Last week on the BET Central weekly round-up, I took a look at five players who, with contracts expiring in 2023, could be available for cut-rate prices in the summer window. Today, I’m taking a look at five players who’ll be available for nothing.
We’re going to steer clear of the flashiest names – Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappé, and co. – and instead, take a look at five players who could represent tremendous steals for their respective clubs next season.
Estoril Praia has enjoyed a splendid return to the top-flight under manager Bruno Pinheiro, with the club sitting seventh in the Portuguese league table. They were forced to part ways with 22-year-old winger Chiquinho, who joined Wolves and became the latest in a string of young talents to earn big moves away from Cascais, such as Matheus Nunes (Sporting), Toti Gomes (Wolves), and Miguel Crespo (Fenerbahçe).
With four months remaining on his current deal, André Franco could be the next player to depart for greener pastures. The 23-year-old has stepped up in the wake of Crespo’s sale and become an invaluable midfield cog, chipping in 8 goals and 4 assists and showcasing his quality on multiple occasions, and he could become the next Portuguese addition to Molineux as Wolves search for a long-term replacement for João Moutinho in midfield.
Ivory Coast has been successful at the right-back position in recent years with Emmanuel Eboué, Serge Aurier, and Wilfried Singo, but at the left-back position, no player stands out quite like Ghislain Konan. The 26-year-old started each of their four matches in the recent AFCON as Les Elephants were edged by runners-up Egypt on penalties, and he marked his return to Reims with an impressive performance as Óscar García’s side thrashed Bordeaux 5-0 and prompted Vladimir Petković’s dismissal.
Konan has impressed since swapping Vitória de Guimarães for Reims, bombing forward as an attack-minded left-back who is adept at whipping crosses into the box and linking up with teammates in the final third. He was linked with a move to Fenerbahçe in the January window, but with no transfer fee attached to his name, the Ivorian could very well get similar money if not more at a Premier League side such as Newcastle or Chelsea.
Despite selling striker Adam Armstrong to Southampton in the summer window, Blackburn Rovers are fifth in the Championship and look well-placed to finish in the promotion spots under Tony Mowbray, where they’ll be looking to stake out a return to the Premier League after 19 years in the second division and one year in League One. One of the biggest reasons behind their ascent has been Ben Brereton-Díaz, who has found the back of the net on 20 occasions this season.
Born in Stoke, Brereton spent time at Manchester United, Stoke, and Nottingham Forest before making a £7 million move to Blackburn Rovers in 2018. He struggled to live up to the price tag early on with four goals in his first two seasons followed up by a seven-goal tally in 2020/21. However, after noticing he was half Chilean whilst playing Football Manager, a group of fans began a social media campaign to get Brereton Díaz picked for Chile, culminating in Brereton-Díaz’s maiden call-up for the Chilean national team in May 2021.
After an impressive display at Copa América, it seems that Brereton-Díaz is a new man for Blackburn Rovers, and he could very well close the curtain on his time at Ewood Park by leading them to promotion.
Whilst their East Lancashire rivals are fighting to get into the Premier League, Burnley is fighting to stay in there. Sean Dyche’s side sits 18th in the league table and could also be set to lose a key player with James Tarkowski.
Since arriving from Brentford in 2016, Tarkowski has become an increasingly important pillar in the Clarets’ backline, but at 29 years of age, he could be set to leave Turf Moor and pursue some new scenery. Tarkowski has already attracted interest from Leicester City and West Ham and could tempt both clubs’ attention again for a free transfer.
It has been nothing short of a historic campaign for Gil Vicente. After finishing 10th and 11th in their first two seasons back in the top-flight, Gil Vicente sits fifth in the Portuguese league table and enjoys a 10-point advantage on both Estoril and Vitória for the final European position. Ricardo Soares’s side defeated Belenenses-SAD at the weekend to go eight matches unbeaten, their longest streak ever. One of the biggest reasons for Gil’s impressive campaign has been the form of Pedrinho.
At 29, it’s fair to say that Pedrinho has been somewhat of a late bloomer. Born in Cristelo, Portugal, Pedrinho developed at Freamunde’s academy before enjoying spells at Paços de Ferreira and Latvian side Riga. He returned to his home country in January 2021 and has since become a midfield linchpin for this high-flying Gil side, a diminutive playmaker with 10 assists this season. He’s not afraid to do his fair share of the dirty work off the ball either and has been the motor behind Gil. Whilst the likes of Samuel Lino and Fran Navarro has continued to steal the show in attack, Pedrinho sets the rhythm in Barcelos.
I’d expect Gil Vicente to reach a contract renewal that reflects Pedrinho’s importance in the team, but don’t be surprised if a foreign team comes calling for the veteran midfielder. He has been a shining star for what has undoubtedly been the breakout team of the Primeira season, and he has the characteristics to flourish in a league like Ligue 1 or Serie A.