Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring for PSG against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League. Parc des Princes, September 2021.

14 huge stars out of contract next summer: Messi, Ronaldo, Mahrez…

Free transfers are becoming more common in football as stars choose to run their contracts down and hold out for higher salaries. Some of the biggest names in football – including Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo – are currently set to become free agents in 2023.

High-profile players such as Paolo Dybala and Paul Pogba ran their contracts down last season, with the latter receiving a bumper paypacket on his return to Juventus after departing Manchester United.

When a player only has one year left on their contract and no intention of signing a new deal, they are often available for cut-price transfers, and clubs around Europe will be keeping an eye on the men listed below.

We’ve picked out 14 top players who have entered the final 12 months of their contract with their deals set to expire in the summer of 2023, and looked at whether they might move on in the next two summers or sign an extension.

Lionel Messi

Messi signed a two-year deal when he made his shock transfer to PSG last summer and does not look likely to extend that after what was a fairly difficult first season in France.

There is always the possibility that Messi returns to Barcelona once his PSG deal expires, but a new contract in Paris is not currently on Messi’s mind.

“I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup. I am thinking about what is coming. After Qatar, I will have to reassess many things,” the 35-year-old told reporters back in March.

READ: 11 greats set to play their last World Cup in Qatar: Messi, Ronaldo, Neuer…

Serge Gnabry

The German winger has been a star at Bayern Munich since his arrival in 2018, but contract talks stalled, and the 27-year-old may well be on the move this summer if the situation can’t be resolved.

Gnabry has often spoken about his affection for Arsenal, where he came through the academy, and a potential return to north London could be on the cards.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, and fortunately for the Bavarians, reports from Germany suggest a breakthrough for a new deal at the Allianz Arena could soon be reached. Kicker report the club are confident that Gnabry will remain at the club past 2023.

Marcus Rashford

The Manchester United forward endured a nightmare 2021-22 season, attracting criticism for his poor performances as United finished an underwhelming sixth in the table.

Rashford looks more likely to leave than sign a new deal with the club, and a fresh start to revive his career could be what he needs – but perhaps he’ll find that at a revitalised United with Erik ten Hag at the helm.

With the World Cup coming up in December, Rashford will need to rediscover his form or risk losing his spot on the plane, and a move may be the best way to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans.

His current deal expires in 2023, but there is also a one-year option that can be triggered to extend it for another 12 months.

Jan Oblak

A legendary goalkeeper at Atletico Madrid, Oblak had a poor 2021-22 campaign by his own high standards but remains the undisputed No.1 for Diego Simeone’s side.

There is no indication that he will sign a new deal, but the 29-year-old is still happy at Atletico and will likely stay beyond 2023.


A teenage sensation who broke through into the Barcelona side so well that he earned his first Spain cap as a 17-year-old, Gavi is only contracted until 2023.

His situation is reportedly being monitored by Liverpool, but Barcelona will be doing everything in their power to keep Gavi at Camp Nou, and want to give the midfielder a new contract as soon as possible.

Gavi of Barcelona in action against Sevilla, Camp Nou, April 2022

READ: Dial 999, Gavi stole Leo Messi’s killer instinct and is using it to end careers

Youri Tielemans

Leicester’s Belgian midfield maestro reportedly has no intention of signing a new deal, and could very well be on his way out of the club in the coming weeks.

Arsenal have been strongly linked with the 25-year-old, and Tielemans could be available for as little as £25million.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s shock return to Old Trafford has not been the fairytale story that was on the cards when he moved from Juventus last summer.

Despite performing well and scoring 24 goals, United finished a fifth consecutive year without silverware and missed out on Champions League football for next season – and that is reportedly why he’s keen to jump ship this summer.

The 37-year-old penned a two-year deal on his return to Manchester, but it remains to be seen what the future holds for Ronaldo whilst United undergo a rebuild under Erik ten Hag.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo during the victory over Burnley at Old Trafford, Manchester, December 2021.

READ: A breakdown of the stats behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100 PL goals

Robert Lewandowski

The prolific Bayern Munich striker is still operating at a very high level, but with just one year left on his deal, Lewandowski is reportedly interested in a move to Barcelona.

