In this article we look at which players whose contacts are nearing their expiry dates. Come July 1st, these players will be able to transfer to any team without fee – so your club holds no excuses for not attempting to bolster their ranks. We pick out our best IX.
GK. Alisson Becker, Internacional
By no means a household name, he represents amazing value. Aged only 23 and standing at 1.93m tall, the Brazilian is an exceptional shot-stopper with a towering Manuel Neuer-like presence. His career at the top level should last well over a decade and he could potentially command a transfer value of over €30m after a solid season in one of Europe’s top divisions. This spot was reserved for Samir Handanovic until the Slovenian extended his contract with Inter Milan. Nevertheless, Alisson makes an excellent custodian for our Free IX.
RB. Gregory van der Wiel, PSG
An attacking fullback renowned for his pace runs down the right flank. Turning 28 this February, he is at the top of his game, and with 45 caps for the Dutch national side he has much experience – a top addition to any side – Manchester United are on high alert.
CB. Joel Matip, Schalke 04
Tall and powerful. Although naturally a defensive midfielder, he has been used often as a centreback in past few seasons and has put in some of his best performances. Rumours are circulating that Liverpool have reached an agreement for the 24 year old. Already an established player, his age suggest he has room for improvement. He could prove to be a fantastic addition to a leaky defence.
CB. Martin Caceres, Juventus
When not crashing his Ferrari in to a wall, Caceres is a top-notch defender, capable of playing in the centre or as a right wingback. He’s fast, strong, agile, with an exceptional leap. Caceres takes his physical conditioning seriously – it is said by his teammates once a training session is over, the Uruguayan heads straight to the gym for a weights session on his own time. In addition to his physical traits, Caceres is not shy from playing a little dirty which could be an asset to whichever side he joins. He may not be a free agent after all as Juventus are rumored to be looking to cash in on him this transfer window.
LB. Caner Erkin, Fenerbahçe
A solid player. Consistent, without setting the world alight - when he takes to the field, you generally know what to expect. Originally a left winger, Caner has slowly transformed into a fullback which is a testament to his reliability although he still holds all the characteristics you’d expect of a dangerous winger. He also boasts 42 caps for his national side and will be a good addition to most clubs.
DM. Mehmet Topal, Fenerbahçe
Mehmet Topal, aka. Chiellini's Turkish doppelgänger. Nicknamed Örümcek (the spider) for his innate ability to win loose balls and cut out passes with his long legs. Lacking in creativity, Topal’s game is based around simplicity and ‘steadying the ship’, typically recycling possession between defenders and more creative midfield playmakers. Having said that, he does hold a booming shot in his arsenal and he isn’t afraid to try his luck from distance.
CM. Éver Banega, Sevilla
Banega is an excellent side for any that is lacking in creativity. Although naturally a trequartista, he plays for his current club primarily as a central midfielder despite his relatively small frame. A very established player as well as a set-piece specialist, crowned man of the match in last season’s Europa League final. Manchester United are amongst the team mentioned interested, though it’s difficult to see the player agreeing to move to a club that will almost certainly change their manager who may likely have his own vision that mightn’t feature him as an integral figure.
CM. Gastón Ramírez, Southampton
Ramirez hasn’t enjoyed the most memorable of experiences in the Premier League with an ankle ligament injury and fitness issues hampering his settling into new surroundings. He has barely featured for Southampton this season – most probably due to his refusal to sign a new deal and the Saints begrudgingly freezing him out of the squad as he pockets an approximate £60,000 per week wage. Only 25, his technical ability suggests he is well worth the risk. A move to more familiar surroundings, such as Italy or Spain seems most likely for the Uruguayan.
LW. Ezequiel Lavezzi, PSG
Lavezzi career at PSG never did reach the heights it did at Napoli. It’s not entirely fair to blame him; he is part of a squad with an attack that features Ibrahimovic and his old Napoli striking-partner, Cavani. Then there is Di Maria, Lucas Moura as well as Javier Pastore. Continuity is something footballers thrive on and one that is not granted at PSG. El Pocho has no shortage of offers; Chelsea, Inter and Juventus are amongst the names reportedly interested in the 30-year-old. Chelsea would undoubtedly offer greater wages though the player's fondness for Italy may suggest that is a more appealing destination.
RW. Hatem Ben Arfa, Nice.
Once considered one of France’s brightest prospects, I think it’s safe to suggest the now 28-year-old’s career has never lived up to that billing. Even today he is described as one of the best talents in France but is often criticized for his lack of discipline. This season has undoubtedly been his best – 11 goals in 24 matches in all competitions coupled highlight after highlight on youtube indicates he deserves a crack at higher level than his current club – no disrespect intended at Nice. After suggesting that he is “back from hell” after his experience with Newcastle, it’s hard to envision him moving back to England. Spain, Germany or Italy will certainly be in his career plans with both Milan clubs interested in his services.
CF. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG.
The PSG superstar is our highest profile player on our list and he certainly will have no shortage of offers from Europe’s elite. We have run though all possible options and have proposed a theory of where the Swede may end up which we’ll discuss in our upcoming article, “Ibra’s Quest”. What is for certain is that PSG seem to be the biggest losers this July, yet again they’re a club whose owner has unlimited resources, so it’s kind of irrelevant.
So that’s the best side we could compose with free agents; think you could do better? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.