Messi for nothing? The best XI of free transfers for 2021

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The date of January 1 is usually the time for New Year’s resolutions, but for some footballers in Europe’s top five leagues, it is a sign of the day when they can plan a lucrative move to a new club.

Several of the best players, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, are out of contract at the end of the 2021 season and, from the beginning of the year, they can start conversations with other teams.

Messi, of course, will be the one to get the spotlight, but there are other big-name players who will be free to leave their clubs for nothing in six months.

Here are the top players (and a couple of pretty good second picks) who are out of contract in 2021 and make up an XI of free transfers.


GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Marko Dmitrovic)
The youngest goalkeeper to play for Italy, at 17 years and 189 days, he has now become one of the most consistent players in Serie A between the sticks. The 21-year-old has been key to Milan’s rise to the top of the table with four clean sheets in the league so far this season.

RB: Elseid Hysaj (Kenny Lala)
Comfortable on both the right and left flanks, the versatile 26-year-old Albanian full-back has been a trusted – and largely unknown – part of Napoli’s defense since 2015. He may be lacking in flashy assists from defenders in attack, but Hysaj uses the ball wisely. in possession.

CB: Eric García (Shkodran Mustafi)
A product of La Masia academy in Barcelona, ​​he joined Manchester City in 2017, where Pep Guardiola has been influential in its development. Blessed with an excellent reading of the game and superb positional sense, the 19-year-old has turned down a new contract at City and seems hungry for regular first-team football elsewhere.

CB: Sergio Ramos (Jerome Boateng)
Knees may be creaking at the age of 34, but the combination of bloodthirsty determination and charismatic leadership of Real Madrid and the Spanish central defender make him an asset to almost any defense despite being at the end of his career.

LB: David Alaba (Romain Saiss)
Capable of operating in defense or midfield, the 28-year-old Austrian international has spent a decade as one of Bayern Munich’s most consistent and trusted players. With nine Bundesliga and two Champions League champion medals to his credit, he has a wealth of experience at the top tier.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum (Hakan Calhanoglu)
The Dutch midfielder has been converted by Jurgen Klopp from an attacking scorer to a clever workaholic in midfield, an integral part of Liverpool’s style of play. Largely unknown, he is a man for the big occasion, as evidenced by his two goals in Liverpool’s famous 4-0 comeback over Barcelona.

CM: Fernandinho (Mesut Ozil)
He will turn 36 next May and may be missing the bite of yesteryear, but the Brazilian still has a lot to offer, whether as an efficient defensive midfielder or as a classy center-back. Another player whose influence and quality can only be fully appreciated by City after he has left the club.

CM: Luka Modric (Julian Draxler)
A cultured and seasoned midfielder who, despite his diminutive build, still oozes class when he’s on the ball. Part of the furniture of Real Madrid since 2012, the 35-year-old Croatian looks like he still has many years at the top ahead of him, as long as injuries don’t take their toll.

RF: Lionel Messi (Florian Thauvin, Lucas Vázquez)
Should he stay or should he go? The 2020 transfer saga also appears to dominate much of 2021. The greatest player in Barcelona’s history needs no introduction. Since their debut in October 2004, Barça have won 55.9% of their LaLiga matches without Messi (they won 66, drew 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7% with him on the side (they won 368, tied 83 and lost 48).

CF: Sergio Agüero (Olivier Giroud, Arkadiusz Milik, Diego Costa)
Injury problems appear to be affecting the 32-year-old Manchester City forward. In his day, there are few better natural finishers. Aguero has more hat-tricks (12) than anyone in the Premier League and is the top non-English scorer in the competition’s history with 180 goals.

LF: Memphis Depay (Angel Di Maria)
An unfortunate comeback of just two league goals in 33 appearances saw him dumped by Manchester United in 2017, but Depay has since rebuilt his career and started to flourish. The Dutch forward has 62 respectable goals in 154 appearances for Lyon in Ligue 1 and at 26 he is on the verge of reaching his peak.

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