A host of Europe’s elite clubs are set to farewell some high-profile talent when free agency their contracts expire on 30 June, and with the season unlikely to conclude by this date, clubs and players alike could be stuck in limbo.
The rare circumstances surrounding this contract conundrum has prompted FIFA to establish a group tasked at addressing this issue, and the pressure is on to find a resolution, with some of football’s biggest names set to be affected.
This starting XI of stars in contract limbo could hold its own against the very best teams in world football.
FW – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs no introduction, but in case you needed reminding – here are 38 reasons why he’s regarded as one of the greatest strikers and football personalities of all-time.
The big Swede joined AC Milan for a third time in December, and with his contract quickly winding down, it remains to be seen whether or not the 38 year-old will extend for another year at the San Siro.
FW – Edinson Cavani
PSG made Edinson Cavani the most expensive player in French football history when it splashed $115 million on the Uruguay striker in 2013. Cavani has more than lived up to the hype.
Cavani has gone on to become the top goalscorer in the club’s history with 200 goals, while clinching five league titles, four French Cups and four Coupe de la Ligue trophies at the Parc des Princes.
PSG appears resigned to losing the star striker when his contract expires, with Atletico Madrid touted as a potential destination.
MF – Mario Gotze
It’s hard to believe Mario Gotze is still only 27 after the German prodigy managed to break into Dortmund’s first team more a decade ago.
Gotze realised the dream of every young footballer – scoring the match-winner in extra time to fire Germany to FIFA World Cup glory in 2014, but the former Bayern Munich attacker has endured a frustrating few seasons since.
Once dubbed the ‘German Messi’ by football great Franz Beckenbauer it would be remarkable coup if a club manages to lure Gotze away from Dortmund on a free.
MF – Dries Mertens
Dries Mertens has consistently been one of Napoli’s best since joining in 2013 with 121 goals in 226 appearances and has showed no signs of slowing down at 33.
Last season, the diminutive Belgian topped the assists list for the club, and was second only to striker Arkadiusz Milik in goals scored.
MF – Willian
Willian has tormented defences since joining Chelsea in 2013 with his enviable blend of Brazilian flair and explosive pace.
The 31 year-old has been widely tipped to reunite with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Tottenham when his contract expires.
If that move does materialise, will his first game for Spurs be this season with the delayed schedule? Every star on this list faces the same dilemma.
MF –Ryan Fraser
Eddie Howe has done an incredible job in charge of English minnow Bournemouth, with the young coach renowned for his ability to cultivate young talent like winger Ryan Fraser.
Fraser’s age and versatility gave him the nod in this starting XI ahead of former Barcelona winger Pedro, who also becomes a free agent in July if a new deal cannot be reached with Chelsea.
RB – Thomas Meunier
Thomas Meunier is one of three PSG stars in this limbo XI, with the right back entering the final stretch of his four-year deal at the Parc des Princes.
Meunier doesn’t boast the flair and technique of many modern right backs, instead the 28 year-old opts for strength and athleticism to contain the world’s best attackers.
Dortmund had reportedly agreed a deal to sign the Belgium international before the spread of coronavirus, but the pandemic has seemingly thrust Meunier back into contract limbo.
CB – Jan Vertonghen
Meunier’s Belgium team-mate Jan Vertonghen commands this back four, with the Tottenham star’s current deal set to expire in June.
The 32 year-old recently hinted a possible stay at White Hart Lane after weighing up the pros and cons, with a couple of potential suitors including Inter Milan reportedly expressing their interest.
CB – Ezequiel Garay
Argentina international Ezequiel Garay has been an ever-present figure at the back for Valencia since joining in 2016.
Porque estoy encerrado. Porque pronto se acaba mi aislamiento. Porque estoy feliz por mi rodilla. Porque hay que inventar. Porque hay que reír. Porque hay que distraerse. Porque mi mujer me retó en el challenge que viralizó en Instagram. Por esto y mucho más, he hecho este vídeo. Y lo más sorprendente es que mi rodilla me limita los pasos, pero me deja bailar. ¿Os habéis reído de mí o conmigo? OBJETIVO CUMPLIDO. #G24 #bailaconlagorro
Facing the very real likelihood that the season won’t be finished by 30 June, Valencia will be desperate to extend the deal of the former Real Madrid man to ensure he finishes the season at the Mestalla.
LB – Laywin Kurzawa
France international Laywin Kurzawa enjoyed a breakout season in 2014-2015, helping Monaco to a second-placed finish to PSG in its second season back in France’s top flight.
This prompted PSG to splash $A41.5 million to sign the rising star in 2016, and at 27 years of age, the talented left-back still has his best years ahead of him.
Kurzawa was tipped to join Arsenal in January, but that move failed to materialise and the Gunners could make another move for the Frenchman as a free agent when his contract expires.
GK– Joe Hart
Joe Hart was once the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, helping Manchester City clinch two league titles in three seasons, before falling out of favour with the arrival of Pep Guardiola in 2016.
Hart joined Burnley on a two-year deal, which expires at the end of this season, and at 33 the England international still has a few productive years between the sticks left in him.
Hart once famously starred in this anti-dandruff shampoo commercial, and could resume a career in front of the camera if all else fails.