Remember Jean-Marc Bosman, the selfless (if fairly tragic) Belgian who ripped up the law books and made footballers in Europe who wound down their contracts very rich indeed.
Anyway, summer is but a few months away now, when hundreds of players will be free to leave their current club for nowt thanks to his ruling. Whilst most of these blokes are being let go by their clubs for very good reason indeed, there remain a bunch of gems amongst the muck. We've handpicked 6 of the best players currently going for free to a caring home come June.
32 years old, slow, puny, not a natural tackler and yet still somehow Arsenal’s most effective man at the base of the midfield. A quick look at The Gunner’s 10 results prior to his season-ending injury highlight how much better a side Arsenal are with him playing – 8 wins, 2 draws, including an away point at PSG, the 3-0 destruction of Chelsea and 2-0, 6-0 defeats of Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League respectively.
Signed as a crafty No.10 and occasional left winger, Cazorla’s made the transition backwards with unexpected success and arguably only sits behind Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny in terms of his importance to the club right now.
Whilst he’s expected to sign a one-year extension at The Emirates, the current impasse, with silence from both the club and player, has dragged on for several months now.
Anyone looking for a ball playing midfield general – only three men average more passes per game in the Premier League this term – could do a lot worse than target the diminutive Spaniard. He may no longer have 50 games a season in him but oozes enough class to see him worthy of a place at most Champions League clubs.
Wee Santi, snapped a year ago - via.
The 23-year-old Bosnian international has become arguably the hottest Bosman in Europe with a posse of the big boys all sniffing around his signature.
Thick set, fond of a tackle and more than happy to rumble forward when invited. Kolašinac has more assists than any defender in the German top flight this season with 5, whilst the prescient bugger ranks 6th in the entire Bundesliga in terms of interceptions per game. Think of a left footed Branislav Ivanovic. And before you accuse me of dealing in lazy comparisons based on some vague geographical factor, I’d like it to be noticed he also shares a similarly ample arse to the former Chelsea man.
Talking of the Pensioners, they had an actual bid for the wing back rejected in January, whilst AC Milan, Juventus, Liverpool and Tottenham are all reported to be tracking the FC Schalke man’s situation, like ruddy great big footballing Peeping Toms.
Whilst big fat contracts from Champions League clubs do have their own unique charms, certain things depend on whether Kolašinac’s current club can reverse their malaise and snaffle European football for next season. Sat in 11th at the moment, Champions League looks well beyond Die Knappen but they only have 5 points to make up on a Europa League spot.
Anyway, he’s young, talented and soon to be available for diddly squat. Expect this wee saga to chunter on over the next few months.
A 12-month move to title-chasing Nice has gone some way to restoring the Italian mard-arse’s stock after two nightmare seasons at Liverpool and AC Milan. Still only 26, Mario’s largely delivered what he always has – some goals and plenty of red mist.
12 strikes from 21 games in all comps, including 10 in 14 starts in Ligue 1, is a more than healthy return. 3 red cards and 6 yellows, however, means that getting him on the pitch in the first place has proved trickier than it really should be.
Clearly, the lad needs to be loved unconditionally by a manager and will, inevitably, let you down at some point. On the flip side, he remains lethal in the air and is blessed with the sort of stellar physical attributes that mean I’m contractually obliged to describe him as ‘a handful’ for centre-halves. Reclaiming a place in the Italy squad in time for next year’s World Cup would also the perfect carrot to refocus his attentions come August.
Balotelli still represents a honking great gamble for any prospective club but he’s done just enough this season to earn himself another crack at a marginally higher profile club should he decide to cap his stay in the French Riviera come June.
Quite old, very bald but an assured presence in nets who’s improved markedly with his feet this season. Much of his fate will depend on how Pep Guardiola goes about sorting out the sordid goalkeeping mess he’s conjured for himself at the Etihad. Will Claudio Bravo get a second chance? Will the Chilean want to stick it out even if he does? Will another No.1 come in? And what of FC Head & Shoulders captain, Joe Hart?
