Messi, Ramos and Alaba lead the Greatest Out of Contract XI of all time

Paul Macdonald
Paul Macdonald Updated: 20 May 2021 11:26 BST 4 min read
Messi, Ramos and Alaba lead the Greatest Out of Contract XI of all time

Perhaps the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on football finances is responsible, but it could be argued that there has never been such a strong group of players heading towards the end of their contracts in less than six months time.

Some of the best players in the world are free to talk to some clubs now, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they remain with their current sides or if they’ll be on the move in the summer.

Here is our combined XI of the best out of contract players around in 2021:


When Gianluigi Donnarumma emerged at AC Milan as a 16-year-old, he was heralded as the heir to his namesake Buffon’s throne. He soon became a star attraction in a poor team and grabbed the attention of Europe’s top clubs. Still only 21, Donnarumma’s imposing frame, standing at 6 ft 5, is supplemented by his athleticism and excellent reflexes. Milan have not featured in the Champions League since 2014, but look certain to end their exile next season. Will they be able to keep hold of their star man between the sticks?


Real Madrid icon Sergio Ramos is somehow in this team. While it may be that he is using the risk of a potential exit as leverage against Los Blancos, it is still difficult to comprehend that his future is up in the air at this stage of the season. The 34-year-old is among the greatest leaders in the world and will not be short of suitors. He is joined in the centre of our defence by Bayern Munich’s David Alaba, who could be heading to Madrid himself if reports are to be believed. At 28, the versatile Austrian is in the prime of his career, but it may be mutually beneficial for him to leave Bavaria for a fresh start.

Usually, age is a factor in highly-rated players seeing their contracts run down. In the case of our full-backs, Elseid Hysaj of Napoli and PSG’s Juan Bernat, are both 27. There are sure to be plenty of interested parties.

Messi, Ramos and Alaba lead the Greatest Out of Contract XI of all time

Messi, Ramos and Alaba lead the Greatest Out of Contract XI of all time


Memphis Depay was the hottest property in European football back in 2015, when he inspired PSV to the Eredivisie title and earned himself a £25 million move to Manchester United. He struggled at Old Trafford, but subsequently enjoyed a resurgence in Ligue 1 with Lyon, becoming instrumental in their run to last season’s Champions League semi finals. 

Linked with Barcelona last year, the 25-year-old still has plenty to offer. He is joined in our midfield by his PSV partner in crime, now at Liverpool, Gini Wijnaldum, who is also a target for Ronald Koeman at the Camp Nou, but the Reds would be losing out if he departed. His energy levels and ability to link the play would be a big miss.

The likes of France and Marseille playmaker Florian Thauvin and PSG pair Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria are unlucky to miss out here. But Luka Modric, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, is too big a star to leave out even at the age of 35. It may be time for him to leave Real Madrid, but he won’t be short of offers. Nobody controls  games like him.

Another Milan player, Hakan Calhanoglu, will play on the opposite flank to Depay in a 4-4-2. While it may not be his ideal position, his free kick abilities make him an ideal free transfer target for any top side this summer.


There are only two players in mind here, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, two friends and Argentina international colleagues, lead our attack. Messi’s situation has been played out in the most public way possible after he attempted to force his way out of Barcelona last summer. 

The value of his contract was leaked last week, reportedly totalling over €555, (£489m), and the club’s debts are rising. Manchester City have been heavily linked, where he could link up with Aguero, but his injury troubles are adding more doubt to his future. At 33 and 32 respectively, there should still be plenty left in the tank for two of the greatest players in modern times.