Out-of-contract Premier League players
With the January transfer market now open for business, all 20 Premier League managers will be looking to bolster their squads for the second half of the season. Yet any clubs prepared to look further ahead could be handsomely rewarded: the following players all have less than six months to run on their contracts, which means they’ll be available for nothing in the summer - or well below their market value right now.
Arsenal didn’t pay a penny to sign former Tottenham defender Sol Campbell – who won two Premier League titles as a Gunner – in 2001. Could any of these soon-to-be freebies bring similar success to new employers?
16. Claudio Yacob (West Brom)
The 2017/18 campaign hasn’t yet brought West Brom much joy, and Yacob will be doubly disappointed at his team’s lowly position and his own lack of game time. The Argentine destroyer has been handed just five starts in the Premier League this term, with Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry and Grzegorz Krychowiak often preferred in the engine room.
Yacob has been at The Hawthorns since 2012 and, with his 31st birthday on the horizon, could benefit from a change of scenery next season. Any top-flight team expected to be battling against the drop should at least consider making the midfielder an offer.
15. Miguel Britos (Watford)
Injury and suspension have restricted Britos to just nine league appearances for Watford this season. The rugged centre-back was a Hornets regular last term under his old Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri, but competition for places at Vicarage Road has only got tougher and Britos could seek an exit in June.
A move back to Serie A has been mooted, while the 32-year-old may also be tempted by a return to his native Uruguay. One last contract in Europe would probably be Britos’ preferred choice, though, and his experience means he won’t be short of suitors.
14. James McArthur (Crystal Palace)
A hard-working, energetic midfielder who’s been a key member of Palace’s squad in his three-and-a-half seasons at Selhurst Park, McArthur could walk away for nothing in the summer. Originally signed for £7m in 2014, the Scotland international has helped the Eagles establish themselves in the Premier League and reach the 2016 FA Cup final.
No longer an automatic starter in south London, McArthur is likely to run his contact down and consider his options in the summer. Palace will seek to retain him, but the ex-Wigan man may seek pastures new.
13. Diafra Sakho (West Ham)
Sakho was strongly linked with a transfer last summer, but nothing materialised and the striker stayed put at the London Stadium instead. Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll and even Andre Ayew seem to be above him in the centre-forward pecking order, though, which makes a summer exit look extremely likely.
While not exactly prolific – 18 Premier League goals in three-and-a-half seasons in east London – Sakho is a handful with his speed and movement. At 28, he still has plenty to offer.
12. James Morrison (West Brom)
A West Brom stalwart who has spent more than a decade at the club, Morrison is another Premier League player who will be available on a free later this year. The Baggies have an option to extend his deal by another 12 months, but nothing has yet been agreed.
A reliable midfield all-rounder, Morrison has played over 300 games in the Premier League, with his experience no doubt appealing to a whole host of managers. The probable lack of a transfer fee makes the Scot attractive to chairmen, too.
11. Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea)
Ki admitted in December that contract talks have been put on hold at the Liberty Stadium, with the midfielder and the club fully focused on Swansea’s battle against relegation. The Welsh side’s fate will be a big factor in determining whether the South Korean sticks around, with Ki unlikely to drop into the Championship next term.
The 28-year-old will also have the World Cup on his mind, and he may wish to have his future sorted out before the tournament gets under way. Would-be suitors should therefore avoid waiting too long to make their move in the summer.
10. Robert Huth (Leicester)
Huth is yet to play in 2017/18, ankle and foot injuries keeping him sidelined for the last few months. In the meantime Harry Maguire has cemented his position as an automatic starter at centre-half, which could prompt the former Chelsea stopper to bring an end to his Leicester adventure.
A rock at the back throughout the Foxes’ improbable title triumph in 2015/16, Huth would be an astute addition for any bottom-half Premier League team seeking a no-nonsense defender. If Middlesbrough get promoted this season, the 33-year-old can expect a summer call from Tony Pulis.
9. Yaya Toure (Man City)
Sluggish and static, Toure looked doomed when Pep Guardiola took charge at Manchester City in 2016. Yet as the team floundered, the Ivorian playmaker returned to the line-up. Having celebrated his 34th birthday last May, he even got a new one-year deal. The game looks up now, however, given that Toure hasn’t started a league match since.
