As we approach the last six fixtures of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign, the summer transfer window is rapidly looming in.
With the new television deal coming into effect, jumping up revenue to a whopping £8billion, and some of the division’s top clubs expected to instigate changes in management – Manchester City and Manchester United – the coming transfer window looks set to be yet another of record-breaking spending from the English top flight.
But when Jean-Marc Bosman appealed to the European Court of Justice in 1995, he ensured that not every major transfer in world football would have to require a hefty fee. Indeed, the Bosman ruling changed the game, allowing players to move on free transfers upon the expiration of their contracts.
With that in mind and some of the biggest talents in Europe just a matter of months away from becoming free agents. We take a look at the summer’s biggest bargains with our Free Transfer XI…
Easily one of Ligue 1’s best goalkeepers over the last decade, claiming the division’s Goalkeeper of the Year award thrice including last season’s, Steve Mandanda looks set to finally test himself in another major European top flight with his Marseille contract coming to an end.
The 31-year-old would be a shrewd signing for any club looking to bolster their goalkeeping ranks with Champions League and international experience, having registered 74 appearances in European competitions and picked up 21 caps for France since 2008.
Everton and Liverpool particularly come to mind, considering Tim Howard will depart for the MLS this summer and Simon Mignolet’s future at Liverpool remains shrouded in ambiguity.
Gregory van der Wiel is a solid right-back who combines athleticism and attacking instincts with impressive experience at the top end of the game, representing the Netherlands on 45 occasions and featuring frequently in Europe throughout his spells with Ajax and PSG.
The 28-year-old has steadily slid down the pecking order at Parc de Princes in recent seasons and now looks set to leave the club when his contract expires this summer – although the likely departure of fellow No.2 Serge Aurier could force the Ligue 1 champions into a re-think.
Right-backs aren’t exactly in high demand in the Premier League at the moment, but he’d be an adequate squad addition for the division’s top clubs and a real coup for the mid-tablers. With loan signing Carl Jenkinson failing to convince this term, West Ham are a decent shout.
Martin Caceres is a versatile defender with good pedigree, featuring as a full-back, a wing-back and a centre-half throughout a career that has seen him represent Barcelona, Sevilla, Villarreal and Juventus.
He’s always been a back-up option for the Old Lady and although there have been talks of a new deal in recent weeks, the lack of clarification from the Serie A champions suggests the Uruguay international isn’t about to renew.
Liverpool are the Premier League’s most-linked side with the 28-year-old, but Caceres could do a job for most teams in the top eight and his aforementioned association with big clubs will only increase in appeal as the summer transfer gets closer.
Despite most deeming him not only Chelsea’s but England’s best defender, John Terry’s incredible Stamford Bridge career looks set to come to an end this summer with the club yet to offer him extended terms.
Needless to say, the 35-year-old is arguably the greatest centre-back of his generation, captaining Chelsea to four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League title and the Champions League title whilst representing England on 78 occasions.
The 6 foot 2 defender is certain he’s got a few years left in the tank, with pace never being his strong point anyway, but has already ruled out a move to another Premier League club. The MLS or Chinese Super League resultantly seem his likeliest next destinations.
Caner Erkin is an adventurous full-back, having begun his career as a winger, who appears keen to try his luck in mainstream European football following six campaigns with Fenerbahce.
Aged 27, the coming summer seems like the perfect time to do so and Erkin does have a decent amount of experience on his side. He’s amassed 42 caps during his decade in the Turkish national team and along with Fenerbahce has represented CSKA Moscow and Galatasaray in Europe.
Manchester United have been linked, amid a season in which left-back has proved a real problem area following Luke Shaw’s double leg-break in September, but the defender’s limited exposure to Europe’s major top flights poses a significant risk.
Michael Carrick may be increasingly restricted by his ageing 34-year-old legs but few midfielders in world football read the game as effectively as the Manchester United star when deployed in the deep-lying role.
Nonetheless, the Red Devils feel wholesale changes are necessary this summer and the Bosman-bound playmaker looks set to become one of their more noteworthy casualties with his contract expiring at the end of the campaign.
A number of Premier League clubs have reportedly expressed an interest in the England international, most notably Arsenal, Everton and Newcastle United. But Carrick remains hopeful of agreeing a new Old Trafford contract and a move to the Chinese Super League has also been speculated in the tabloids.
Havard Nordtveit has already revealed he’ll complete a free transfer to the Premier League this summer – but the Borussia Monchengladbach ace refused to confirm which club he’ll be joining.
The majority of speculation has suggested West Ham but former club Arsenal, for whom the Norway international regularly captained at reserve level before leaving in 2011, and Bundesliga-philes Liverpool have also been linked in recent weeks.
The 25-year-old represents a solid squad addition, capable of playing as a centre-back, a full-back or a holding midfielder, and looks set to be a real coup on a free transfer.
Sofiane Feghouli earned rave reviews for his performances at the 2014 World Cup and an enormous variety of clubs from across Europe appear to be monitoring the Algerian international as his Valencia contract winds down.
The 26-year-old’s output isn’t exactly outstanding, claiming seven goals and seven assists in his last 52 La Liga outings, but he’s got a real habit of causing problems in the final third and thoroughly impressed in the Champions League earlier this season – netting twice in the group stages.
Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all been credited with interest in the Bosman-bound ace, alongside clubs from Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, so it’s anyone’s guess where Feghouli will actually end up this summer.
Whilst the rest of the inclusions in this select XI are either enjoying their peak or well past it, 19-year-old Andrjia Zivkovic – dubbed ‘the Serbian Lionel Messi’ – represents the other end of the spectrum.
Indeed, much is expected of the three-cap international in the coming years but his ongoing contract saga with Partizan Belgrade has almost reached soap opera proportions this season, with the Serbian club demoting him to the reserves and even sending him out on loan to third-tier outfit Teleoptik.
Real Madrid reportedly came close to sealing a deal for the prodigious winger in January, whilst recent reports have linked him with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United to name a few.
But complicated third-party ownership could deter Premier League interest and due to Zivkovic’s agent, some form of compensation fee will be involved.
Far from the chubby winger who couldn’t get a game at Newcastle United, a 2015 move to Nice has seen Hatem Ben Arfa produced the scintillating attacking displays once expected of him as a youngster.
Indeed, the 29-year-old has bagged 13 goals and four assists in 28 Ligue 1 outings this season, whilst averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per match – the third-best take-on rate of any player involved in Europe’s five leading top flights.
That has seen Ben Arfa reclaim a place in the France squad ahead of the European Championships on his home soil and although he remains a notoriously mercurial character, performances at the tournament could well convince a few Premier League clubs to take a punt with no transfer fee necessary.
Who else but Zlatan? The enigmatic Sweden international hasn’t lost a title race since 2003 and is on course to record the biggest goal haul of his career this season, already amassing 38 across all competitions with plenty of games left to play.
The 34-year-old is one of the greatest strikers of his generation, combining the majestic creativity of Dimitar Berbatov with the 6 foot 5 frame of a traditional English centre-forward, and the Premier League is one of the few challenges he’s left to conquer, having already lifted multiple honours in La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are seen as the front-runners in the race for the Bosman-bound assassin’s signature, whilst West Ham have been mooted as dark horses. But allegedly demanding around £600k per week, few would be surprised by Ibrahimovic snubbing the Premier League for a lucrative move to China.