Predicting where soccer's top 20 free agents will sign this summer

Written by

Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema, the two biggest fish in the pond, have already been snapped up – along with several others – but the list of players still available on the open market remains loaded. “Free” may be a misnomer – agent fees and signing bonuses have never been so large – but the absence of a transfer fee makes these footballers hugely desirable. Below, we’re guessing the landing spots for 20 of the best players available on a Bosman.

Jordi Alba ??

Age: 34
Position: Left-back
Potential suitors: Inter Miami, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Saudi clubs

After 11 decorated years and over 450 appearances for Barcelona, Alba agreed to terminate his contract one year early and become a free agent. A vital outlet down the left flank in Catalonia – and for so long one of Messi’s favorite passing targets – the veteran has reportedly held exploratory talks with Inter Miami about reuniting with the Argentine. If the MLS club can get creative with its roster construction, a deal makes sense for everyone.

? Prediction: Signs for Inter Miami

Jonathan Bamba ??

Age: 27
Position: Winger
Potential suitors: Fiorentina, Atalanta

Bamba starred for Lille as they won the French title in 2021, but he fell by the wayside as Europe’s top clubs circled around his teammates. Though he rebounded last term with a modest return of six goals and seven assists in Ligue 1, interest has been lacking. But his versatility remains an asset. Atalanta know talent when they see it and could give Bamba the platform he needs to shine again.

? Prediction: Signs for Atalanta

Sergio Busquets ??

Quality Sport Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Age: 34
Position: Defensive midfielder
Potential suitors: Inter Miami, Saudi clubs

Inter Miami’s interest in Busquets actually predates Messi’s revelation of his intention to join; the MLS club, in a not-so-subtle wink, has left its No. 5 shirt vacant this season. The American outfit is aiming to sign the Spanish maestro without using a Designated Player slot, which would mean the deal comes in at $1.65 million or less, according to The Athletic. Financial gymnastics would be required to make all the pieces fit under the league’s convoluted roster rules.

? Prediction: Signs for Inter Miami

Dani Ceballos ??

Age: 26
Position: Central midfielder
Potential suitors: Real Madrid, Real Betis, Atletico Madrid

Ceballos’ decision all hinges on how far into the future he’s looking. Real Madrid reportedly offered him a new three-year deal worth around €5 million annually, but his hesitance relates to playing opportunities. Those chances will dwindle in 2023-24 given Madrid’s loaded midfield, but with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric likely only staying for one more season at most, minutes should eventually open up for the crafty Spanish technician.

? Prediction: Re-signs with Real Madrid

David De Gea ??

Age: 32
Position: Goalkeeper
Potential suitors: Manchester United, Saudi clubs

De Gea, though still capable of making spectacular saves, simply isn’t comfortable enough with his feet to be the undisputed starting goalkeeper for an Erik ten Hag side. Manchester United want to retain his services – albeit on heavily reduced terms – and negotiations over a new deal are reportedly advanced. Should he spurn the Saudi Arabian advances, he’ll almost certainly have competition between the sticks at Old Trafford next year.

? Prediction: Re-signs with Manchester United

Angel Di Maria ??


Age: 35
Position: Winger
Potential suitors: Benfica, Inter Miami, Rosario Central, Saudi clubs

Di Maria has admitted that he’d like to return to hometown club Rosario Central before retiring, but, as he showed at the World Cup, he’s still capable of creating magic in the upper echelons of football. Another romantic reunion could be on the cards instead. Benfica will likely lose Goncalo Ramos this summer, and, after selling Darwin Nunez last year, need to restock in their bid to retain the Portuguese title. A short-term deal makes sense here.

? Prediction: Signs for Benfica

Edin Dzeko ??

Age: 37
Position: Striker
Potential suitors: Fenerbahce, Saudi clubs

Dzeko only scored nine Serie A goals this season, but that came in reduced playing time; his scoring numbers per 90 minutes were right in line with his career marks. The veteran still has plenty to offer, as he showed in the Champions League semifinals. With changeover expected on the blue side of Milan this summer, Dzeko, one of the more under-appreciated strikers of his generation, will likely move on.

