Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League match between Bayern Munich and PSG at Allianz Arena, Munich, March 2023.

An outrageous XI of players available for free this summer: Kante, Messi, Benzema…

A plethora of Real Madrid stars and a multiple-time Player of the Season at Manchester United are just some of the names available on a free transfer this summer, with their contracts set to expire. Oh, there’s also that Lionel Messi fella – you know, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

That’s not to say that everyone in the position of imminent free agent will remain that way; some are likely to extend with their current employers, of course, but that isn’t always the case.

All it takes is for one interested party to present Luka Modric or Karim Benzema with a life-changing deal in the Autumn of their careers to suddenly have their head turning more than a new boy in the villa of a Love Island episode.

Not all will move for free this summer, but some will, and it’s time to put the fantasy booking hats on while we still can. We’ve crafted an XI using a 4-3-3 formation of players out of contract this summer, and it could be one of the best ever. In fact, the pool of talent is so deep this year that there’s a star-studded bench of subs waiting for their turn.

GK: David de Gea

The expectation is that De Gea will sign fresh terms at United, but we’re now in May and that is yet to be confirmed. After years as one of the club’s best players, the Spaniard’s weaknesses are beginning to show under Erik ten Hag, with the Red Devils trying to implement a more progressive style.

One of the highest-paid players at the club – and rightly so considering he was named their Player of the Season three seasons in a row – there appears to be some distance in how much United now value De Gea, and how much he values himself. Watch this space.

RB: Hector Bellerin

It’s all gone wrong for Bellerin since an ACL injury essentially sent his Arsenal career spiralling to an end. He showed why he was once so highly rated while on loan at Real Betis, but was never able to show that upon signing for Barcelona for free this season.

In fact, his one-year deal was terminated in January so he could join Sporting CP for free, where he is again out of contract in the summer. Betis might finally get their man permanently. Please do, Betis – we need to see him wearing your cool, vintage kits again.

CB: Mats Hummels

Inter’s Milan Skriniar is out of contract this summer, but it is widely believed that he has all but agreed to join Paris Saint-Germain. As a result, Hummels takes his place.

The veteran German found his feet again after re-joining Borussia Dortmund, but could yet be snatched away from them for nothing once again this summer if a new deal is not agreed swiftly.

CB: Sergio Ramos

After a nightmare first season in Paris, Ramos has enjoyed a more successful second campaign with PSG, playing much more regularly after overcoming injury issues.

But the 37-year-old hasn’t been able to help them lift a Champions League during his two-year stay and the club now look likely to move on from that experiment, leaving him looking for a new challenge. The Thiago Silva to Chelsea vibes are strong with this one.

LB: Raphael Guerreiro

Another one from Dortmund’s back line, Guerreiro is a vastly experienced full-back now in his prime years.

He’s become part of the furniture in Germany and could well stick around, but with full-backs being so important to top sides nowadays, don’t be surprised if a big side tries to sneak in with an approach to pry him away.

DM: N’Golo Kante

It’s been a nightmare season for Kante, who has missed the bulk of a truly miserable campaign for Chelsea after continued injury setbacks.

However, he has finally returned to fitness at the tail end of the season and, if he can keep fit, remains a truly exceptional footballer with a catalogue of ability and experience.

CM: Adrien Rabiot

There was a spot for Toni Kroos, but it looks like he’s already inked a new contract at Real Madrid and the only thing left waiting is an announcement.

Rabiot was the subject of interest from Manchester United last summer, but after the move fell through over a squabble over personal terms, he’s spent the season doing his best to put himself in the shop window ahead of this summer.

And done that he has. The France international suddenly looks like one of the best all-action, box-to-box midfielders in Europe right now and is available for free in a matter of weeks. United passed last summer, but they might be tempted back in.

CM: Luka Modric

With Real Madrid looking likely to win the race to sign Jude Bellingham, Modric’s days as a starter could be over, as absurd as that sounds.

The 37-year-old still somehow looks like he’s never aged when watching him glide around the pitch. If someone can offer a good deal and act fast, there’s an elite, all-round midfielder available for a bargain. But in all likelihood he’ll probably sign a one-year extension at the Bernabeu, as he did last year.

RW: Lionel Messi

The greatest player in the history of the sport is available will be available on a free transfer this summer.

When you’re that good, though, you’re never truly available for free. The consensus is that Messi will leave PSG to rejoin Barcelona, but considering their financial situation, a deal appears to be far from done.

Football would become much more fun if someone swooped in and stole him from under their noses next season.

READ: Barcelona? MLS? Newcastle!? Lionel Messi’s 7 potential destinations

ST: Karim Benzema

After pulling together a truly iconic 2021-22 season that earned him a career-first Ballon d’Or, Benzema appears to have finally reached his limit and has slowed down this season.

His club will be in no rush to show him the exit just yet, but with elite strikers so expensive and Los Blancos missing out on Erling Haaland for the time being, they have a dilemma surrounding the Frenchman.

If they opt to reignite their interest in Kylian Mbappe this summer, that could mean saying goodbye to Benzema for free and letting his contract expire.

LW: Marco Asensio

Honourable mentions go to Roberto Firmino and Wilfried Zaha, who both look set to leave the Premier League for free this summer and could’ve been key to such an XI.

But in a time where so many elite players find themselves better assessing their options and not tying themselves down to big contracts quite so easily, it means players like Marco Asensio could potentially move for nothing. Absolutely nothing, which is crazy.

At 27 years old, Asensio is only just coming into his best years and could be the final piece of the puzzle for a team needing that extra edge for years to come.

READ NEXT: The 7 Real Madrid players currently set to leave on a free this summer

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