Will 2022 be the summer of free (transfer) love? by Argooner
In recent years a lot has been made of Arsenal players running down their contracts and leaving for nothing, or receiving lucrative contracts that seem inflated. While some of this may be down to mismanagement, it should be noted that this trend has been accelerating within the football world over the last few years. Free transfers are nothing new of course since the Bosman ruling in 1995, with Sol Campbell, one of our greatest ever defenders, arriving from our North-London neighbours in perhaps the most contentious free transfer in history.
Other notable examples include Pirlo (Juventus), Ibrahimovic (Man Utd), Ballack (Chelsea) and Lewandowski (Bayern).The quantity, and quality, of players involved, however, seems to be increasing every year. Only this summer PSG signed Donnarumma (AC Milan), Ramos (Real Madrid), Wijnaldum (Liverpool) and the one and only Messi (Barca) on free transfers. Barca, having lost Messi, signed Depay (Lyon), Aguero and Garcia (both Man City) all on frees, and Alaba moved to Real Madrid from Bayern for nothing.
This phenomenon was actually predicted by our very own Arsene Wenger back in 2017, as he said that he believed that more and more players would run down their contracts and move on under the Bosman ruling, as transfer fees continued to increase exponentially.
The benefit for the players is obvious, they can demand significant signing-on fees and wages as clubs do not have to splash the cash on transfer fees to their previous employers. In the summer of 2022 Kolasinac, Chambers, Elneney, Lacazette and Nketiah will all be out of contract and from the start of January will be able to start negotiating with clubs outside of England. While this may seem like a lot of money walking out the door, we are not the only club this will be happening to, and taking a look at some of the players who will be out of contract at the end of the season is quite astonishing.
The biggest names are three French players who commanded incredible transfer fees when signing for their respective clubs. Mbappe cost PSG a cool £160million in loan and permanent transfer fees but could leave for nothing at the end of the season, Dembele set Barca back an incredible £135 million, while Man Utd shelled out around £90million for Paul Pogba, and, having already lost him on a free transfer once before when he signed for Juve in 2012, could now be set to do so again. Other globally recognised players such as Dybala (Juve), Insigne (Napoli) and Kessie (AC Milan) all have a little over 6 months left on their contracts and could be set to move on to pastures new.
Chelsea could be set to lose two centre backs in Christensen and Rudiger, reported Arsenal targets Onana (Ajax) Zakaria (Monchengladbach), Belotti (Torino) and Boga (Sassuolo) could all be available, in addition to a few handy players such as Brozovic (Inter), Sule (Bayern), and Romagnoli (AC Milan). These are players who are all still in their prime as opposed to aging has-beens, and there are even some top-quality young players including Kamara (Marseille), Cantwell (Norwich), Mazraoui (Ajax), and Zagadou (Dortmund) who could be on the lookout for new clubs. Although perhaps not the most fashionable, even the likes of Corona (Porto), Ginter (Monchengladbach), Tarkowski (Burnley) and Lingard (Man Utd) could prove shrewd additions to premier league clubs.
Of course, not all of these players would be available to us, with clubs scrambling to take advantage of this new context, nor would we necessarily be interested in all of them, but the potential sides that could be put together this summer are mind-boggling. Newcastle, for one, might very well be looking to take advantage of that. Imagine a squad of Onana, Johnstone, Mazraoui, Azpilicuelta, Marcelo, Vrsaljko, Rudiger, Tarkowski, Sule, Christensen, Denayer, Pogba, Kessie, Kamara, Brozovic, Cantwell, Isco, Lingard, Insigne, Dybala, Dembele, Di Maria, Boga, Mbappe and Belotti (which would meet the requirements of association-trained, or “home-grown”, players), assembled with no transfer fees!
So, who could Arsenal target next summer? It is, obviously, speculation, but with some of our own players leaving there will be gaps to fill or upgrades to be found. A goalkeeper to replace Leno? How about Onana, Johnstone (WBA) or Perin (Juve)? A new right-back to cover/compete with Tomiyasu? Mazroui could be our man. An upgrade on our cover at centre-back? Romagnoli is left sided so could be brought in to replace Mari, as could Zagadou if we’re looking for a younger alternative, or Denayer (Lyon) to boost our association-trained quota. The aforementioned Sule could be an option if we don’t go with Saliba next year, Tarkowski has done well in a poor Burnley side and is proven in England, as is Christensen, while a cheeky offer to Rudiger could make him the modern-day equivalent of Sol.
On to midfield. Not a Xhaka-lover/looking to replace the departing Elneny? Well, the Swiss’s international teammate Zakaria might be available, Kessie or Brozovic could be the defensive midfielder we’ve been crying out for, or Kamara may be a star in the making. And if we want to add some creativity, Isco’s (Real Madrid) talents are well-documented and Tolisso (Bayern) is vastly underrated. Further forward Pepe may cut his losses and move on, so how about Dembele or Insigne to come in as forwards, and, if the competition for them is too fierce, Boga comes with the added advantage of being trained in England (at Chelsea). Finally, it’s well-documented that we’re most likely going to need a striker to replace Laca and/or Eddie, so could Dybala or Belotti be the man to link up with Auba? All of this without even mentioning the possibility of pulling off a major coup, however unlikely, in landing someone like (whisper it quietly) Mbappe!
Additionally, with clubs not willing to miss out on transfer fees for their players, there is the possibility that they will be willing to accept a knock-down deal in January, rather than see their assets walk out the door for free at the end of the season, particularly in the continued aftermath of the global Coronavirus crisis. The potential knock-on effect could see transfer fees become a thing of the past, changing the footballing landscape for years, decades and generations to come. One thing is for sure though, this summer could be one of the most interesting, and important, in the history of football.