old has done nothing to hide the fact that representing Wales has been his priority in recent years, and Sky Sports News reported he could retire this summer if he fails to help his country through the World Cup play-offs in June. If Wales do reach the tournament in Qatar this winter, a short-term move to a Championship club has been mooted. But Bale scored 16 goals in 34 games as he spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Tottenham, raising the question of whether he has more to give in the Premier League?
Could Luis Suarez be set for a final hurrah in the Premier League? The former Liverpool striker has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa, where he would link up with former Reds team-mates Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho. While a move to Villa Park remains unconfirmed, it’s certain Suarez will leave Atletico after two years in Madrid that yielded a La Liga title. The 35-year-old scored 34 goals for Diego Simeone’s side, including 13 this season, despite not being a regular starter. Will the Uruguay international be adding to his 69 Premier League goals next season?
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