Ten bargain free agents that Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea can move for in January transfer window

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A list of the best players who can be signed on a free this season and the Premier League clubs that should try to secure their services.

January isn’t just about teams having the chance to fix problems right now – it’s also a time in which players enter the last six months of their contracts, allowing clubs to agree deals with them for free transfers before the beginning of the next season. And while most of the world’s best players are very sensibly locked behind long-terms deals, there are plenty of big names who are up for grabs this winter.

We’ve picked out ten of the best players who are free to chat to Premier League teams about their futures, all of them established stars with a proven track record at the top level, and suggested some clubs who could be interested in securing their services.

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Adrien Rabiot – Juventus

The elegant but allegedly rather difficult French midfielder nearly left Juventus last year but ended up signing a one-year extension – which means, of course, that he’s back on the menu for clubs like Manchester United once again. Still just 28 years old and an exceptionally dynamic midfielder who creates plenty of chances in the final third, he’d be a huge addition to United’s rather lacklustre midfield if they pursue him.

Toni Kroos – Real Madrid

It’s hard to imagine the German plying his trade anywhere other than the Bernabeu, but at 33 and with Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Aurelién Tchouaméni all on the books at Real, he may well decide to look for a fresh challenge. United, again, seem like the kind of club who both need and can afford him, although any big Premier League side would be happy to have his experience and passing range. Luka Modrić is also out of contract at the end of the season, but at 38 may well retire.

Alex Meret – Napoli

The first-choice goalkeeper at the reigning Serie A champions, Meret is just 26 years of age and was excellent last season, but has struggled to replicate his best form this campaign and may well be available in the summer. He’s a sweeper-keeper who likes to defend from outside his area and is good with the ball at his feet, which could suit a side like Chelsea should they move on from Robert Sánchez.

Piotr Zieliński – Napoli

Meret isn’t the only member of Napoli’s Scudetto-winning side that’s allowed to talk with prospective employers this month – 29-year-old Polish international midfielder Zieliński is up for grabs too. The playmaker racked up 11 assists last season and offers a well-rounded game with good passing range and strong ball-carrying skills, although he isn’t especially helpful defensively. Arsenal could do with some more competition in midfield, perhaps.

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Leonardo Spinazzola – Roma

Sticking with Serie A, one of the stars of Italy’s European Championships campaign in 2021 is also on the market – left wing-back Spinazzola, whose darting runs and dangerous crosses were key to the eventual Italian victory. He has struggled with injuries since, sadly, so there’s an argument that he isn’t quite the same marauding presence down the flank, but a team who likes their wing-backs to get forward and leave the defending to other players might still decide to take a chance on his fitness. Tottenham Hotspur seem like a reasonable shout.

Tosin Adarabioyo – Fulham

Of course, there are some players already in England who are available too, including Fulham centre-back Adarabioyo, a tall, powerful player who is dominant in the air and more than comfortable with the ball at his feet. A few teams have already been linked with a move for him, including Spurs. Elsewhere, United’s Raphaël Varane will surely leave Old Trafford, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s contract is expiring too. Both could be bargains for the right club.

Mehdi Taremi – Porto

The veteran Iranian forward was linked with a move to United in the summer, which clearly never materialised – but now he’s available on a free, it would be no surprise to see a big side add him to their squad given his goalscoring record over the years. He’s scored over 50 league goals since joining Porto three-and-a-half years ago, although he has regressed a little bit this year. Given that he also has 31 assists in that time and is superb in a high press, however, we’d be pretty surprised if nobody took a chance on him having some years left in him yet.

Rafa – Benfica

Another stalwart of the Portuguese Liga, Benfica winger Rafa is in the last year of a five-season deal and is having one of his best seasons yet at the age of 30, with 13 goal contributions already. He’s lightning quick still, a brilliant dribbler and has a real eye for goal, and while he’s at his best out wide he can act as a central playmaker too. It’s hard to think of any club that wouldn’t want at least some of those skills, although he isn’t especially effective in a press, which may put a few sides off. For free, though, we reckon that just about every top-tier team in England would benefit from having him in their side.

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Guido Rodríguez – Real Betis

A World Cup winner with Argentina in 2022, Rodríguez is a tough-as-teak holding midfielder who averages nearly five turnovers per game and seldom gives much away in defence. He’s no great technician, but can still pick a pass and would be a great signing for any side who need a bit of steel and sinew at the heart of the park. Still in his prime at 29, he’s been linked with a list of clubs as diverse as Nottingham Forest and Barcelona.

Kylian Mbappé – Paris Saint-Germain

No list of the world’s top free agents for 2024 can leave out the most enticing of the lot. One of the world’s best players is likely to leave PSG in the summer and his agent will likely be fielding a lot of phone calls from various interested parties – although, as we’ve explained already this window, it seems staggeringly unlikely that he goes anywhere other than Real Madrid. Still, any side who reckons they have a shot of persuading him (and a very large amount of money) should probably be on the phone. One of the biggest free signings in history will probably happen this summer, and he’ll make the fans of one club very happy indeed.

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