? Prediction: Signs for Fenerbahce

Roberto Firmino ??

Age: 31
Position: Forward
Potential suitors: Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Saudi clubs

Benzema’s departure creates a clear void in Real Madrid’s attack, and with Kylian Mbappe a virtual lock to play for Los Blancos at some point in the near future, Firmino feels like the perfect player to bridge the gap. The Brazilian has the same selfless streak and big-game ability as Benzema, making him the perfect mentor to compatriots Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo. Firmino promises to be as good of a free transfer as Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba were.

? Prediction: Signs for Real Madrid

Ilkay Gundogan ??

Clive Rose / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Age: 32
Position: Central midfielder
Potential suitors: Manchester City, Barcelona, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund

Gundogan’s late-season heroics helped Manchester City win the treble, raising his profile just as he hit free agency. Despite being placed on the club’s released list Friday, he hasn’t officially ruled out staying. Barcelona don’t appear to have the wherewithal to offer the 32-year-old the wages he desires as he seeks what’s likely to be his last lucrative contract. Arsenal have bigger targets in mind, and a return to Dortmund feels more romantic than realistic.

? Prediction: Re-signs with Manchester City

Daichi Kamada ??

Age: 26
Position: Attacking midfielder / forward
Potential suitors: AC Milan

All signs indicate Kamada will join AC Milan in the coming weeks. The club’s decision to fire Paolo Maldini as technical director has only delayed Kamada’s arrival. But it’s silly season, and until the Japanese midfielder signs, he remains an eligible free agent with a creative spark and envious passing range. Kamada was particularly impressive during Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League run in 2021-22.

? Prediction: Signs for AC Milan

Inigo Martinez ??

Age: 32
Position: Center-back
Potential suitors: Barcelona

Martinez has reportedly had an agreement in place with Barcelona for months. Normally, that would take him out of contention here and put him in the same vein as defenders like Milan Skriniar (PSG), and Evan Ndicka (Roma), whose next moves are all but finalized. But Barca’s murky financial situation makes it hard to consider any signing a foregone conclusion until the player is pictured holding the iconic Blaugrana kit. It should just be a matter of time, though.

? Prediction: Signs for Barcelona

Luka Modric ??

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Age: 37
Position: Central midfielder
Potential suitors: Real Madrid, Saudi clubs

Modric wants to remain at Real Madrid, and the expectation for months has been that he’ll do just that. But while Kroos’ one-year extension seems all but finalized, recent updates on the Croatian icon’s status have been scant. His minutes will shrink in the wake of Jude Bellingham’s arrival – Modric made his fewest La Liga starts since 2014-15 this past season – but Carlo Ancelotti is keen on keeping him to help facilitate the changing of the midfield guard.

? Prediction: Re-signs with Real Madrid

Adrien Rabiot ??

Age: 28
Position: Central midfielder
Potential suitors: Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool

Rabiot is coming off his best-ever statistical season, scoring eight goals for Juventus in 2022-23. Was it a contract-year anomaly, or is the Frenchman, now in his prime, finally hitting his peak? Juve would like to extend his stay, but a lack of European football next season, combined with the hefty financial demands of his mother and agent, Veronique, make that unlikely. Manchester United, after coming very close to a deal last summer, remain interested.

? Prediction: Signs for Manchester United

Sergio Ramos ??

Age: 37
Position: Center-back
Potential suitors: Saudi clubs

Ramos appears next in line to join some of his illustrious former teammates in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish defender, lauded by PSG for his “leadership” upon announcing his departure, actually started 31 league matches this past season and likely could continue playing in Europe if there were concrete interest. But, to date, Al-Ahli are the only rumored suitor. Considering the cash they’ll be tabling, the prospect of one last (enormous) payday will be tempting.

? Prediction: Signs for Al-Ahli

Alexis Sanchez ??

