January is widely viewed as the most depressing month of the year. Taking down the Christmas decorations and the thought of a long, cold winter still to come is more than enough to give us all seasonal blues. The one thing that cheers many people (including football managers) at this time of year is the January sales.
Shoppers are proving once again that everybody loves a bargain by flocking to the high street and searching through the best deals on the internet in the hope of finding a deal. That search for a bargain is replicated by football clubs at this time of the year as managers and recruitment teams pour over the details of players who are out of contract in the summer and can therefore be signed for free.
We’ve already seen one big deal go through this January with the news that Aaron Ramsey has rejected the chance to stay at Arsenal and will instead be playing his football in Italy with Juventus from next season. The Italian giants are masters at sniffing out a bargain having signed the likes of Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro without spending a penny on transfer fees over the years.
There are several options for clubs looking to follow in the footsteps of Juve by snapping up a bargain. We’ve poured through the lists of top players in England and the rest of Europe to come up with our list of the top 10 players who are out of contract in the summer of 2019.
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Many of the players who face an uncertain future over the second half of the season will want to do all they can to impress their managers to secure a new contract. An ankle injury has robbed Danny Welbeck of that opportunity as he may not be able to play again this season.
Welbeck has only really shone in fits and spurts for Arsenal since his move from Man United. His physicality and versatility have made him an important squad player for both the Gunners and England though so he will surely be snapped up by another Premier League club if his contract at the Emirates is not renewed.
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
Olivier Giroud is another player who left Arsenal fans wondering ‘what if?’ The Frenchman was at once an incredibly important player and a highly frustrating one during his time at Arsenal and little has changed in the year he’s spent at Stamford Bridge.
Maurizio Sarri has made no secret of his desire to sign a top class striker in as short a time spell as possible. The Italian has used Giroud fleetingly this season but he clearly doesn’t view him as a long term solution so Giroud looks to be on the way out. Will he stay in the Premier League or make a return to Ligue 1 where he still has enough about him to be the leading striker?
David Luiz (Chelsea)
Giroud’s teammate, David Luiz, is another who may be leaving Chelsea when his contract runs out in the summer. The Brazilian hasn’t exactly been consistent this season but Sarri has made him a mainstay of his defence which suggests either that Chelsea have a replacement lined up or that Sarri is being blocked from extending Luiz’s contract.
Whatever is going on behind closed doors, Luiz is likely to be leaving so his agent will be working hard to secure him a new club. Stories have already appeared in the press about a potential return to Benfica which would seem like a fitting move as the 31-year-old still has several years left of Champions League football left in him.
Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Luiz will be on the radar of several of Europe’s biggest clubs but he is not the most appealing centre back with a contract expiring in the summer. Diego Godin looked to have committed his future to Atletico Madrid last summer when a move to Man United failed to materialise and it is now almost certain that he will leave Spain altogether in the summer.
It’s been reported that Godin has signed a deal with Inter Milan but until the ink is dried on the contract there is time for other clubs to approach his representatives with a better offer. At 32, Godin is by no means over the hill but his limited mobility may preclude a move to the Premier League at this stage but it remains to be seen whether Man United or other big English clubs come in for him.
James Milner (Liverpool)
James Milner is a year older than Godin but there are no such concerns about his athleticism. The 33-year-old has been used in a variety of positions by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool this season and it’s that versatility which will make him top of the shopping list of so many managers.
Being let go by a Liverpool team fighting for the Premier League and Champions League is no blot on the copybook of a player of his age. Milner also brings a wealth of experience which will be invaluable on the training ground and dressing room so expect several top flight clubs to be fighting for his signature.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
It’s always a big deal for any player who leaves a club without a contract but there is a particularly big summer in store for Daniel Sturridge. The England striker has had a number of false dawns in the last couple of years and really needs some sort of stability if he is to make the most of what should be the peak years of his career.
All options appear to be on the table for Sturridge at the time of writing including the possibility of him signing a new contract with Liverpool. His representatives will surely have been in touch with several clubs so expect much more Sturridge speculation until the end of the season.
Mario Balotelli (Nice)
Mario Balotelli is another striker who should be enjoying the best years of his career but is instead facing uncertainty about his future. The sometime Italy international is suffering through a frankly terrible season in Nice and has had his name touted about at a string of different clubs. Some of those, like Newcastle, appear to be out of the running for Balotelli’s signature but many others remain in with a shot of signing him, believing that there is a world class player in there somewhere.
Fernando Llorente (Tottenham Hotspur)
Fernando Llorente is one of the few players available on a free transfer next summer who comes with virtually no risk. The Spaniard is in very good physical shape despite not getting many minutes for Tottenham since his move to north London and is a proven performer and goalscorer in the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga.
A return to Spain looks to be the most likely move with Athletic Bilbao – where he is still held in high regard – very much on the cards. Llorente’s Premier League experience and the way he gets on with his job without complaining makes him an attractive proposition for English clubs though so there will be competition for the Spurs striker.
Yacine Brahimi (FC Porto)
Fans of Everton and West Ham will doubtless have read the name Yacine Brahimi before. The Porto midfielder was linked with a move to both clubs last summer and newspaper reports suggest they are competing for his signature again when his Porto contract expires in July.
The Algerian international can play anywhere across the front three or in a more withdrawn role as a number 10 and whilst there is a certain amount of risk as he’s never played in England before he could well make an impact in the Premier League as of next season.
Munir El Haddadi (Barcelona)
Munir El Haddadi has cut a frustrated figure of late as he’s had to admit that his attempts to force his way into the Barcelona set up are now over. It’s clear that Ernesto Valverde would prefer to move the Spain international on in January to get some money from him but he may find that Munir’s suitors are happy to bide their time and wait for his contract to run out.
Sevilla have decided to act and snap up Munir. FC Barcelona announced on the 11th January 2019 that they have reached an agreement with their fellow La Liga outfit for the bargain price of €1,050,000.