By Joel Sked
The landscape in football is ever-changing, and now more players at the elite level are likely to let their contracts run down before moving on a Bosman deal.
This will allow them to earn even more, whether through salary or signing-on-fee, since there is no transfer fee involved.
Here are 10 players who will be attracting interest in the coming days and weeks.
Arjen Robben – Bayern Munich
Question: Why would clubs be interested in a soon-to-be 34-year-old with a litany of injuries throughout his career?
Answer: When the player has won nearly 30 trophies and has been one of the most potent wide men in the last decade.
Robben will be playing exhibition games in his late 40s and still bamboozling full-backs by cutting inside and scoring with his left foot.
Emre Can – Liverpool
Despite reservations about his pace and movement Liverpool would be disappointed to see Can depart. However, such is his talent he will feel that he’ll have a number of options to consider, namely Juventus.
His versatility is a key asset but he may look for a team where he has a set position mapped out for him so he can truly fulfil his promise.
Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
Come the start of next season Sanchez will not be at the Emirates. Whether he will still be there come February is another question altogether.
The Chilean has his sights set on a move to a club who play Champions League football and consistently challenge for the top honours, neither of which is guaranteed at Arsenal. Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and PSG will lead the chase.
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
The World Cup winner is more likely to extend his stay than Sanchez, simply because there are fewer options available where he will have the freedom afforded to him as at the Emirates.
Yet, he is a bona fide A-list star which may tempt Europe’s elite to be persuaded in adding a player who is a proficient provider of assists and creator of chances. It may be a case for Arsenal fans of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’, if he does depart.
Giorgio Chiellini – Juventus
The Italian centre-back is a master of the defensive arts, and is not unfamiliar with the dark arts when required.
He will turn 34 in August but is such a canny operator that pace is of little importance to him, plus Italian defenders seem more durable. He only needs to look across the dressing room at team-mate Andrea Barzagli, who turns 37 in May, for inspiration.
Stefan de Vrij – Lazio
One of the most underrated defenders in Europe, the Dutchman is a key element of Lazio’s defence. So much so that his presence is felt most when he is not there.
He has been a snip at around £4 million for the Rome side and if he was under contract Lazio could have feasibly fetched 10 times that. However, he has had his problems, suffering no less than 11 injuries in his time in Italy, amounting to 72 missed games.
Bernard – Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar Donetsk has been an ideal staging post for a number of Brazilians. Fernandinho, Willian and Douglas Costa have displayed their qualities at the Ukrainian giants, bedding into European football before earning moves elsewhere.
Bernard, however, was expected to go straight to a club in one of Europe’s top five leagues when he was identified as a wunderkind at Atlético Mineiro, helping his hometown club win the Copa Libertadores alongside Ronaldinho. Instead he chose a path well trodden.
After two seasons where he was a mere squad player, the winger has been an integral member of the first XI in the last three seasons. This current campaign has witnessed his best output from the left-wing.
Mario Balotelli – Nice
Starring in Ligue 1 has removed Super Mario from the spotlight and allowed him to simply concentrate on football – and he has appeared to have found an equilibrium.
He has netted 33 goals in 49 games since his move to the French Riviera, and is still only 27, so he could be on the lookout for another chance at Champions League level.
Luke Shaw – Manchester United
If Jose Mourinho is still at Old Trafford next season there is a very good chance that Luke Shaw won’t be. The left-back has had a tough time of it since moving to United, whether it is having to deal with questions about his character or facing spells on the sidelines – including a lengthy one following a horror injury in the Champions League.
He has, however, the potential to be one of the best left-backs in the world. Still only 22, he needs to rediscover his confidence to provide the powerful attacking displays, coupled with his low centre-of-gravity which makes him hard to beat.
Fernandinho – Manchester City
Pep Guardiola is infatuated by the Brazilian midfielder, going as far to say that Fernandinho is better than he was as a player.
So much has been made of this Manchester City team and their incredible first half of the season, with David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero getting most of the plaudits. But it is Fernandinho who has knitted the side together at the base of the midfield.