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Which free agents should Everton target next summer?

What does the market look like, and what are the Toffees’ needs?

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Denis Zakaria of Switzerland takes on Nicolo’ Barella of Italy
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“Nothing in life is free” and never a more true statement than in the world of football. I imagine most Evertonians will expect the club to consider the free agent transfer market next summer not least because of the Financial Fair Play and Premier League profit & loss implications. There’s no fee to pay to another club but usually there is still a signing-on fee for the player maybe up front but sometimes spread across the duration of the new contract to be offered. As an added incentive for players, sometimes they are offered higher wages than would be normal to entice them to run out their current contracts, such as the Blues did with Bernard.

As things stand we are likely to see the expiry of contracts for Cenk Tosun, Jonjoe Kenny, Fabian Delph, Asmir Begovic, Andy Lonergan and Gylfi Sigurdsson. That’s a ball park figure of £330,000 per week salary saved which you might swell with the already banked saving of the reported £250,000 per week from the transfer of James Rodriguez and circa £55,000 per week from Moise Kean’s loan in August. In other words the Blues will have about £650,000 per week of wiggle room on the payroll come August 2022, enough to recruit a fair few “Bosman” transfers if that is an option.

It is unlikely that Everton would be remotely in with a shout (or would want to be in with a shout) for the very high profile stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba or even Franck Kessie. Being honest, there are several players becoming free agents who have been playing at the very top clubs in Europe, playing at Champions League level and they would not look at Everton. Their sights will be on clubs playing in the top competitions with a chance of adding to their medal haul. I’m just being realistic!!

Everybody will have different opinions about which positions we need to fill and who should fill them so I have looked at all positions using the contract data available via Transfermarkt . I’ve also had a look for some time now at available footage to get an idea of what they can do. Sometimes misleading of course as I have yet to see a video about someone’s lack of skill, but it’s a guide at least!

Goalkeepers:

Sam Johnstone is a standout name, a current England international vying for the Three Lions #1 with our own Jordan Pickford and plying his trade with West Bromwich ALbion who are in contention for a swift return to the Premier League. He’s currently 28, but in goalkeeper years that’s pretty young.
Other interesting options are Thomas Strakosha (26), an Albanian international shining at Lazio and Jiri Pavlenka (29), the Czech Republic starter currently at Werder Bremen.

Ajax v Go Ahead Eagles - Dutch Eredivisie
Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax dribbles with the ball
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Right back:

Moroccan international Noussair Mazraoui (24) with Ajax Amsterdam is a standout and likely to get a fair bit of attention. Mattia de Sciglio (29) Italy international at Juventus (he can also play left back comfortably) and Aurelio Buta (24), former Portuguese youth international at Royal Antwerp.
I mention the latter two as Everton have been linked with both in the last year or so there may have been interest with the club waiting to make a move in the “free” market, but Mazraoui is the main man though.

Left back:

Reinildo Mandava (27) Mozambique international and an outstanding player at Lille and Ghislain Konan (25) Ivory Coast international at Stade Reims in Ligue 1 in France are the two key players in this position.

Centre back:

The biggest name in the summer will be Alessio Romagnoli (26), Italy international at AC Milan already linked with the Blues, and it appears his contract extension talks with the Rossoneri have hit a wall.
Two other options are veterans Matthias Ginter (27) German international at Borussia Monchengladbach and though people (including Richarlison) would hate me for suggesting it, James Tarkowski (28) at Burnley. I’d rather have his uncompromising style of defending for us than against us, put it that way.

Central midfield:

The absolute standout for me in the entire market would be Denis Zakaria (24) Swiss international at Borussia Monchengladbach (again) - he’s just excellent, and we talked about him at length during the latest episode of our School of Science podcast.
Boubacar Kamara (21) France Under 21 international at Marseille and a name linked with the Blues a few seasons ago as a youngster and now matured, and Samuel Bastien (25) a DR Congo international at Standard Liege are two other options.

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Fabio Vieira of FC Porto in action
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Attacking Midfield:

Top pick has to be Jesse Lingard (28) we know all about him and an excellent half season for West Ham last year and his desire to stay in the North West suggests he is a realistic option, with his current wages at a very affordable £75,000.
My personal favourite is the lesser known Fabio Vieira (21) Portugal Under 21 international of FC Porto. Boy, can he play! A wand of a left foot, good engine, prepared to put a defensive shift in, don’t be fooled by the slight frame.
There’s also of course the much talked about mercurial talent of Isco (29) and the player of four years ago would have been an absolute bargain no matter what his salary demands were. The Isco of 2021/ 22 I’m not so sure about given our experience with James Rodriguez. His wage demands will likely be of the astronomical variety that the Blues could certainly do without.

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Arnaud Nordin of Saint-Etienne runs with the ball
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Wingers:

The very versatile Federico Bernardeschi (27), current Italy international at Juventus. Great left-footed winger, tall and capable of playing on both wings. The only hesitation is whether his languid style would suit the Premier League but certainly skillful enough. His inconsistency remains a worry as well as his adaptability.
My pick would be the lesser known Arnaud Nordin (23), plays for Saint Etienne, a few full caps for France. He’s a speedy left footed left winger, great close control, strong and can finish.

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Randal Kolo Muani takes a shot
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Striker:

For me, Randal Kolo Muani (22) of Nantes. Handful of caps for France again as they prepare to transition away from the ageing Benzema. This guy has good control, carries the ball well is strong and absolutely hammers the ball when given a striking opportunity (who doesn’t like to see that). Been linked with a few big clubs but if he had a chance of first team football at Everton I think he’d make the grade.
Others might be better back up options than we’ve had. For example, Cyle Larin (26), Canadian international, familiar to US soccer fans after his spell at Orlando. He can also play left wing which means as a squad player he could be useful. I’ll hide from the brickbats as I suggest Divock Origi (26) from our neighbours, again as a back-up but maybe more games than he gets with Liverpool and in all seriousness he is an effective and awkward striking option.

I’ll leave it there while I run for the hills after suggesting Tarkowski and Origi! You may disagree and there’s names I’ve not mentioned but the sure thing right now is that if the club has little or no money we need not be depressed about it. We can be competitive if we recruit the likes of Johnstone, Mazraoui, Zakaria, Lingard or Vieira, Nordin and Kolo Muani. I’d pay to watch that lot!