Out of Contract XI: The players set to be in high demand this summer
The upcoming summer transfer window is sure to not disappoint on the back of a host of top names being linked with moves across the continent.
From star strikers Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to Eden Hazard, Sergio Reguilón, Sergi Roberto, and everything in between, the amount of talent that will potentially be shifting the sands in Europe’s top five leagues is impressive indeed.
But many of the upcoming moves that are sure to get the most attention are the cadre of potential free transfer deals that may result from players increasingly being willing to let their contracts run down to secure a move to the club of their choice without any hindrance from those above them.
With that in mind, here is 101 Great Goals‘ Out of Contract XI for this summer’s transfer window (note: all player market values sourced from Transfermarkt and converted to pounds).
André Onana; Ajax (£12.5million) | Strongest link; Inter
Long linked with a move away from Dutch giants Ajax, Cameroonian star André Onana has come with issues at times but his talent between the posts has been proven time and again in both the Eredivisie and across multiple continental campaigns for de Godenzonen.
The 25-year-old La Masia graduate has been in Amsterdam since January of 2015 but did not make his first-team debut until 2016, where he has been the first-choice option since while making 211 appearances across all competitions and keeping 85 clean sheets in the process. With Serie A giants Inter expecting to put faith in him next season as their number one keeper after reportedly completing a medical with the club, the timing seems right for him to step into a top-five league in Europe.
Noussair Mazraoui; Ajax (£17million) | Strongest link; Barcelona
Another standout Ajax performer is 24-year-old Moroccan international Noussair Mazraoui, who came through the youth ranks at Ajax beginning at the age of nine before breaking into the first team in 2018; the same year he was given his first cap for his country after declaring allegiance to Morocco, despite being Dutch-born.
But the never-ending production line of talent at Ajax means that Mazraoui can realistically be replaced without the Dutch giants skipping a beat with 19-year-old Devyne Rensch ready to replace him and already in the first-team set up under Erik ten Hag. Mazraoui still has plenty to offer, however, and his Ajax education and technical craft would make him an ideal candidate to move to Barcelona this summer, and the fact that the Blaugrana are closing in on his signature, the supply line from Amsterdam to the Catalan capital seems to be alive and kicking.
Andreas Christensen; Chelsea (£29million) | Strongest link; Barcelona
Unfortunately for Premier League giants Chelsea, Danish international stalwart Andreas Christensen is one of two entries on this list that could cause a bit of a panic at Stamford Bridge this summer in terms of how the Blues intend to acquire a whole new heart of their defence under German tactician Thomas Tuchel.
Christensen has long been linked with a move away from west London and at the time of writing, is one of a handful of players that could make their way to the Camp Nou on free deals this summer to join Xavi’s revitalization program; and what a loss he would be for Chelsea. Christensen was a key contributor – when fit – while helping the club achieve Champions League glory last season. His loss will be a considerable one if Tuchel cannot convince him to stay, and with sanctions currently in place preventing new contracts from being discussed, that looks unlikely.
Antonio Rüdiger; Chelsea (£29million) | Strongest link; Juventus
An even bigger loss than Christensen would come in the vein of German international Antonio Rüdiger, who has not only been arguably Chelsea’s best centre-back but one of the top players in his position in the Premier League and possibly all of Europe in recent seasons.
The VfB Stuttgart academy graduate has already made over 40-appearances this season for Chelsea and logging the most minutes of any Blues player while his ability to perform in both a back four and a back three speaks volumes about the measure of consistency that he brings to the table. But much like Christensen, Rüdiger’s future in the Premier League seems to be coming at an end as he has grown closer to joining Italian giants Juventus in the summer after the Blues have thus far failed to match his requirements, to say nothing of the fact of the current crisis gripping the club in the wake of EU sanctions against owner Roman Abramovich.
Marcel Halstenberg; RB Leipzig (£6million) | Strongest link; RB Leipzig
A name that is not widely known among many Premier League fans, RB Leipzig and German international left-back Marcel Halstenberg has been a loyal servant for Die Roten Bullen since 2015 after coming through the ranks at both Hannover 96 and Borussia Dortmund before featuring prominently for FC St.Pauli for two seasons.
But a serious injury suffered in August of the current Bundesliga campaign has forced RBL to get on just fine without him with former Manchester City wing-back Angeliño shining on the left side of the defence. Halstenberg has plenty to give as a club veteran who is capable of playing in a left-back role but also as a centre-back in a back three, and that versatile package in a player who knows the club and the league has led Leipzig to take steps to work on a contract extension, though there is still time for other clubs likely Bundesliga-based – to swoop in late on to offer a competitive package.
Marcelo Brozović; Inter (£36million) | Strongest link; Inter
One of the most recognizable names in Croatian football, Marcelo Brozović has been at the forefront of everything that has taken hold at Inter Milan since his arrival from Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb in January 2015 season. For the last seven-and-a-half seasons in Serie A, Brozović has been a midfield fulcrum under multiple managers while making nearly 300-appearances for I Nerazzurri but questions began to crop up surrounding his future as the last year of his contract continued to loom.