What could he offer elsewhere? Hand him a luxurious midfield role, get others to do the running, and he may well be worth a punt. If work rate is temporary, class is permanent.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United)
The imperious Swede would sit higher on this list based on talent alone, but injuries put a question mark over his value. Having returned from a serious knee injury in November, he suffered a setback in late December that will cost him another month. Barring a sensational comeback, United surely won’t extend his deal beyond this summer.
So how fun it would be if someone else snapped him up? Though his legs may not be as fast at 36, Ibrahimovic can lift squads with his mere presence, charisma and winning mentality. He’d be a gamble – and an expensive one than that – but if anyone can defy the ageing process it’s him.
7. Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace)
Crystal Palace shattered their wage structure to sign Cabaye from Paris Saint-Germain in 2015, but now risk losing him for nothing. He may well go in summer, as Roy Hodgson says he won’t sell him in January. At 31, Cabaye would bolster several Premier League sides with his defensive nous and diligent passing.
The seasoned Frenchman has formed the backbone of the Palace team, and though his stay has coincided with two relegation scraps, he’s also been part of why Palace have survived each one.
6. Marouane Fellaini (Man United)
The Belgian isn't universally adored, but Jose Mourinho loves throwing him on to chase or protect leads, preferably with big headers and the odd elbow. Yet Fellaini could leave. United have others whose deals expire soon – Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw – but the club can extend their stay for another year.
With Fellaini, no such clause exists. Why would the ex-Everton man depart? At 30, he won’t get a bigger club, nor one that pays better. The issue might be playing time, though a new deal still looks the best call for both parts.
5. Emre Can (Liverpool)
Box-to-box midfielder Can is a classic Jurgen Klopp player; a hard-running fighter who makes Liverpool more aggressive and dynamic. Yet as much as Klopp wants to keep him, Can has refused to extend his deal, and the standoff could go on until summer.
Reports in Italy suggest Serie A champions Juventus are close to agreeing terms with the German, but there’s still time for another club to step in. Given Can is still only 23, snapping him up on a free would represent superb business for any number of top-level European outfits.
4. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Wilshere is showing fine form, which may be both good and bad news for Arsenal. Focused and fit, the playmaker can be a gem of a player, driving through enemy lines and feeding the forwards.
Yet the exits of other stars could make him think twice about staying. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left the Emirates in August, accepting less money to go to Liverpool, and should Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez jump ship in summer, Wilshere might follow. On Wednesday, Wilshere said his contract talks have not progressed. Pep Guardiola is an admirer.
3. Fernandinho (Man City)
At 32, Fernandinho belongs to the top bracket of defensive midfielders. One of many players improved by Guardiola, the street-smart Brazilian covers for David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, and is an underrated cog in City’s winning machine.
The club would thus be mad to let him go in summer, and a deal will surely be signed. Some reports say an agreement has already been reached, with an announcement imminent. Until that moment, though, an exit ahead of the 2018/19 season is possible.
2. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Hard as Arsenal have tried to tie him down, Ozil refuses to extend his contract and looks set to walk out of the Emirates for free. Rumours suggest a reunion with his old Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, a prospect which would surely horrify Wenger after the Robin van Persie debacle.
Wenger adores Ozil for his inventive passing and sense of timing, and has defended him frequently over the years. Some may say the Frenchman deserves some loyalty back, but top players want big titles and Arsenal are nowhere near them. Decent form of late has boosted Ozil’s value, and his situation is bound to be monitored by several top clubs.
1. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Reports say Sanchez was close to joining Manchester City last August, but Arsenal’s failure to secure a replacement saw the Chilean remain at the Emirates. The prospect of him sticking around beyond this season are close to nil, however; as a player used to lifting trophies with Chile and at Barcelona, Sanchez has raged when Arsenal have squandered points and slipped down the table, and he’ll be keen to challenge for major silverware elsewhere.
Sanchez’s contract saga has supposedly divided the Gunners’ squad too, with some players feeling it would be best for all parties if he found a new employer. They’re unlikely to have to wait for long.
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