Kante, Benzema, Depay, De Gea among top free agents in 2023
Despite the financial downturn across the globe, the English Premier League still broke its spending record in the summer transfer window — £1.9 billion ($2.2bn) — and had an outlay greater than Spain’s LaLiga, Italy’s Serie A and the German Bundesliga combined.
But with the World Cup over and finances set to be stretched further, free transfers will become even more important. Some big-name players will be available for nothing at the end of the season if they don’t put pen to paper soon.
World Cup winner Lionel Messi is set to extend his deal with PSG by another year, while Manchester United have already extended the contracts of Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw and Fred with their one-year option.
But here, with the help of Transfermarkt, are some top players who can be picked up for nothing and can start to negotiate with other clubs outside their own leagues in January.
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A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that Chelsea would have allowed Kante to leave for nothing, but the 31-year-old has become less of a key player for the Blues in recent seasons and has suffered more injuries. Barcelona are reportedly leading the chase for his signature as they look to replace Sergio Busquets.
Chelsea are also set to lose Jorginho, 31, so could have a major rebuilding job in central midfield to do.
Real Madrid actually have a host of players out of contract in the summer, including Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, Luka Modric and Dani Ceballos. But, even at 35 years old, Ballon d’Or-winner Benzema would be a big loss.
Madrid are set to sign 16-year-old Brazilian striker Endrick from Palmeiras for €72m in 2024, but currently don’t really have a backup for Benzema. Expect the Frenchman, and a few of those noted above, to pen terms for at least one more year.
A star at the World Cup for France, Rabiot’s future at Juve is up in the air as the club deal with a host of financial and legal issues. Having moved to Turin on a free transfer from PSG in 2019, the combative midfielder is yet to show his full potential and his next move could be a chance to make a real name for himself.
Close to joining Man United last summer, Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked with the 27-year-old as he finds himself back in the spotlight.
Having chosen to stay and fight for his place over the summer, Depay has had no hope that he will be given a chance at Camp Nou again with only two appearances in LaLiga this season. He is Xavi’s sixth-choice forward and Barca are keen to get him off the wage bill.
Still only 28, the Netherlands international offers a lot and could be available in January if any club are willing to stump up a few million in transfer fee to get a deal done.
David de Gea, GK, 32, Manchester United
As mentioned above, Manchester United have already taken up the option to extend the contracts of a number of De Gea’s teammates by one year, but have not done so with the goalkeeper. While he earns a reported £375,000-a-week, United will likely want him to accept reduced terms, rather than keep him on the same salary.
De Gea has not covered himself in glory in recent years and United are on the lookout for a replacement, but their hand may be forced.
A genuine superstar in the making, it’s been interesting to see the 18-year-old’s career develop at Dortmund since he exploded on to the scene two years ago. Becoming the youngest Germany player in World Cup history at Qatar 2022, Moukoko has established himself as Dortmund’s first-choice striker this season after the exit of Erling Haaland and now wants a contract to match his status.
Chelsea and Barcelona are watching developments with interest and could make their interest firm in January to steal a march on their rivals.
PSG have been chasing the Slovakia international for some time and reportedly had a €50m offer to sign him rejected back in the summer. Tottenham and Liverpool have also been linked, while Skriniar has yet to make a decision over his future.
Skriniar is not the only option for a club wanting to sign a new centre-back on the cheap as his teammate at Inter Milan, Stefan de Vrij, is also available.
Marcus Thuram, 25, FW, Borussia Monchengladbach
Another to have impressed in Qatar with France, Thuram has a number of clubs including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Newcastle and Chelsea reportedly on his trail. The 25-year-old has scored 10 goals in 15 games for Gladbach this season and his versatility and determination could see him snapped up in the January window before he is allowed to leave for free in the summer.
Since joining Leicester for €45m from Monaco in 2019, Tielemans has become a star in the Premier League. But the club’s poor start to the season won’t have convinced him that he should commit his future there and talks with Arsenal and Barcelona have been rumoured for some time.
It’s unlikely that the Belgium international will pen new terms, so Leicester may decide to move him on next month so they can recoup some kind of transfer fee.
At 30, the chances of Zaha landing a move to a big club before the end of his career are closing by the day. The Ivory Coast winger came close to joining Arsenal a few years ago, but now the Gunners have moved on and Zaha will have to decide if he wants to find himself a new challenge when his contract expires.
Having made nearly 450 appearances for Palace, Zaha will have an offer to re-sign on the table but may opt to try his luck at playing Champions League football.