Whether Bayern decide to cash in now rather than losing one of their best ever strikers for free will depend on their ability to command a sizeable fee this summer. Whatever happens next, it appears bridges have been burned and he won’t be extending his stay.

With 50 goals in 46 appearances last season, it’s no surprise that Barcelona are so desperate for his signature.

N’Golo Kante

Everyone’s favourite Chelsea midfielder, the Frenchman is still a key player for Thomas Tuchel’s side, and the club will not want to lose a fan favourite cheaply.

Whilst Chelsea’s new direction up in the air under their new ownership, they will be encouraged that he has shown no indication that he wants to leave the club.

He’s got plenty left in the tank. But will he be plying his trade elsewhere come 2023?

READ: 12 reasons why it’s impossible not to love Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante


Kante’s midfield partner is also out of contract next summer, but it sounds like Jorginho could well remain at Stamford Bridge beyond 2023.

“Of course, I love Chelsea. I feel very well here and of course, I’d like to stay,” the Italy international recently told Chelsea’s official website.

“But you know, there is a lot going on and we don’t know. I am here now and I have contract and I love to be here, I feel very well here. So I don’t think about moving anywhere.

“For many years now [there’s speculation]. Every single year,’ Jorginho states. ‘I don’t think like this. I just think about where I am and focus 100 per cent. I’m at Chelsea and I think about Chelsea 100 per cent.”

Wilfried Zaha

Crystal Palace’s talisman was once the subject of heavy interest from Arsenal and Everton, but now, at the age of 29, there is less demand for the winger.

Zaha and Crystal Palace are a match made in heaven, but this would likely be Zaha’s final opportunity to secure a big move elsewhere – Jose Mourinho’s Roma are said to be sniffing around – and there is no talk of a contract extension at present.

“Wilfried is a massively important player for us and we are strong with Wilfried on the team,” manager Patrick Vieira  told Crystal Palace’s website last season.

“In every team in the league, you have a player who can make a difference and Wilfried is one of those. I’m glad he’s playing well, creating chances and scoring goals and in a really good period at the moment.

“[The way to motivate him] is to challenge him. There is a lot more he can do for the team. He’s working hard, creating chances, scoring goals, and I’m really happy with his performances at the moment. The challenge is the same for him as the rest of the players: to maintain those performances.”

Riyad Mahrez

The 31-year-old winger has been inspired at Manchester City, and 24 goals last term was his best return yet.

Mahrez is a popular figure at the Etihad Stadium and is reportedly close to signing a new contract which will keep him at the club beyond 2023.

The Algerian joined City from Leicester in 2017 and has played an integral part in winning countless trophies under Pep Guardiola.

“He has scored a lot of goals, penalties, assists and everything,” Guardiola stated in March.

“A part of that is the quality he has to read the game perfectly – when he has to attack he must give extra passes. But I would not say it is his best season because he has played in the Premier League at a high level for many years.

“Last season he was exceptional, he was so important in the last quarter of the season and playing really well.”

Roberto Firmino

Up until recently, all three members of Liverpool’s famous old trident were free to leave next summer.

But Sadio Mane has since departed in a £27million switch to Bayern Munich, while after long, protracted talks, Mohamed Salah has extended his stay at Anfield to 2025.

That leaves Firmino as the last loose end to tie up. The Brazilian has been a key player under Jurgen Klopp, but increasingly peripheral following the arrivals of Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz – and now Darwin Nunez.

There are no suggestions the forward will leave this summer, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him depart on a free in a year’s time.

Fabian Ruiz

The Spanish midfielder joined Napoli from Real Betis in 2018 and has been sensational in the middle of the park in over 150 appearances.

The 26-year-old has been linked with a big move, and Napoli will be concerned that they might be forced to part ways with one of their best players cheaply.

Real Madrid are rumoured to be among the clubs interested in the Spain international, who could be tempted by a move to a Champions League club. Napoli are reportedly holding out for at least €30million, while Ruiz himself is believed to have snubbed

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