June 30 is always a big day in the footballing calendar, not least for agents that are fielding calls from all over the world for their free agent clients.
As well as being the end of the financial year when clubs submit their accounts, it is also the expiration date for many contracts.
Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata have all walked out for nothing from Manchester United today – figuratively, not literally – while Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona are also facing expiring contracts.
With that in mind, Sportsmail takes a closer look at 17 players that have hit the open market…
There were plenty of tears shed by Paulo Dybala when he waved goodbye to Juventus’ fans, weeks out from the expiration of his contract.
Inter Milan have spent weeks and weeks in talks with his entourage but the return of striker Romelu Lukaku may now complicate any switch to the blue half of the San Siro.
Expect AC Milan to push for Dybala as they look to build on winning the Scudetto.
Should they fail to move, it is anyone’s guess where the Argentine will end up.
‘He arrived in Turin as a young, talented promise, and now he bids Juve farewell, taking with him a wealth of experience that have made him the champion he is now,’ Juventus’ farewell statement read.
‘Seven years in black and white for Paulo, made up of 293 appearances, 115 goals, 45 assists and 12 trophies won. Now his career will continue outside of Turin.
‘Those numbers, if examined in detail, tell much of the shared story together. For example, Paulo is ninth placed in the all-time scoring charts in Juventus history in all competitions; he is the tenth top scorer in Serie A, third all-time for Juventus in Europe with 18 goals scored in the Champions League.
‘And still speaking of goals, Dybala is the player who has scored most often at the Allianz Stadium (68 goals) in all competitions and is the Bianconero who has scored most goals from outside the box (25 goals) in Serie A.
‘The seven years together were not only made up of goals and victories, there were flashes of skill, unforgettable nights, and performances of absolute quality.
‘And for all this we will always thank him. Good luck, or should that be, suerte, Joya!’
There were flashes of brilliance – namely in the Champions League against Barcelona – but Dybala needs a fresh start… he just doesn’t know where yet.
Left: Manchester United
One in, one out, at Juventus?
That’s what it looks like should they see a deal to bring Paul Pogba back to Turin over the line.
He previously departed the Allianz Stadium in 2016 to join Manchester United in an £89million deal.
Ultimately, he failed to live up to expectations and now looks set for a return to Italy.
His lawyer Rafaela Pimenta has been settling outstanding details over the length of his new contract as Pogba’s contract winds down the final few days at Old Trafford.
Unlike Dybala, Pogba should have clarity sooner than later.
Angel Di Maria
And Pogba may well find himself joined in black and white by Angel Di Maria.
Sky Sports Italia reported on Wednesday that a switch to Turin is ‘almost final’, seemingly ending talk the former Real Madrid man was bound for Barcelona.
Di Maria has spent the last seven years at Paris Saint-Germain and remains an elite winger at Champions League level.
He made 294 appearances for PSG, scoring 92 goals and managing 118 assists during his stay.
Whispers in France said that he is irritated to have not been offered a fresh deal to remain in Paris, given his family is settled.
But football is football and while one Argentine is heading out the exit door, another is set to walk right through the entrance.
The Denmark star is one of the stories of football’s recent past having returned to match sharpness following a cardiac arrest suffered in the summer of 2021 at the rearranged Euro 2020.
Panic set in as people around the world saw Eriksen lying on the turf of Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium.
But having seized his opportunity with Brentford, the 30-year-old is now a man in demand.
Brentford, unsurprisingly, want to keep him, while Manchester United’s new boss Erik ten Hag is also a fan.
When Eriksen was making his comeback to fitness he spent a bit of time training with Ajax, then under the guidance of Ten Hag, so the Dutch coach is well aware of his talents.
Sportsmail revealed this month that he has offers from Tottenham, his former club, Everton and Brentford, while United are also stepping up interest in him.
It is always bittersweet when a team loses a player that emerged through their academy and Chelsea will feel that with one of Eriksen’s Denmark team-mates.
Christensen joined Chelsea’s academy in 2012 and 10 years later he is walking out on the first team for nothing.
Writing on Instagram, he put: ‘THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING’, before talking about feeling ‘at home’ in Chelsea’s youth set-up, after he left Denmark as a teenager.
‘I had a tough decision to make at the age of 16 to leave Denmark’ he reminisced.
‘There was only ever one choice for me and that was Chelsea. From the moment I arrived they made me feel at home, I’m grateful to Jim Fraser and Neil Bath who immediately embraced me as part of their family.’
Barcelona are in pole position to land him now his Chelsea contract is up.
The 26-year-old won’t be a free agent for long.
Left: AC Milan
This one stings for the Serie A winners.
Kessie was sensational en route to winning the league title, with the Ivorian playing a key role in ending an 11-year wait for a domestic title.
He has been at the San Siro for five years and has been a mainstay of an ever-improving midfield, sending his stock through the roof.
Kessie’s ability to both kickstart attacks and screen the defence is a hugely valuable asset and losing him for nothing will come as a blow to Milan and manager Stefano Pioli.
Barcelona, like they are with Christensen, have been red hot in hand-picking the best upcoming free agents and Kessie appears Nou Camp bound.
Given their financial woes, a free agent move for Kessie is a total steal if they pull it off.
Left: Manchester United
How foolish do Manchester United feel now for not cashing in on Jesse Lingard after his fruitful loan with West Ham?
They could have got, what, £20m? £25m? They could have got something is the point.
Instead they dithered, kept him, barely used him and he has walked out for nothing.
Lingard will remain of interest to West Ham but he knows his next move must secure him game time if he is to have any chance of gatecrashing Gareth Southgate’s plans for England at the World Cup in Qatar this November.
Has to get this next move right.