Whilst simply ‘not being Claudio Bravo’ is all you need to be doing right now, Caballero’s performed well whenever called upon this term, clocking some tidy stats. At the time of writing, he’s conceding less than a goal a game (0.82, compared to Bravo’s 1.16) and has clocked the same amount of clean sheets as his South American colleague (7) despite making 7 fewer appearances.
In a turnaround of fortunes, a new deal may well be in the offing for the Argentinean stopper at City. Whether it’s as No.1 or No.2 ought to dictate how interested the veteran is staying on, should other contracts come in guaranteeing him first team footy. Remember when he saved all the penalties at Wembley?
Still relatively unknown outside of France, Algerian winger, Ghezzal, is busy playing a coy old game regarding his future. Having meandered aimlessly through his Lyon career for several years, the 24-year-old was a breakout star in the second half of last term. Having made just one start in the first half of the season, Ghezzal grasped the opportunity handed to him in a cup game with both hands, going on to make 21 appearances post-Christmas, scoring 8 goals and logging 5 assists, as Lyon rampaged up the table to snaffle 2nd place.
Blessed with the same gossamer first touch and syrupy hips as compatriot Riyad Mahrez, Ghezzal excels operating on the right of a 4-3-3 and is working a more than passable impression of Arjen Robben into his repertoire.
Despite success last term, injuries, indifferent form, the AFCON and the arrival of Memphis Depay have limited his impact this season. Lyon, however, are obviously keen to hold onto their academy product, having thrown a €70k-a-week contract down on the table.
Premier League interest is sky high, however, with both the red and white sides of North London monitoring progress, along with the likes of Everton, Galatasaray and those laughably optimistic scamps at Middlesbrough. The next Mahrez or another Hameur Bouazza? We shall wait and bloody see.
Prior to penning this, could I tell you much about Veloso? No. He might well be the very epitome of a nondescript 00’s Portugal international – a smallish central midfielder who’s tidy enough on the ball and made my eyes bleed with all the column inches I read about him ‘definitely’ moving to the Premier League each and every sodding summer for the last decade. File next to Hugo Viana and João Moutinho.
Having now done a crumb of research, I can inform you he’s a pretty polished holding midfield all-rounder, who’ll even do a job at left-back if you ask him particularly nicely. Despite injuries slowing him down a smidge over the last couple of years, he remains a key cog at the heart of the Genoa midfield when fit, who’s a dab hand from set pieces and ruddy loves a booking.
Now 30, he looks to be heading out of the door in northern Italy, having previously enjoyed four successful years at Dynamo Kiev since leaving Portugal. Notwithstanding his penchant for bad, bad shlids (see below), he remains a hugely experienced 56 cap international with a couple of good years left in the tank. If Everton fancy themselves a cheap replacement for Garry Barry’s derelict knees, Veloso looks a tidy fit. Southampton and Valencia are two other sides allegedly to be keeping tabs on his situation.
Ban this sick, sick filth - via.
Got knees made of biscuits and all the stamina of an asthmatic sumo wrestler. BUT, get him fit and this boy can play. A star of Sunderland’s miraculous escape last spring, the former Bayern man looks likely to be let go once Sunderland’s fate and descent into financial oblivion is confirmed in May. Get him on a pay-as-you-play and you’re golden.
Lanky Swedish lad, rates himself, you might have heard of him? Keeps humping in the goals at the ripe old age of 76. Very much still got ‘it’ but seemingly dragging his heels over a new deal at United.
Knackered Dutch goal-guzzler who has over 300 clubs strikes to his name and a better international strike rate 0.55 (42/76) than both Ronaldo and Messi. Having never relied on pace (he was slower than dial up even as a teen) means he’s not had to remodel his game in his dotage and still netted 16 times last term. Now 33 and well down the pecking order in Gelsenkirchen he’s guaranteed to leave Schalke this summer. ‘The Hunter’ would represent a fine a short-term option for teams badly lacking a bit of class in the 18-yard box. Why someone like Hull or Middlesbrough didn't go sniffing in January remains beyond me.