With the January transfer window just around the corner, it means a number of players across Europe are able to speak to clubs outside their respective league regarding a possible move at the end of the season.
The current climate means that clubs are counting the costs, especially when it comes to incomings, which could lead to clubs becoming more invested in free transfers.
Ahead of the window’s reopening, we take a look at an XI that could be picked up for next to nothing come the end of the campaign:
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma – AC Milan
It’s amazing to think that Gianluigi Donnarumma is still only 21, especially when you see the number of games he’s racked up so soon into his career.
191 Serie A appearances already for the Rossoneri, as well as 22 caps for the Italian national team, it’s already a terrific foundation for a career that could span the next 15 years or so.
An imposing presence between the sticks, Donnarumma has plenty of attributes that lends himself in being one of the world’s best over the next decade, although whether he does that in Milan or somewhere else is another question entirely.
With Stefano Poli turning them into title challengers once again, Donnarumma may perhaps have a change of heart and sign an extension to remain at the club, although the likes of Juventus and even city rivals Inter wait in the wings should the shot-stopper decide to seek pastures new.
Right-Back: Elseid Hysaj – Napoli
Despite over 200 appearances for Napoli since arriving at the club in 2015, just six Serie A games this season suggests Elseid Hysaj‘s time in Naples could be coming to an end.
A combative full-back, comfortable on either flank, the Albanian international doesn’t perhaps possess the attacking gusto that most clubs seek from their full-backs, but he is an assured presence in the backline, and very dependable in defensive situations, perhaps more so than most.
Chelsea were linked with him during Maurizio Sarri’s tenure at the club, having previously managed him at Empoli and Napoli, with that link potentially set to be rekindled should the aforementioned Italian return to management.
Centre-Back: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
There’s little else left for Sergio Ramos to do, or prove, at Real Madrid such has been the career the 34-year-old has enjoyed.
Five LaLiga titles and four Champions League amongst an assortment of other trophies, while racking up an astounding 100 goals in 666 games for Los Blancos, there is a wealth of experience for a prospective new side to take advantage of.
Similarly to the effect Thiago Silva has had at Chelsea, Ramos could do exactly the same for another side should he leave Real Madrid as expected.
A reunion with Jose Mourinho at Tottenham has been touted already, as they continue their evolution into title contenders under the enigmatic Portuguese tactician, with Ramos’ potential impact at the club priceless.
Centre-Back: David Alaba – Bayern Munich
A two-time treble winner and still on 28, David Alaba is a manager’s dream, with the Austrian international able to fill in across a number of positions and look as if he’s played there all his career.
Left-back, central midfield and most recently at centre-back, Alaba’s footballing intelligence makes the positional changes he’s experienced across his career seamless, with his quality and composure on the ball just two of many attributes he possesses.
While he wouldn’t command a fee were he to leave the reigning Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal winners, his wages means only a select few could realistically afford Alaba, including Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Having said that, all those sides, and a few others, should jump at the chance of signing him, with players such as Alaba not coming along too often.
Left-Back: Juan Bernat – Paris Saint-Germain
Currently sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury until mid-March, Juan Bernat has become somewhat a forgotten figure at Paris Saint-Germain but represents great value considering he could be signed for nothing next year.
A full-back that does his best work going forward, his attacking endeavour lends itself to plenty of clubs across Europe, with a return to Spain possibly on the cards, as Barcelona have been linked with the 27-year-old, although that is dependant on the results of the presidential election.
Having experienced success at both Bayern Munich and PSG, playing for a big club will not phase the Spanish international, with his signing perhaps one of the more shrewder next year should he leave the Parc des Princes.
Central Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum – Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly stated that one of the best pieces of business Liverpool could do this season is give Georginio Wijnaldum a new contract, but as we enter 2021, the German’s wish may not be granted.
At 30 years of age, the club are reluctant to offer a long-term contract, while a reunion with former national team boss Ronald Koeman at Barcelona looks an increasingly attractive prospect, although it remains to be seen if he will even last until the end of his season at the Camp Nou.
