Search icon


01st Jul 2021

The free agent XI is now unreal after Lionel Messi’s contract expired

Danny Jones

Lionel Messi is now a free agent

Messi is just one of a number of incredible players who are out of contract this summer

With Lionel Messi a free agent as of midnight last night, we got our heads turned to this summer’s list of free agents and by golly are there some decent players in this line-up.

There are, obviously, hundreds of players across global football who will be searching for a new club any day now but we thought we’d put together a starting XI of the best – with the GOAT himself at the heart of everything, of course.

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Italy’s current number one and having already been long-considered one of the best goalkeepers – young or otherwise – in Europe, Donnarumma is one of the most exciting prospects on the free-agent list.

The 22-year-old is already expected to leave AC Milan for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, with reports claiming he is soon to agree a five-year deal, however, nothing’s definite until an official announcement is made.

RB: Elseid Hysaj

Elseid Hysaj

Another Serie A steal, the Napoli full-back’s time has come to an end after six seasons at the club, having enjoyed several solid seasons – particularly thrived under former manager, Maurizio Sarri.

Hysaj was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea in 2018, when Sarri became manager, but Napoli rejected the Blues’ advances. Nevertheless, he now looks set to reunite with the 62-year-old at Lazio on a free.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

Undoubtedly one of the best centre-backs of all time (don’t even try and argue with that), the 35-year-old was left out of Spain’s Euro 2020 squad – much to everyone’s shock – but there aren’t many clubs that would turn the veteran down.

To make things even crazier, last month it was announced that Ramos would be leaving Real Madrid after 16 long, successful years at the club, as they reportedly did not offer him the wage or contract length he felt he deserved. The likes of PSG, Man United and Manchester City have all been linked with his services.

CB: Jerome Boateng

Jerome Boateng

Another extremely experienced and decorated defender, Jerome Boateng looks set to leave Bayern Munich after more than a decade, with nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions League trophies to his name.

It was confirmed in April that Boateng would not be offered a new deal and the 32-year-old is now being linked with everyone from Spurs and Roma to AS Monaco. To cop him on the cheap would be very shrewd indeed.

CB: David Luiz

David Luiz

‘Sideshow Bob’ never dies. After two years at Arsenal doing exactly what David Luiz, the 34-year-old Brazilian has departed the Emirates and he has been linked with a few moves, including Benfica and a possible return to PSG.

The big question is: who in world football wants to take on the liability of Luiz next? Sure, he can put in a good performance and maybe even score a free-kick one week, but he could equally score an own goal or get sent off the next. Still, he’s a glorious content merchant and we love him.

LB: Patrick van Aanholt

Patrick van Aanholt

After four and a half years at Crystal Palace, Patrick van Aanholt is set to leave the club as part of a large overhauling of the squad which is now a mix of ageing, out of form players and younger talent still looking to fully bed in.

Beyond having a number of offers from across Europe, his departure is likely even more imminent with Patrick Viera set to become the next manager of the South London club.

CM: Paulinho


Remember this guy!? That’s right, the former Barcelona and Tottenham midfielder is now available on a free after his contract with Chinese Super League side, Guangzhou Evergrande, expired.

Unsurprisingly, Paulinho tore it up in China and clearly still has a few years left in the tank; he’s only 32 and clearly knows he can still play at a higher level. Reports from Spain suggest he could return to La Liga, with that Atletico Madrid interested.

CM: John Lundstram

John Lundstram

John Lundstram was one of the bright sparks in the Sheffield United side that not only secured promotion but survived a year in the Premier League, almost reaching Europe in the process. He also scored lots of people plenty of cheeky points in Fantasy (if you know, you know).

However, we knew he’d be going for some time, as he rejected the Blades’ offer of a new contract. The 27-year-old is not only a bit of a workhorse but he possessed the quality on the ball and striking ability that was all too lacking to keep Chris Wilder’s men up. With that in mind, the likes of Burnley and Rangers look like ideal prospects.

AM: Juan Mata

Juan Mata

It’s you Juan, Juan, Juan – it always has been. Perhaps one of the loveliest men to ever play the game, Juan Mata has been playing a bit part at United for far too long and although there are suggestions he could stay another year, we’d love to see him play more regularly.

The silky Spaniard has been linked with a return to his homeland and former club, Valencia, where he made his name before moving to Chelsea. Whatever happens, we can’t be angry at him: he was, for a long time, one of the best players in the Prem and we want to see more of ‘El Mago’ before he hangs up his boots. A potential ambassador role still looms also.

ST: Lionel Messi

Remember when we all thought Messi was finally gone and on his way to Man City? Yeah, well although that might not have happened, his contract has expired anyway and whether he tried to force a move or not, he finally has escape route.

The Argentinian has been carrying the Catalan giants for far too long as they just don’t look the same team as in the heyday of the ‘MSN’. He has been linked with a slightly bizarre deal involving Inter Miami but, let’s face it, there are only a small handful of clubs that can afford the living genius.

It’ll be strange to see him anywhere else but this could finally be the year it happens, though Barca have made it clear they never want that to happen.

ST: Diego Costa

Diego Costa

We’d heard that Diego Costa might be leaving Atleti a while back, little did we know he would end up terminating his contract himself and trying to put the feelers out on his own.

The veteran striker starred for Atletico and Chelsea over the years, but his third stint at Atletico was just as topsy-turvy as, well, his time at any of his other clubs. The 32-year-old can clearly still bang in goals, the question is just where he’ll do it next – Wolves and China have been touted as possible destinations.

The Free Agent XI

Now, that is some team, whether you get them on a free or not. Of course, it’s worth reminding people that can often be a misleading phrase – there’s still high wages for the best players, sign-on fees and bonuses etc. – but snapping up talent for the free agent market is one of the best, most affordable recruitment tactics out there. Juve do it every year.

Any who managed to snap up one of these ‘freebies’ can count their lucky stars.