Deal or no deal: the out-of-contract football stars available for free this summer

So, which club would like to sign – on a free transfer – the player outscoring Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the Champions League? Luiz Adriano has plundered nine goals in Europe’s elite competition so far this season and his services are up for grabs this summer, as the Brazilian has six months left on his contract with Shakhtar Donetsk. Thanks to the patron saint of modern footballers, Jean-Marc Bosman, Luiz Adriano is now in line for a wages bonanza while several clubs compete to make him a bargain recruit.

A look at the list of players nearing the ends of their contracts across Europe raises the possibility of many intriguing deals, with shrewd clubs able to procure top talents for a relatively small fee in January, or for no transfer fee in the summer.

The glitziest soon-to-be-free agents are already the subject of widespread headlines. Sami Khedira, currently of Real Madrid, has been linked with every title-chasing club with a hole in their midfield, notably Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, while clubs have dispatched representatives to man-mark Barcelona’s rampaging full-back Dani Alves until the Brazilian plumps for a new employer. Loris Karius, the 21-year-old German goalkeeper likened to a young Manuel Neuer, will soon be whisked away from modest Mainz by one of Europe’s swishest clubs.

West Ham seem resigned to losing their key centre-back Winston Reid to a club with better prospects and bigger salaries, while Aston Villa face a choice between releasing Fabian Delph from their relegation fight for a meagre fee or losing him for nothing in the summer. James Milner can listen to other clubs’ attempts to offer a better package than Manchester City before deciding whether to accept his current club’s new offer or move elsewhere.

Yevhen Konoplyanka, the Ukrainian playmaker with an eye for a killer pass and an explosive shot, was the subject of a bid from Liverpool last year, and Tottenham and Manchester United were also interested. Now the fact that the 25-year-old has six months to run on his contract at Dnipro means he can expect even more offers. Liverpool could knock on his door again, though they might be better advised to pursue Fabian Schär, the 23-year-old centre-back who can now listen to any attempts to lure him from Basel. Internazionale’s Andrea Ranocchia should be another player of interest to any club needing to repair a dodgy defence.

André Ayew may be preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana but the winger is also mulling over his next club move, with several Premier League sides considering enticing the 25-year-old from Marseille. André-Pierre Gignac, meanwhile, has already said he will leave Marseille on a free in the summer and the 29-year-old France international is evidently eager to prove he is still sharp, hitting 12 goals in 19 matches this season.

Gignac could be described as a slightly inferior version of Olivier Giroud, which would still make him a decent acquisition for many clubs. He would certainly be an upgrade on Emmanuel Rivière at Newcastle, while he would greatly improve the likes of Hull, Leicester and Queens Park Rangers if they could wait until the summer.

Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta no longer excite Arsenal fans but with both reaching the end of their contracts at the Emirates, plenty of other Premier League clubs may place a high value on their experience and quality. Stéphane Mbia may have flopped at QPR two years ago but he has reignited his career at Sevilla since then and could be in demand now.

Christopher Samba was another whose reputation was damaged during QPR’s last relegation campaign, in 2013, but many managers with shaky defences will likely be tempted by his qualities as his time at Dynamo Moscow draws to a close.

Might there be a Premier League club keen to give the former Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani another crack at English football? The Italy international can listen to all offers now that his Fiorentina contract is close to expiring. Alexandre Pato, who is on loan at São Paulo, can do likewise and although injuries and loss of form led to him falling out of favour at Milan before returning home to Corinthians in 2013, surely there will be no shortage of managers convinced that they can get a tune out of a 25-year-old who was once trumpeted as the most exciting talent in Brazilian football.

And what about the player who was once hailed as the new Zinedine Zidane? Yoann Gourcuff is currently injured – as he has been on a regular basis since joining Lyon for a club record €22m fee in 2010 – but he will only be 29 when his contract expires in the summer and will still have an abundance of talent should anyone feel bold enough to try to harness it.

And then we come to perhaps the ultimate punt: which club fancies its chances of getting the best out of Emmanuel Adebayor, whose contract at White Hart Lane is close to an end? It speaks volumes for Harry Kane’s performances that he remains first choice at Tottenham at a time when Adebayor traditionally finds top form.