Xavier Laine / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Age: 34
Position: Forward
Potential suitors: Marseille, Arsenal, West Ham United

Marseille didn’t know what they were getting when they signed Sanchez from Inter Milan last summer. The Chilean hadn’t started more than 12 league matches in a single season since the 2017-18 campaign. But Sanchez rediscovered his form in southern France, scoring 14 league goals across 32 starts to help Marseille finish third. Returning to Premier League is an option, but would it help him extend his career?

? Prediction: Re-signs with Marseille

Stephan El Shaarawy ??

Age: 30
Position: Winger / forward
Potential suitors: Roma, AC Milan, Fenerbahce, Besiktas

Coming off his best scoring season since 2018-19, El Shaarawy proved, in limited minutes, that he can still make an impact, particularly as a late-game weapon running at tired defenders. Roma are trying to retain his services, but the biggest push comes from Turkey, where Vincenzo Montella is reportedly on the verge of taking the Fenerbahce job. The tactician, familiar with his compatriot’s talents from his time in Italy, could be the decisive factor here.

? Prediction: Signs for Fenerbahce

Ellyes Skhiri ??

Age: 28
Position: Defensive midfielder
Potential suitors: Sevilla, Roma, Borussia Dortmund

Skhiri has quietly developed into one of Europe’s most effective two-way defensive midfielders. Few players in his position are as good as cutting up passes, and with 25 goal contributions in 129 Bundesliga appearances, Skhiri has a healthy appetite going forward. Skhiri is Declan Rice at a fraction of the cost, the perfect signing for budget-conscious Roma, who need an upgrade on Bryan Cristante and Nemanja Matic.

? Prediction: Signs for Roma

Marcus Thuram ??


Age: 25
Position: Forward
Potential suitors: PSG, Chelsea, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus

With Messi out of the equation, Thuram should be the hottest free agent around, especially with so many high-profile clubs seeking a striker. The astronomical valuations for the likes of Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen, while warranted, make Thuram all the more enticing. Players with his pedigree – a French international who’s only 25 and coming off a Bundesliga season in which he racked up 19 goal contributions – aren’t often available for “free.”

? Prediction: Signs for PSG

Adama Traore ??

Age: 27
Position: Winger
Potential suitors: Wolves, Real Betis

It feels like the moment for Traore to make the permanent leap up to one of Europe’s heavyweights has passed. Those chances can be fleeting, and circumstances, especially surrounding his Barcelona loan, worked against him. Stability might be the best thing for the brawny Spaniard at this point. With Julen Lopetegui reportedly deciding to remain in Wolverhampton, the club can offer him that – along with healthy Premier League wages.

? Prediction: Re-signs with Wolves

Wilfried Zaha ??

Age: 30
Position: Winger / forward
Potential suitors: Crystal Palace, PSG, Marseille, Saudi clubs

Crystal Palace did well to hold onto Zaha for as long as they did. Few players outside of the Premier League’s top clubs generated as much interest as the Ivory Coast international did over the years. Now, the choice is all his. It’s clear he wants to take the next step; otherwise, he’d have already accepted an offer to play Saudi Arabia for £30 million per year. PSG can offer him riches and the chance to play in the Champions League.

? Prediction: Signs for PSG

Already signed this summer

Lionel Messi – intends to join Inter Miami
Karim Benzema – joined Al-Ittihad
Youri Tielemans – joined Aston Villa
Alejandro Grimaldo – joined Bayer Leverkusen
Ramy Bensebaini – joined Borussia Dortmund
Naby Keita – joined Wolfsburg
Mahmoud Dahoud – joined Brighton
Konrad Laimer – joined Bayern Munich
Houssem Aouar – joined Roma
Chris Smalling – re-signed with Roma
Raphael Guerreiro – reportedly joining Bayern Munich
Evan Ndicka – reportedly joining Roma
Caglar Soyuncu – reportedly joining Atletico Madrid
Milan Skriniar – reportedly joining Paris Saint-Germain
Marco Asensio – reportedly joining Paris Saint-Germain
N’Golo Kante – reportedly joining Al-Ittihad
Stefan De Vrij – reportedly re-signing with Inter
Toni Kroos – reportedly re-signing with Real Madrid

Article Categories: