As contracts wind to an end at the turn of the month, which top-flight English sides should consider which out-of-contract stars?
With the financial state of European football hanging in the balance and many unaware of how much clubs will be able to spend, some sides will surely turn their gaze to the free transfer market.
Clubs are able to offer contracts to those whose deals are set to expire at the end of June. Some players have put pen to paper to extend their current deals until the season is completed but there will still be a rich market and some gems who won’t cost a single penny.
Here, we look at four players leaving their clubs this summer who could be easy business for your favourite Premier League club.
Robin Knoche | CB | 28 | VfL Wolfsburg | Germany
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It can’t be denied that Robin Knoche has been a brilliant servant to Die Wolfe. The 28-year-old centre-back, born just a half-hour drive from Wolfsburg in Brunswick, has been on the books at the club since 2005.
At the very least, Knoche would be a great squad player for most sides below “The Top 6” in the Premier League. Clubs such as Leicester City, Everton, West Ham United all lack depth at centre-back and Knoche would be a reliable addition to those squads.
Knoche, who is capped for Germany at under-20 and under-21 level, was a regular starter for Wolfsburg before the season paused due to the pandemic. Since Bundesliga’s restart, he has struggled for minutes, losing his place to Marin Pongračić and John Brooks. He has, however, featured from the bench.
The defender has experience of playing in both a back-three and a back-four just this season under coach Oliver Glasner. He is an able passer, achieving at 82.4% pass succession rate across the 2019/20 top-flight campaign. Knoche clears the ball around 3.6 times per 90 minutes – a rate similar to highly competent Newcastle centre-back Fabian Schär.
One could argue that he is unproven as he has never made his mark at a club besides Wolfsburg but, even if he were to flop, the buying club wouldn’t have spent a penny.
Adil Aouchiche | CAM | 17 | Paris Saint-Germain | France
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On the other end of the spectrum, here is a player with little to no experience at the top level. However, all of his youth level performances point towards Adil Aouchiche being a future superstar.
The Parisian attacking midfielder was highlighted by The Athletic’s Jack Lang in 2019 who warned of the dangers of only looking at the youngster’s statistics, saying:
“Look only at the end product and you will miss out on his casual, low-slung elegance. You will miss the subtle changes of direction, the two-footedness, the way he manages the internal rhythms of the game. You will miss the not-so-distant echoes of Zinedine Zidane, a comparison that goes far beyond Aouchiche’s Algerian roots.”Jack Lang, The Athletic, 15 Nov 2019
Aouchiche has been prolific for France at youth level, scoring 15 goals in 25 appearances for the nation’s under-17s. He has also assisted prolifically at youth level, using his natural agility and pace to shimmy past defenders with a drop of the shoulder or a sudden change in direction.
Unlike some young players, Aouchiche is unselfish on the ball and knows when to make a pass; something which he does incredibly efficiently. The Frenchman is also strong when it comes to free-kicks.
Aouchiche’s only real weaknesses come in defence. The attacking midfielder needs to focus some attention on his aerial abilities and defensive attributes. However, he will only turn 18 next month and so has plenty of time to hone those other areas of his game. If he joins a club with strong defensive players in midfield and at the back, this becomes even less of a problem.
Arsenal have been linked with the teen since it emerged that he was definitely departing the French capital at the end of his contract. However, Aouchiche would also be an ambitious prospect for a club such as Everton as Sigurdsson, who plays in a similar position on the pitch (albeit in a different manner), ages out. Mourinho could also consider the youngster as a potential challenger to Dele Alli in coming seasons.
Wherever he goes, Adil Aouchiche will remain a bright and compelling prospect. Remember the name.
Hugo Duro | ST/LW/RW | 20 | Getafe B | Spain
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Versatility in the attacking third is something which is now more sought after than ever. Many of today’s top strikers, such as Mbappé, Aubameyang, Werner and Firmino have all played on the wing at various stages of their respective careers.
Getafe youngster Hugo Duro is a centre-forward by trade but his control of the ball in tight spaces and his strong pace have seen him utilised out wide on occasions.
The 20-year-old has scored 11 goals in 23 games for Getafe’s B team but has not been able to fully fledge and move into the first team. Duro is a pinpoint shooter of the ball and his ability to move out of tight spaces may be beneficial if he tried to fit into a Premier League now dominated by fast, pressing sides.
Southampton have been too reliant on Danny Ings for goals this season with the Englishman netting 16 in his 30 games. Ings has been involved in 47% of Saints’ goals this campaign and, with an average of 0.57 goals per 90 minutes, he has been touted for the England squad.
Duro could certainly learn from Ings’ expertise and could ease the burden on the ex-Liverpool man when it comes to goalscoring in coming seasons.
Any promoted side could see the benefits of taking a punt on Duro too. He may not be proven at any top level but Duro could be a great, free addition to a few Premier League or Championship sides.
Mario Götze | CAM | 28 | Borussia Dortmund | Germany
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Certainly the most established name on this list, Dortmund midfielder Mario Götze looks set to depart Signal Iduna Park for a second time. The German switched Dortmund for Bayern Munich in 2013 before returning to Westphalian side in 2016 under Thomas Tuchel.
Götze has endured somewhat of a stop-start career. Injuries and a rare metabolic disorder called myopathy have threatened his career at times. However, the former Bayern man has proven, when he’s played, that he still has the qualities which attracted the Bavarians some seven years ago.
In 2018-19, Götze overcame his hardships to score seven and assist seven. However, this season, the star hasn’t been able to displace the likes of Brandt, Hazard, Sancho and Reus and club sporting director Michael Zorc confirmed his imminent departure.
Götze would be an even better solution for Everton than Aouchiche. The German would slot straight into Ancelotti’s side, potentially in rotation with Sigurdsson who is on a slow downward trajectory. Götze would link well with Tom Davies and dovetail nicely with Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack.
He would also be a valuable addition to an inexperienced Newcastle United attack. Miguel Almirón has struggled for large parts of his time on Tyneside and Joelinton could do with some extra support to facilitate his goal-scoring abilities.