Monday, June 27

Out of contract in 2022: The best free agents still available to sign

The free agent market is becoming more and more valuable with each passing year.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see a global superstar (or five) leave their clubs after their contracts expire, so there are some unreal bargains to be found.

Here are some of the best players still available to be picked up for free.

Paul PogbaPaul Pogba

Paul Pogba never justified his £89m transfer fee / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages

Leaving: Man Utd
Age: 29
Position: Central midfielder

Paul Pogba is available five years after becoming the then-most expensive player in history when he returned to Manchester United from Juventus in an £89m world record transfer.

Juventus, who signed him as a free agent from United in 2012, are in the hunt to recapture the Frenchman. But Paris Saint-Germain could give him a return to his home city.

Paulo DybalaPaulo Dybala

Paulo Dybala could stay in Serie A / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Leaving: Juventus
Age: 28
Position: Striker/Attacking midfielder

Paulo Dybala failed to agree a contract extension with Juventus and is toying with crossing the Derby d’Italia divide to join fierce rivals Inter.

A Premier League move was mooted but isn’t thought to have legs.

Ousmane DembeleOusmane Dembele

Barcelona wanted to sell Ousmane Dembele in January / Steve Christo – Corbis/GettyImages

Leaving: Barcelona
Age: 25
Position: Winger

Barcelona initially wanted to sell Ousmane Dembele in January to ensure they didn’t lose their €145m investment as a free agent this summer. But they failed to find a buyer, while his form dramatically improved.

Several months on and no new deal has been forthcoming after the Frenchman was rumoured to have rejected Barcelona’s best and final offer at the end of May. Chelsea are heavily linked.

Luis SuarezLuis Suarez

Luis Suarez won La Liga with Atletico Madrid in 2021 / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Leaving: Atletico Madrid
Age: 35
Position: Striker

Luis Suarez has been a target for Aston Villa since his departure from Atletico Madrid was confirmed. That would have meant a reunion with former Liverpool colleagues Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho.

But a return to the Premier League is no longer considered particularly likely and the Uruguayan could even head back to his native South America to wind down his career a little closer to home.

Gareth BaleGareth Bale

Gareth Bale won five Champions League trophies with Real Madrid / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Leaving: Real Madrid
Age: 32
Position: Winger

Despite falling out of love with the Spanish media and Real Madrid fans, Gareth Bale’s career at the Bernabeu can still be considered a success and finished with a fifth Champions League title.

There had been rumours he could retire this summer, but Wales have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 64 years and that is not something he is prepared to miss. Home-town club Cardiff are interested.

Leaving: Manchester United
Age: 29
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger

Jesse Lingard ended his Manchester United career under something of a cloud after falling out of favour with successive managers at Old Trafford. But he might not go far, with West Ham and Newcastle interested.

He has shown that he can still perform at Premier League level by the loan spell he had with the Hammers in the second half of the 2020/21 season, which even earned him an England recall.

Christian EriksenChristian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen proved with Brentford he is still a top quality player / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

Leaving: Brentford
Age: 30
Position: Attacking midfielder

Christian Eriksen was given a chance to resurrect his career with Brentford following his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 and enforced departure from Inter due to Serie A medical regulations – and he absolutely took it.

The Dane is believed to have been offered a new deal by the Bees, but he has ambitions of playing in the Champions League again and former club Tottenham could take him back to north London.

Isco AlarconIsco Alarcon

Isco joined Real Madrid back in 2013 / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

Leaving: Real Madrid
Age: 30
Position: Attacking midfielder

Isco’s Real Madrid career had been winding down for some time, having largely been a fringe player for successive managers since 2018. Now, with his contract finally up, the Spaniard is free to go.

Staying in Spain could be the most likely option for the five-time Champions League winner. Real Betis have been rumoured frontrunners, although Sevilla have also been credited with interest.

Romian SaissRomian Saiss

Romain Saiss is proven in the Premier League / James Baylis – AMA/GettyImages

Leaving: Wolves
Age: 32
Position: Centre-back

Wolves have been unable to agree a new contract with experienced centre-back Romain Saiss, who stands to be a big loss to the club. He first joined in January 2016 and has been a key asset since 2018.

The Morocco international turned 32 in March but could be a steal for another Premier League club looking to attract a proven defender capable of scoring a few goals.

Corentin TolissoCorentin Tolisso

Corentin Tolisso is set for a new challenge / Boris Streubel/GettyImages

Leaving: Bayern Munich
Age: 27
Position: Central midfielder

The five-year contract Corentin Tolisso signed when he first joined Bayern Munich from Lyon in 2017 is now at an end. A new deal was discussed but wage expectation are thought to have been too far apart.

