Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antonio Rüdiger, Paulo Dybala Top list of the best free agents in 2022
The winter transfer window opens in just under two months, and some of football’s biggest stars are entering the final six months of their contracts, allowing them to start making deals with clubs outside of their own leagues from January 1st.
Players like Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antonio Rüdiger and Paulo Dybala are all well on their way to becoming free agents next summer. Players like Jesse Lingard, Angel Di Maria, Luis Suarez and Alexandre Lacazette can also advance as free agents in the months.
There is no such thing as a “free transfer” in football these days, as players without a contract can demand high wages and entry fees, and clubs also expect potentially high payments to player representatives for closing a deal. .
But for those clubs willing to scour the market for free agents and not pay anything on transfer fees, there are a number of top players in every position who could be signed for free next summer. ESPN has selected the best free XI of the Stars, whose contracts will expire in June 2022, in a 4-1-2-3 formation.
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French world championship captain Lloris has yet to negotiate a new deal with Spurs after nine years at the club, but his future could become clearer with the arrival of Antonio Conte as coach earlier this month. Lloris will turn 35 in December and sources have told ESPN that the former Lyon keeper will be interested in a free agent move to MLS at the end of his contract. However, with his experience and reputation, he will not be short of offers.
Ajax # 1 Andre Onana, whose nine-month doping ban ended on November 4th, is another keeper on track to become a free agent next summer and could join Inter Milan on contract.
Arsenal and Leeds United are both watching Mazraoui’s situation at Ajax, with the Moroccan right-back negotiating a move to a non-Dutch club in January.
The 23-year-old, who has been with Ajax since he was eight, made an impressive start to the season, scoring four goals and making three assists from his defense for Erik ten Hag’s team. Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta offers a more seasoned free agent right-back option while Serge Aurier’s one-year contract with Villarreal expires next June.
CB: Antonio Rudiger, Chelsea
The German international is the subject of interest from Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. After falling out of favor under former coach Frank Lampard, the 28-year-old reestablished himself at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel and was a key figure in the club’s Champions League win last season. But he has yet to commit to a new deal and major clubs are already lining up to try to negotiate a free transfer.
Bayern’s interest in Rüdiger is partly influenced by uncertainty about the future of German national player Sule, who has turned down the club’s attempts to extend his contract beyond next summer. At 26, Sule would offer great value as a free agent as he can play at the highest level during a possible four or five year contract.
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Jason Denayer (Lyon) and Matthias Ginter (Borussia Mönchengladbach) are also entering the last six months of their contracts.
LB: Marcelo, Real Madrid
At 33, Marcelo could leave Real Madrid after 15 years at the Santiago Bernabeu when his contract expires next June. The Brazilian international’s age will put some clubs off and his salary likely won’t be cheap, but he undoubtedly still has the pedigree of being one of the best left-backs in the world.
Reinildo Mandava from Lille, Marcel Halstenberg from RB Leipzig and Aihen Munoz from Real Sociedad are all younger and cheaper alternatives hitting potential free agencies in the summer.
Sources have told ESPN that Manchester United has made signing a defensive midfielder a priority next summer, and the good news for Old Trafford scouts is that the market has plenty of value.
Inter midfielder Brozovic arguably tops the list of free agents, with the Croatian international already being linked with a move to Spurs to work with former boss Conte. Boubacar Kamara from Marseille, Denis Zakaria from Mönchengladbach and Axel Witsel from Borussia Dortmund should also be free of transfer next summer.
Pogba is expected to expire the last few months of his contract and look for a new club next summer. Naomi Baker / Getty Images
CM: Paul Pogba, Manchester United
Sources told ESPN last month that United had accepted that Pogba would expire and become a free agent next summer. United also have no plans to let the 28-year-old go in January.
A hamstring injury sustained in an international match with France this week could force Pogba to be out for up to two months.
Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG all have long-term interests but if he goes free agent next summer an English team could take another step to keep Pogba in the Premier League.
Read the latest news and reactions from ESPN FC Senior Writer Mark Ogden.
Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are both closely associated with AC Milan midfielder Kessie, who will turn 25 next month.
The Ivory Coast international has turned down Milan’s attempts to secure him a new contract with San Siro and there could be a case where a club is offering a fee to Kessie in January to tempt the Milanese hierarchy before the summer window. But if he holds on and his contract expires, Kessie will be one of the most sought after free agents after the season ends.
VR: Paulo Dybala, Juventus
Despite reports throughout the season that Dybala is on the verge of signing a new deal with Juventus, the Argentina international has still not put it on paper. As things stand, the 27-year-old can agree to a free summer move to a non-Italian club from January, a risk that Juve has not been able to face so far.
Dybala would have been close to joining Tottenham in 2020 and given his scoring skills, the Premier League’s interest will be alongside possible options in France and Spain for the striker.
Kylian Mbappe has shown no signs of signing a new deal with PSG when his existing deal expires in June. Where will he go next? Robert Michael / Picture Alliance via Getty Images
VR: Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain
PSG striker Mbappe tried to force a move to Real Madrid in the last few days of the summer transfer window but a deal could not be closed and he is now expected to let his contract expire in Paris. Although a move to Real for the France international seems like the most likely outcome, PSG are determined to negotiate a new deal with the 22-year-old.
Real Madrid are also facing competition from the Premier League, with Liverpool and Manchester City both long-time admirers and potential rivals should Mbappe meet the Free Agency.
Dembele, 24, has had an injury-related career at Barcelona since he moved from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for 105 million euros and only played 119 games in all competitions at Camp Nou in over four years. Despite his fitness issues, Dembele is young enough to keep leading clubs across Europe interested and he could be an interesting gamble for a top team next summer.
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Angel Di Maria (PSG), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) and Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid) are also possible options for teams this coming summer.