Messi and Aubameyang in limbo with contracts expiring in 2021

Lionel Messi, Leroy Sane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are among stars facing summer in limbo with contracts expiring in 2021 and their clubs left in a panic amid coronavirus… this coming off-season will be the craziest in a long time

  • Teams across Europe have had little time to negotiate contracts ending in 2021
  • Coronavirus crisis has pushed those with deals expiring in 2021 down in priority 
  • FIFA set to confirm extension to 2019-20 to help leagues reach completion
  • This will push transfer window back further and leave players in limbo 
  • Lack of contract talks could push likes of Lionel Messi towards free transfers 

Usually at this time of year clubs have much of their focus on the final run-in as pressure ramps up to conclude a campaign on a high.

Off the pitch away from the public gaze a key priority is to sort out the futures of stars on their books who only have one year left to run on their contract.

Of course this year it is a little different. The coronavirus outbreak may have halted on-pitch proceedings but that has only led to chaos behind the scenes at clubs all over Europe who have been left panicking over the testing financial times and how to conclude existing campaigns.

Lionel Messi is among the stars whose futures are in limbo with contracts expiring in 2021

Caught up in the crossfire are those with just over 12 months to run on existing deals before they are allowed to walk away and there are plenty of big name stars who fall into this category.

Many of Europe’s top leagues are hopeful of completing their respective campaigns over the summer. To help them, FIFA are set to announce that the 2019-20 campaign will go on indefinitely. At the very least it will allow players out of contract this summer to complete the season with their respective clubs.

In addition, by extending the season FIFA will also push back the transfer window on reasonable requests but they will still have to be 16-weeks long. Depending on how long 2019-20 runs, this means the ‘summer’ window could well run long into autumn. 

FIFA are to announce they have approved plans to rescue the current football season which will see the summer transfer window pushed back to make room for the remainder of 2019-20


Lionel Messi – Barcelona

Leroy Sane – Manchester City

Paul Pogba – Manchester United

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal

David Alaba – Bayern Munich

Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

Thiago Alcantara – Bayern Munich

Gianluigi Donnarumma – AC Milan

Memphis Depay – Lyon

Dayot Upamecano – RB Leipzig 

Georginio Wijnaldum – Liverpool

James Rodriguez – Real Madrid

Angel di Maria – Paris Saint-Germain

Luis Suarez – Barcelona

Julian Draxler – Paris Saint-Germain

Ivan Rakitic – Barcelona

Bukayo Saka – Arsenal

Mesut Ozil – Arsenal

Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich

Jesse Lingard – Manchester United

Source: Transfermarkt 

But in trying to rearrange games to be completed, which is already proving difficult with no set return date, the usual priority on many players with one year left to run leaves them in limbo.  

Should next season’s campaign start on time to try and stop collateral damage from the pandemic, then even less resources will be spent on tying down players to new contracts.

Suddenly mere weeks after the closure of the window, January comes around and with six months of his contract left to run, Lionel Messi is available to talk to any club outside of Spain about a possible free transfer. In his case that is unlikely of course but it does indicate the headaches many clubs are potentially going to have. 

Messi bleeds Barcelona but he appears to have not been as unhappy at the club he has spent his whole senior career at, and indeed much of his life, as he is right now.

World class players around him have moved on such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar and in his eyes have not been replaced by players up to their standard.

All matches have been postponed indefinitely but the Premier League are hoping to resume in the summer, a time when those with 12 months left to run on their deals are usually the focus

He is also in an ongoing board row which started with a spat with former team-mate and Barca director of football Eric Abidal over the sacking of manager Ernesto Valverde, and it has continued in a public war of words around the Nou Camp’s playing staff taking a 70 per cent cut in wages in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Inter Milan have tried to convince him to move to the San Siro for years and now could be their best chance of luring him to Italy. Messi is now in the autumn of his career. Next summer he will turn 34 and he still has a desire to play for boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys back in Argentina. A return to his native country could even happen this summer, as he has a clause that enables him to leave on a free transfer to any team outside of Europe.

Other situations depend on club stature next season and that leaves players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in limbo at Arsenal. The Premier League’s second highest scorer this term with 17 strikes is 31-years-old in June and will be keen to make the most of his last years at the peak of his game.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is wary of committing his future to Arsenal while their hopes of reaching the Champions League next term look very uncertain

There is no better place to do that than the Champions League but will Arsenal be in it next season? Should the season be completed and they qualify then he is almost certain to stay at the Gunners where he has been prolific since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

But Arsenal are currently eight points off fourth in the league, albeit with a game in hand and a return to Europe’s top table is far from certain. The problem for Aubameyang is that should Arsenal fail to qualify it leaves him very little time to complete a move elsewhere in time for 2020-21, at least at the start of the season. 

That could then take him into January, where all of a sudden he is available to leave on a free transfer to a European club from 2021. He doesn’t lack suitors either with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain both interested.

Manchester United though can breathe a little easier with Paul Pogba as they have the option of a one-year extension on their record £89million signing from Juventus

The situation is more in the club’s favour in other circumstances including at Manchester United where Paul Pogba’s deal also runs out next summer.

Injury has not seen him play much for Solskjaer’s side this term and it would appear there is little time to assess whether he has a future at the club following the excellent impact Bruno Fernandes has made in the midfield.

United though have breathing space. Despite the player keen on leaving they have an option to extend his deal by another year, meaning they still have a full year to weigh up his future, should they need it.

Manchester City have two key players whose deals end in 2021, one likely to cause more stress than the other.

While Manchester City are happy to give long serving Sergio Aguero (left) free reign over his future, they are desperate to keep hold of Bayern Munich target Leroy Sane 

Sergio Aguero has become their greatest ever goal scorer in over a decade’s service and City are understood to be happy for the Argentine to decide his own fate next summer when he turns 33. Like Messi, Aguero also wants a return home to see out his career and that will likely be with Independiente, his boyhood club and where he started his senior career.

But they have more pressing concerns surrounding Leroy Sane. The forward has not played since an effective season-ending injury in the Community Shield and he has stalled on a contract extension, with Bayern Munich hovering and very keen to sign him.

City want to keep the winger but they are fighting a two-year UEFA ban from all European competitions after falling foul of financial fair play rules. Keeping hold of Sane already looked difficult enough before the scandal erupted. Trying to convince him to stay without any Champions League football will not make that easier.

The uncertainty around players’ futures could mean this summer edging towards being a ‘buyer’s market’, and Chelsea will be one of the clubs looking to take advantage.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of Europe’s most promising young goalkeepers and could be tempted to leave AC Milan for Chelsea as he enters the final year of his deal at the San Siro

Having been strangled by a transfer ban last summer, Frank Lampard will be looking to add strength to a side freshened up with youth players like Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham.

The Blues boss is keen on a new goalkeeper having not been overly impressed with Kepa Arrizabalaga and the uncertainty surrounding certain players in Europe could enable him to pounce.

One of those is Gianluigi Donnarumma at AC Milan who have once again under performed this campaign and are all but certain to miss out on the Champions League. While the Blues are not certain themselves of reaching the top four, they offer better prospects and Milan would be under pressure to sell if the 21-year-old wishes to depart.

With so much still to be sorted out in regards to restructuring fixtures and competitions, transfers seem a long way off for now. Either way once (if) the seasons are completed, the following off-season is set to be one of the craziest in a long time.

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