Update on free transfers in 2023
Despite the global financial crisis, the English Premier League broke its own spending record during the summer transfer window at £1.9 billion ($2.2 billion) and outspent Spain’s LaLiga, Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga combined. But with the World Cup over and finances tighter, free transfers will become even more important. Some big players will be available for next to nothing at the end of the season if they don’t sign soon.
World Cup winner Lionel Messi is set to extend his PSG contract by another year, while Manchester United have extended the contracts of Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw and Fred with a one-year option.
But here, with the help of Transfermarkt, are some of the best players who can’t be bought for nothing and could start negotiations with other clubs outside their league in January.
N’Golo Kante, midfielder, 31, Chelsea
- 1 N’Golo Kante, midfielder, 31, Chelsea
- 2 Karim Benzema, Striker, 35 years old, Real Madrid
- 3 Adrien Rabiot, midfielder, 27, Juventus
- 4 Memphis Depay, Forward, 28 years old, Barcelona
- 5 David de Gea, Goalkeeper, 32, Manchester United
- 6 Youssoufa Moukoko, Forward, 18, Borussia Dortmund
- 7 Milan Skriniar, Central defender, 27 years old, Inter
- 8 Markus Thuram, 25, Forward, Borussia Mönchengladbach
- 9 Youri Tielemans, 25, Midfielder, Leicester City
- 10 Wilfried Zaha, 30, Striker, Crystal Palace
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable for Chelsea to let Kante go for nothing, but the 31-year-old has become a key player for the Blues in recent seasons and has suffered more injuries. Barcelona are looking to replace Sergio Busquets.
Chelsea are also set to lose Jorginho, 31, so there could be a lot of rebuilding to do in midfield.
Karim Benzema, Striker, 35 years old, Real Madrid
Real Madrid have a number of players out of contract this summer, including Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, Luka Modric and Dani Ceballos. But even at 35, Ballon d’Or winner Benzema would be a big loss.
Madrid are set to sign 16-year-old Brazilian striker Endrik from Palmeiras for €72 million in 2024, but they don’t really have an alternative to Benzema. Expect French and several of the aforementioned to sign deals for at least a year.
Adrien Rabiot, midfielder, 27, Juventus
A World Cup star with France, Rabiot’s future at Juve is uncertain as the club faces numerous financial and legal problems. The combative midfielder, who joined Turin on a free transfer from PSG in 2019, has yet to show his full potential and his next move could be an opportunity to make a real name for himself.
Chelsea and Liverpool, who came close to joining Man United last summer, have been linked with the 27-year-old as he finds himself back in the spotlight.
Memphis Depay, Forward, 28 years old, Barcelona
After opting to stay and fight for his place in the summer, Depay is hoping for no chance at the Camp Nou with just two La Liga appearances this season. He is Xavi’s sixth-choice striker and Barca want him off the wage bill.
At just 28, the Dutchman has a lot to offer and could be available in January if a club are willing to pay a few million euros to complete the deal.
David de Gea, Goalkeeper, 32, Manchester United
As mentioned above, Manchester United have already taken up the option to extend the contracts of several of De Gea’s teammates by another year, but have not done the same with the goalkeeper. While he earns €350,000 a week, Manchester United will want him to accept favorable terms rather than keep him at the same salary.
De Gea has not lived up to his reputation in recent years and United are looking for a replacement, but their hand may be forced.
Youssoufa Moukoko, Forward, 18, Borussia Dortmund
A true superstar-in-the-making, it has been interesting to watch the 18-year-old’s career develop at Dortmund since bursting onto the scene two years ago. Moukoko, the youngest German player in Qatar 2022 World Cup history, has established himself as Dortmund’s main striker this season following the departure of Erling Haaland and is now demanding a contract befitting his status.
Chelsea and Barcelona are watching with interest and could confirm their interest in January to get ahead of their rivals.
Milan Skriniar, Central defender, 27 years old, Inter
PSG have been in the market for the Slovakian international for some time and have reportedly offered €50 million to sign him this summer. Tottenham and Liverpool have also been linked, while Skriniar has yet to make a decision on his future.
Skriniar is not the only option for a club looking to sign a new centre-back on the cheap, as his Inter Milan teammate Stefan de Vrij is also available.
Markus Thuram, 25, Forward, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Thuram, another player who impressed with France in Qatar, is being tracked by several clubs including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Newcastle and Chelsea. The 25-year-old has scored 10 goals in 15 appearances for Gladbach this season and his versatility and determination could see him bought in January before he is allowed to leave on a free this summer.
Youri Tielemans, 25, Midfielder, Leicester City
Joining Leicester from Monaco for €45m in 2019, Tielemans has become a Premier League star. However, the club’s poor start to the season has not convinced him that he should make his future there, and talks with Arsenal and Barcelona have been mooted for some time.
The Belgian is unlikely to sign any new contract, so Leicester could decide to move him next month to cover some of the transfer fee.
Wilfried Zaha, 30, Striker, Crystal Palace
At the age of 30, Zaha’s chances of being transferred to a big club before his career is over are diminishing day by day. The Ivory Coast winger came close to joining Arsenal a few years ago but the Gunners have moved on and Zaha will have to decide if he wants to find a new challenge once his contract expires.
Zaha, who has made nearly 450 appearances for Palace, will have a re-signing offer on the table but may opt to try his luck in the Champions League.