But at the time of writing, Inter is looking into the possibility of securing the services of Austrian international Florian Grillitsch from Bundesliga outfit TSG Hoffenheim as a backup for Brozović, which leads to the conclusion that the club will be tabling a contract extension in the near future that would keep him at the club (on paper) until 2026.
Franck Kessié; AC Milan (£38million) | Strongest link; Barcelona
If Barcelona boss Xavi gets his way in the summer, the Catalan giants will have one of the top sides on the continent with the strength to go on and become a force for years to come. And AC Milan star Franck Kessié could play a large role in helping the La Liga outfit achieve its aims. Kessié has been an absolute stud in Serie A for I Rossoneri since the 2017-18 season after having a superb breakout year the season prior with Atalanta Bergamo.
Though he is still only 25-years-old, Kessié has already amassed nearly 300-professional appearances as well as 52-caps for Ivory Coast. His box-to-box threat in all phases of play makes him a standout performer wherever he goes and his ability to chip in amongst the goals can sometimes draw comparisons with Ivorian legend Yaya Touré. He would be a fabulous addition to Barcelona if that move materializes.
Paul Pogba; Manchester United (£46million) | Strongest link; Juventus
Paul Pogba and leaving Manchester United; the ongoing saga that has become commonplace seemingly every transfer window. But the current situation at United and the uncertainty regarding what managerial direction the club takes in the wake of Ralf Rangnick’s interim tenure coming to an end could see Pogba return to Juventus as La Vecchia Signora maneuver into position for a reunion with the mercurial Frenchman.
Though sometimes frustrating both on and off the pitch, Pogba’s talent is undeniable as evidenced by some absolute clinics he has put on for United both during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns, while the current 2021-22 season sees him sitting fourth in the Premier League assist table. Versatile almost beyond comparison with his ability to play as a 6, 8, 10, or out on the left flank across a career to date that features over 400 appearances and almost 100 assists, Pogba could offer Juventus something they have been missing since, well, Paul Pogba was strutting his stuff in Turin previously.
Ousmane Dembélé; Barcelona (£25million) | Strongest link; Barcelona
Xavi and Barcelona deserve the utmost credit for the way they recruited new blood into the fold at the Camp Nou through the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, and Adama Traoré (loan) in January, but the Spanish giants have no intention of stopping. They are already hot on the tail of Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, and Noussair Mazraoui and a deal to keep talented winger Ousmane Dembélé past the current season would be just as big a deal.
Aubameyang is already lobbying his friend and former clubmate at Borussia Dortmund to stay beyond the season despite rumoured interest from multiple top clubs including Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal. A new contract for the Frenchman would afford Xavi a very credible cadre of forwards to choose from moving forward that could be a potential bedrock to a trophy haul in the future, and while it looked in January as though his time at the Camp Nou would come to a messy end, he appears to have shown glimpses of his potential in recent weeks.
Paulo Dybala; Juventus (£36million) | Strongest link; Inter
No contract extension signed and no meeting on the matter on the books at the Allianz Stadium; Argentine forward Paulo Dybala looks to genuinely be off this summer as Juventus are rumored to no longer be standing between him and the exit door after the player has made his intentions clear. Supremely talented on his day, perhaps his day has not come often enough after a 2017-18 Serie A campaign that saw him smash 22 goals and add five assists to his name. Since then, Dybala has only cracked 10 goals just once (2019-20), so perhaps it is. no surprise that Juventus will look to make do without him moving forward.
But the Argentine could simply need a fresh location to revitalize his career in what is currently his prime years. Inter are sniffing around for his signature and the ability to play for another top Italian club could give him the right platform as Simone Inzaghi’s outfit have three strikers 33-years-old or older, but forming a strike partnership with countryman Lautaro Martínez could be devastating if it comes off.
Kylian Mbappé; Paris Saint-Germain (£135million) | Strongest link; Real Madrid
The free transfer that the entire world is on the edge of their seat over; French wonderkid Kylian Mbappé. Despite turning 23-years-old this season in December, the Paris-native is unquestionably one of the best footballers on the planet and looks set to lead the next generation in the wake left behind by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But despite his hero status and being a son of Paris, PSG no longer offers the platform for Mbappé to continue his assault on the beautiful game. Enter Real Madrid, and their long-lasting links with a move for the Frenchman.
Already flirting with the 200-goal mark (he has 185) between his dazzling performances for both PSG and AS Monaco before them in just 267 appearances to date, Mbappé is a Galactico if there ever was one. With Real recently meeting to discuss a possible deal for him in the summer, the prospect of the Spanish giants lining up in a front three comprised of Mbappé along with countryman Karim Benzema and Brazilian starlet Vinícius Júnior would be worthy of the Galacticos of days gone by.