Despite over 200 appearances for the Reds, playing a key part in their rise to champions of England, Europe and the world, Wijnaldum’s importance is sometimes overlooked, but his energy, ball-progression ability and diligence in the centre of the pitch, he makes the players around him significantly more effective.
With Renato Sanches linked with a move to Anfield, Wijnaldum’s successor is reportedly being lined up if the column inches are to be believed, with his absence the gain of any side that decides to sign him should he leave.
Central Midfield: Hakan Calhanoglu – AC Milan
Another that has been key in AC Milan’s rejuvenation this season, Hakan Calhanoglu has taken on the role as his side’s chief creator to great success.
Already with six Serie A assists this season – no players has more – he also averages nearly four key passes per game – a league-high – helping the Rossoneri to the top of the table; still the only unbeaten league side in Europe’s top five divisions for 2020/21.
Comfortable in central positions and out wide, the Turkish international is adept in finding space to cause problems for the opposition, while his set-piece ability is something that has been well-documented for some time.
At 26, he’s poised to enter the prime years of his career, with Manchester United recently linked with him, although like with the situation for Donnarumma, Milan are doing their utmost to keep him with a lucrative new deal rather than lose him for nothing.
Central Midfeld: Riqui Puig – Barcelona
A talented midfielder for the future, it looks like Riqui Puig will be doing so away from Barcelona, having fallen out of favour during Ronald Koeman’s spell in charge.
Despite calls from many to play the Spanish U21 international more regularly, he’s notched up just four minutes in LaLiga this season in what has been a difficult campaign for both himself and the club.
While there is an option to extend his deal for an extra two years, it looks increasingly likely that he will leave either on loan in January, or altogether at the end of the season, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Leeds United positioning themselves for the possible acquisition.
A technically-gifted midfielder crafted in the Barca ranks, he only requires the space to flourish, even if that means leaving his boyhood club in order to do so.
Forward: Lionel Messi – Barcelona
The fact that a deal such as this could even happen is somewhat incredible, but the breakdown between club and Lionel Messi has led to the possibility that he could leave at the end of this season for nothing.
With records galore and a trophy cabinet to match, everyone knows the quality Messi possesses, with goals and assists coming with an unworldly regularity and a game-deciding ability to stand him amongst the greats, any club across Europe would wish to sign him.
That ‘any club’ was almost Manchester City at the beginning of this season before it fell through, but you can be sure they will return once again if Pep Guardiola has his way, while linking up with Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain remains a distinct possibility, as does a possible move to Inter Milan.
As we edge towards 2021, it looks increasingly likely that Messi could be lininng up in the colours of another side next season rather than the Catalan’s famous red and blue.
Forward: Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
Since his arrival in 2011, Sergio Aguero has written himself into the history of both Manchester City and the Premier League, and not just for his dramatic title-winning goal in 2012.
With 180 Premier League goals – the fourth-most in the competition’s history – and four league titles, the Argentine is a true striking great with still plenty to offer at the age of 32.
While his fitness remains a concern for both Guardiola and potential onlookers, his quality is unquestionable, with few better than Ageuro in the last decade when it comes to finishing.
His development from being a striker in a front two to leading the line on his own while at City showed his willingness to adapt, and should he leave at the end of the campaign, will have plenty of suitors waiting in the wings.
Forward: Memphis Depay – Lyon
After emerging at PSV Eindhoven, to then stutter at Manchester United, Lyon have enjoyed the rebirth of Memphis Depay as a versatile, deadly forward.
He’s mustered an impressive 62 goals in 155 games for the Ligue 1 side, playing across the front line, as well as off the main striker, becoming their main attacking threat in the process.
After helping Lyon to an unlikely Champions League semi-final last season, this campaign sees them currently top of the Ligue 1 standings, in what could be his final season in France.
With Lyon one of many clubs counting the cost of the pandemic, as well as no European football, a host of the club’s biggest names look set to leave, with Barcelona and Juventus two clubs eyeing up the Dutchman.