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10 high-profile players who can sign a pre-contract in January 2016

Zlatan Ibrahimovic free agent 2016
Rohith Nair

While transfer rumours have started gathering steam with the winter transfer window less than a week away, some playersâ immediate futures are still in doubt. But a certain section of players will already start thinking long term.Many playersâ contracts at their current club run out in the summer of 2016. Once the 2015/16 season comes to an end, they become free agents and any club can pick them up without paying a dime.For Latest Football News, download Sportskeeda android app.As such, these 10 players are free to sign a pre-contract and agree to join another club of their choice if they do not extend their current deals.Â

#1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - PSG

Zlatan Ibrahimovic free agent 2016

Yes, Europe’s favourite nomadic striker is out of contract with Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the 2015/16 season. The 34-year-old Sweden international joined PSG in 2012 and has since won nine trophies in three-and-a-half years. In doing so, he has also scored 123 goals in all competitions. This season, he also broke the club record and became PSG’s all-time top goalscorer.

Barring injuries, Ibrahimovic has shown no signs of slowing down in spite of being in his 30s. He averaged more than 35 goals in the past three seasons and could easily average more than 30 if he is fit for the second half of the season.

Although there is talk of a return to AC Milan, much could depend on whether they qualify for the Champions League. Ironically, having won numerous trophies, that is one he hasn’t won yet.

Will he return to Milan or will he have something left in the tank to win trophies with any other European side?

#2 John Terry - Chelsea

John Terry

When Chelsea won the 2014/15 Premier League title at a canter under Jose Mourinho, it was a robust defence that saw them lose only three games. At the heart of it was their captain John Terry. The 35-year-old signed a contract extension in March that would see him at the club for one more season – till the end of the current 2015/16 season. It is safe to say that this season has not gone according to plan for the Blues legend.

A disastrous start has seen Chelsea lose nine games – more than half the games they have played so far this season. Mourinho eventually got the sack and was replaced by Guus Hiddink while Terry’s form has also not been up to the same standards as last season. The centre-back has been found out and struggled against pace and fleet-footed players while his aerial duels stats have also taken a beating.

With Kurt Zouma all set to displace him permanently in the starting lineup and Terry not getting any younger, the former England captain could move to a less demanding league. Will he follow compatriot Steven Gerrard to the MLS?

#3 Michael Carrick - Manchester United

Michael Carrick free agent

Michael Carrick is our third 34-year-old player on this list but probably one who still has a lot to offer any team he plays for. With Bastian Schweinsteiger not living up to his lofty standards and Morgan Schneiderlin blowing hot and cold all season under Louis van Gaal, Manchester United have depended on Carrick to bail them out of trouble in midfield this season.

While Van Gaal’s philosophy has demanded the Red Devils keep possession and circulate the ball, it has been the Englishman who has tried to initiate attacks and try to rekindle the attacking impetus United were known for in seasons past.

Carrick had extended his contract by signing a one-year extension in March and will be a free agent unless United feel he still has a lot to offer next season – Van Gaal’s final season provided he keeps his job with so many rumours linking him to a club exit.

#4 Charlie Austin

Charlie Austin free agent 2016

Remember Charlie Austin? The Queens Park Rangers striker who scored 18 goals in the Premier League last season and gave the likes of Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Diego Costa a run for the Golden Boot couldn’t do much to help the club as they got relegated at the end of the season but a number of other clubs stood up and took notice of the Englishman who even got a call-up to the England national team.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons in the Championship with QPR in 12th place – 17 points behind the table-toppers. But Austin has still managed to score 10 goals this season. And the ‘R’s might sell him in January for the right price rather than risk losing him for free.

QPR director of football Les Ferdinand also admitted that Austin could be sold next month. “I’m realistic and sometimes that gets people upset, but there are teams in the top six of the Premier League that are struggling. If one of those teams come in and bid for Charlie, he will want to go because that’s where he sees himself.

“Charlie’s goals-per-game ratio is up there with the best in the country.”

Both Sunderland and Newcastle have flirted with the relegation zone this season and are looking to sign him in January itself.

#5 Ezequiel Lavezzi

Ezequiel Lavezzi free agent 2016

The 30-year-old PSG winger made a name for himself at Napoli in Serie A before making a big-money move to the French club in 2012 on a four-year deal. The Argentina international had impressed in the first two seasons but has gradually seen his impact at the club wane in recent months.

Indeed, Lavezzi has made it clear that he wants to return to Italy, Napoli if possible. But the only problem is that the Naples-based club is flying high this season and are just a point behind leaders Inter. They have a strong team under Maurizio Sarri and even the club’s president is not interested in bringing Lavezzi back.

“He misses Italian football a lot and he wants to go back to Italy,” Lavezzi’s agent said. “President [Aurelio] De Laurentiis was clear that he didn't want his return to Napoli. The Azzurri have a strong team.