It offers the Frenchman the chance of a fresh start while still in the prime of his career. His time with Bayern was disrupted by an ACL injury during the 2018/19 campaign and his game time never recovered.

Leaving: AC Milan
Age: 27
Position: Centre-back

Named Milan captain in 2018, Alessio Romagnoli’s last act was to lift the club’s first Serie A title in 11 years at the end of this season. But injury had limited his appearances and ultimately saw him dropped in the run-in.

Local reports suggested the defender was offered a new deal but at a considerable pay cut. That perhaps indicated a smaller role moving forward and he may feel he is better off trying his luck in free agency.

Federico BernardeschiFederico Bernardeschi

Juventus are bidding farewell to Federico Bernardeschi / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Leaving: Juventus
Age: 28
Position: Winger

Federico Bernardeschi only started just over half of his Serie A appearances in 2021/22 and arguably benefitted from injuries to others, including namesake Federico Chiesa.

It makes sense that Juventus and Bernardeschi are ready to part ways at this stage. He has been linked with Lazio, which would mean a potential reunion with Maurizio Sarri.

James TarkowskiJames Tarkowski

James Tarkowski isn’t heading to the Championship with Burnley / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Leaving: Burnley
Age: 29
Position: Centre-back

With Burnley finally dropping out of the Premier League and James Tarkowski out of contract this summer, the centre-back will be moving on to pastures new for 2022/23.

Tarkowski has been a target for a handful of top flight clubs for several years. Leicester and Newcastle have shown interested but Everton are now expected to win the race for his signature.

Andrea BelottiAndrea Belotti

Andrea Belotti has been with Torino since 2015 / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Leaving: Torino
Age: 28
Position: Striker

Andrea Belotti was heavily touted for a high profile transfer in 2017 off the back of a 28-goal breakout season with Torino. It never happened, although he had continued to score consistently until a lull in 2021/22.

Belotti, who was part of Italy’s Euro 2020 squad last summer, may not command the same kind of attention that he once did but could yet be a shrewd acquisition for the right club.

Serge AurierSerge Aurier

Serge Aurier lasted one season at Villarreal / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Leaving: Villarreal
Age: 29
Position: Full-back

Villarreal have an option to extend Serge Aurier’s contract that expires this summer but are not expected to use it, meaning the Ivorian will be looking for another new club inside 12 months after being released by Tottenham.

Aurier was mostly a back-up player for a Villarreal side that reached the Champions League semi-finals and might be considered something of a gamble for a potential new club.

Leaving: West Brom
Age: 29
Position: Goalkeeper

Sam Johnstone is leaving West Brom and is expected to make a return to the Premier League, where he would most likely take an understudy role at a top club, rather than be a starter lower down the table.

Tottenham and former club Manchester United are the clubs that have shown the most interest in the England international in that respect and both would welcome an experienced back-up goalkeeper.

Chancel MbembaChancel Mbemba

Chancel Mbemba’s Porto contract hasn’t been renewed / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Leaving: Porto
Age: 27
Position: Centre-back

Once of Newcastle, Chancel Mbemba is out of contract at Porto following a successful stint that has yielded two Portuguese titles in the last three seasons – he started nearly every game in 2021/22.

Portuguese reports in January resulted in the DR Congo international becoming embroiled in an age fraud scandal amid unproven claims that he is four years older than he is recorded to be.

Henrikh MkhitaryanHenrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is on the market again / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages

Leaving: Roma
Age: 33
Position: Attacking midfielder

Veteran Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan somewhat recovered his career at Roma, having previously seen it tank during disappointing spells at Manchester United and then Arsenal from 2016 to 2020.

But he is now set to be on the move again, with no new contract with Roma announced. However, Giallorossi chief Tiago Pinto recently claimed it was a ‘lie’ that the player has been in talks with Serie A rivals Inter.

Jason DenayerJason Denayer

Belgium international Jason Denayer is still only 26 / RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/GettyImages

Leaving: Lyon
Age: 26
Position: Centre-back

Jason Denayer emerged from the youth ranks at Manchester City and has played for Celtic, Galatasaray (two spells) and Sunderland, as well as making well over 100 appearances for Lyon and 35 for Belgium.

Yet the defender is still only 26. There have been links with an ambitious Newcastle should he wish to return to English football, as well as Sevilla if a new challenge in Spain tickles his fancy.

Djibril SidibeDjibril Sidibe

Djibril Sibibe has plenty of experience at club & international level / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Leaving: Monaco
Age: 29
Position: Full-back

Djibril Sibide has been a Ligue 1 title winner with Monaco and a World Cup winner with France. The right-back also has Premier League experience after spending the 2019/20 campaign on loan with Everton.

There have been rumours of contact with clubs in France, England, Spain and Italy, potentially giving Sidibe plenty of options.

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