This smacks of who blinks first and Dembele is refusing to blink when it comes to the offer he wants.
Barcelona reportedly want him to stick around and be part of the future of Xavi Hernandez’s team.
But Dembele has so far stuck to his guns and remains unhappy with the offer that has so far been put in front of him on the negotiating table.
Chelsea were linked, but then they turned attentions to Raphinha and Raheem Sterling.
Those moves could leave Dembele seriously short of leverage and if he runs out of options – lucrative ones at that – on the open market, a reunion with Barcelona may be the best move for all parties.
Burnley’s early transfer business under new boss Vincent Kompany suggests a shift towards young, hungry and exciting players, such as Scott Twine.
It is that kind of exuberance and energy that Burnley need after dropping out of the Premier League and many of those scarred by relegation will expect to move on.
One of those is centre back James Tarkwoski.
He played 35 games for Burnley last season and his stock is high enough that managers are looking beyond 2021-22 in making a judgement call.
Everton are front and centre in making a move for Tarkowski now.
Left: Manchester United
The 35-year-old showed flashes but never showed the consistency in staying fit for Manchester United and has left for nothing after two seasons.
His first season was much better than his second, netting 19 in 59 games for United in 2020-21.
He is now looking at one final contract to see out his career and questions will be asked whether he stays in Europe or returns to his native Uruguay.
Much like Gareth Bale, who is off to MLS with LAFC, Cavani will want a steady stream of minutes to make sure he is in peak condition for the Qatar World Cup this winter.
Having enjoyed life in Serie A with Napoli earlier in his career, don’t rule out an Italy return should he stay in Europe.
Left: Atletico Madrid
From one Uruguayan to another.
Luis Suarez was trying to hold back tears when he was waved off by Atletico Madrid’s fans to mark his final game for the club.
Free agent Suarez was a fun prospect with talks of a reunion with former team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa the highlight of an early summer transfer talk.
Suarez is currently taking a well-earned holiday in Ibiza with Lionel Messi and his future won’t be unclear for too long.
As much as Suarez to Villa should happen purely for the chaos he would bring back to the Premier League, all roads lead to a link-up with Argentinian club River Plate.
Crickey, can you imagine Suarez in the feisty Superclasico against Boca Juniors?
Left: Real Madrid
One of the most high profile forgotten men in European football?
There was a point where it all promised so much for Isco. The playmaker was thriving with Real Madrid but soon lost his way and while he became a piece of the furniture, he was like a cabinet that people had forgotten was still there.
The 30-year-old may be sat by the phone for some time waiting for offers having played such a small role in recent years.
Superdeporte reported that Real Betis and Sevilla were interested but their interest has since cooled, leaving Isco seriously short of options.
Will Jose Mourinho go back to his old club to take a punt on Isco? Maybe.
The best version of Isco would be a steal but the real question is, is that player still in there? It could be a long summer for the Spaniard.
It’s finally over.
In fairness, from Liverpool’s perspective it was over back in 2018.
Karius has not played for the Reds since tough mistakes gifting Real Madrid goals in the 2018 Champions League final.
Loan spells were an attempt to elevate his value and clear his head but Besiktas and Union Berlin weren’t interested in him permanently.
The 29-year-old’s six-year spell at Liverpool is finally over but where he goes next we have no idea.
‘I took a week’s holiday after the season. That was enough for me,’ he told Sky Sports Germany recently. ‘Now the focus is on the restart. There’s a new challenge coming up.
‘I’m ready for it and I’m getting fit now. That’s my focus right now. I’m in top shape. I’ve been training at the highest level all year, with one of the best teams in the world.
‘I’m free and I can make my own decisions. This is a new situation that I’m looking forward to. A new challenge is coming up, but that’s always a good thing. I’m ready, mentally and physically.’
Aka, come and get me.
Left: Real Madrid
It is some achievement to walk out of the Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid’s most decorated player, but that is exactly what Marcelo has done.
He wanted to stay, and who can blame him after finishing with winning the Champions League in Paris.
After 25 trophies his contract finally came up and while there were smiles there were also tears in his farewell press conference.
‘Today is the happiest day since I’ve been in Madrid because as I leave I realise I’ve left a legacy,’ he said.
Crucially, Marcelo vowed that he ISN’T retiring.
As to where he goes next, Turkish side Fenerbahce and French outfit Marseille are believed to be the two leading suitors.
Left: AC Milan?
When will Ibrahimovic call it a day? Seemingly not any time soon, even at the age of 40.
A recurring Achilles tendon problem kept him out for long spells last season as AC Milan won the title, but expect the Swede to pen fresh terms at least for another 12 months.
He turns 41 in October and so the Benjamin Button of football is pushing it now.
But given his supreme confidence he will believe he can play forever.
‘It’s certain that it’s finished between me and Monaco,’ Fabregas said.
‘My contract expires in June and I am looking to depart. My head needs a departure elsewhere.
‘It’s been not only the worst year of my career but the worst year of my life because when I’m not happy in football, I can’t be happy in life.
‘I have suffered a lot this year; it’s been difficult mentally.’
Damning words from a man who just wants to enjoy his football again and so the former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder will be on the move as of July 1.
The 35-year-old made 68 appearances for Monaco after joining from Chelsea in January 2019.
As to where he goes next?
‘I’m open to anything,’ he added. ‘The place doesn’t really matter. I am going to find a new project and see where the future takes me.’
Cesc Fabregas revealed he has been deeply unhappy in the last 12 months with AS Monaco
Ex-Manchester United, ex-Tottenham, ex-Manchester City, Bournemouth and Chelsea.
While star names like Dybala, Dembele and Suarez will catch the eye on the market this summer, don’t forget about those such as Januzaj and Drinkwater at the bottom of the bargain bin.