“Right now we can't speculate on a turn of mind, but we'll see. Napoli loves El Pocho, I can see that from social media too.”

#6 Ever Banega

Ever Banega free agent 2016

It’s hard to understand how Ever Banega could be a free agent in the summer of 2016. The Argentine midfielder has been instrumental in Sevilla’s midfield, especially when deployed as an attacking midfielder behind the striker. He was a key member of the Europa League winning team last season that saw Sevilla qualify for the Champions League this term.

He has scored twice in La Liga and Champions League this season and the fact that he reportedly has a € 60m release clause makes him a high priority for Los Nervionenses. But there is a clause in his contract that states that if he plays 30 games this season, the contract is automatically extended by a year. So far, he has made 15 appearances.

But Sevilla would do well to keep him on at the club with Juventus circling. Reports suggested he had been contacted over a 4-year deal for the 27-year-old as they look to replace the void left behind by Andrea Pirlo. It would all depend on whether Banega wants to leave or stay.

If he does stay, Sevilla will have to make sure he plays at least 15 more games before May.

#7 Riccardo Montolivo

Riccardo Montolivo free agent 2016

Having joined AC Milan for free in 2012 on a four-year contract, the tall Italian midfielder may eventually leave for free in January 2016 if he does not sign a contract extension. Handed the prestigious captain’s armband in 2013 when Massimo Ambrosini left the Rossoneri Montolivo has led the side through some of the club’s darkest periods over the past two years. The 2013/14 and 2014/15 campaigns saw Milan miss out on the Champions League for the first time in years.

In a new-look squad where the average age is less than 25, Montolivo is one of the senior members and leaders of the young team. While Milan are in talks over extending his stay at the San Siro, nothing is concrete yet.

The central midfielder had struggled last season after a leg injury but has been one of the club’s better performers this season, especially off the ball. He has averaged 4.3 interceptions per game this season – the highest for any midfielder across the league and second highest overall. No other midfielder even makes the top 10!

Liverpool and Arsenal were also linked with the seasoned Italy international and his agent had confirmed that teams wanted to bring him on board.

“There have been several teams asking about him, but neither us or Milan have taken any offers into consideration,” his agent had said.

“We can't forget he's a player who has been out for a year with his tibia injury, and then he had another operation. I don't think the problem is a lack of fitness, but just a lack of game-time in general.”

#8 Tomas Rosicky

Tomas Rosicky free agent 2016

The unlucky Czech Republic international has had an injury-riddled career since his move to Arsenal in 2006. In 10 years at the North London club, the 35-year-old has only managed to make 243 appearances.

When he has been fit and played in midfield, he has shown the class and quality that prove he is still capable of creating moments of magic. He has scored some spectacular individual and team goals in the two previous seasons and was rewarded with a one-year extension at the end of last season.

But a knee surgery has seen him sidelined this season and he is yet to make an appearance. And it does not look like Wenger will be looking to extend the midfielder’s contract at the end of the season.

Rosicky could indeed move on in the summer and he could be an asset as a squad player with loads of experience at any club – provided he remains fit.

#9 Martin Demichelis

Martin Demichelis free agent 2016

Martin Demichelis has been used sparingly this season at Manchester City. In spite of Vincent Kompany missing a major chunk of the campaign as he recovers from a calf injury, Manuel Pellegrini has opted to use new signing Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala in most games. Demichelis has played only four games (paired thrice with Otamendi and once with Mangala).

Like many others in this list, Demichelis had signed a one-year extension towards the end of last season and the defender, who turned 35 last week, has refused to be drawn into any talk of his contract.

“At the end of the season we will see what’s best for me and what’s best for the team,” Demichelis had said last month. “For the moment, I am enjoying my football and am really proud to be part of this.”

Reports suggest Demichelis will either move back to his home country to play with Rosario Central or join MLS side New York City FC which is partly owned by his current employers.

#10 Andrea Barzagli

Andrea Barzagli free agent 2016

Oh, look, another 34-year-old (I swear that is not the criteria here). Andrea Barzagli has been a force to reckon with at the back for Juventus ever since his move to The Old Lady in 2011.

What Barzagli has shown in the past few seasons is consistency and versatility. Indeed, this season he capably filled in for the injured Stephan Lichtsteiner at right-back and performed phenomenally well. He even managed to grab an assist in the Champions League as Juventus beat Sevilla 2-0. Barzagli also won the club’s Player of the Month Award for October.

The 2006 World Cup winner still has another season or two left in his tank and would make a good addition to any side looking to bolster their defence. You don’t get voted to the Serie A Team of the Year three years in a row and suddenly decline.

Juventus director Beppe Marotta has claimed that the club are negotiating with Barzagli over a possible contract extension, but until then he is free to sign a pre-contract in January.

Edited by Staff Editor

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