With football clubs across Europe still struggling to cope with the financial impact of the pandemic, major transfers may be a thing of the past, except in the case of a handful or elite players.
Instead, clubs may consider who they can pick up on a free transfer, although the term should be sued advisedly. Whilst no transfer fee may be involved, a club can still expect to be outlaying conservable sums on wages and bonuses for top-end talent.
And this year in particular, there is a rich crop of exceptional players who are coming to the end of their current deals with their clubs and who may be looking for new employers.
In a two part series, Footie Central looks at ten players who are available, together with an indication where they may be playing next season.
Here are the first five.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
AC Milan Gianluigi Donnarumma’s future at AC Milan remains uncertain, with any talks on a new contract frozen until the end of the season.
Still only 22, he has already made 250 appearances in all competitions for the Serie A side, and, if he were to become available, would be hot property this summer, with Chelsea linked with him in the past. He is also reportedly a target for fellow Serie A giants, Juventus.
Much may depend on whether AC Milan or Juventus qualify for Champions League football next season as to what he decides to do.
Jérôme Boateng (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich confirmed that World Cup winner Boateng will leave the German champions when his contract expires last month. They said that it was a joint decision by the club management and the coach, and that his deal will not be extended.
He has been linked with a switch to the Premier League, with Tottenham interested, although it more likely he will be heading to Stamford Bridge where he will link up with compatriot Thomas Tuchel.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Fernandinho may be in the autumn of his career at the age of 35, but he has still played a major role in Manchester City winning the Premier League and League Cup double, and progressing through to the Champions League.
Sergio Ramos is set to end his 16-year career with Real Madrid as talks over a new deal have stalled.
He has been offered a new one year deal, and, as one of the club’s highest earners, has reportedly offeree to accept a pay cut o help the club through its current financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. Ramos though is holding out for two years, something the club are not prepared to offer given that fitness issues mean he has made only 21 appearances in all competitions this season.
Manchester United and PSG have both been linked with him.
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
He is out of contract in June and had been linked with a move back to South America, and his native Brazil.
However, it now looks like he is set to stay with Manchester City for a further year after agreeing a contract extension.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Liverpool Wijnaldum has been consistently linked with a summer move to Barcelona on a free transfer, and a reunion with former Netherlands’ team boss, Ronald Koeman. There have even been suggestions that a pre-contract agreement has been signed, although Liverpool have always denied any knowledge of this.
That move may be in jeopardy though if Koeman is sacked as manager of Barcelona after the club failed to finish in the top two in La Liga for the first time in 2008.
If that is the case, Wijnaldum may have to seek other options. One is to re-sign for Liverpool, although he has previously indicated that he does not like the length of the deal which has been offered to him.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.