While the imminent January transfer window already has sent ripples of excitement across the Premier League and beyond, any seasoned Football Manager veteran will know the greatest achievement in the New Year is enticing a new arrival to your club on a free transfer.
Be it through disagreement with their managers or simply just some renewed ambition, players across the continent have left their clubs sweating as they stall on new deals as potential suitors wait for their moment to pounce.
Of course, not every player is looking to escape. Some are merely in no rush to enter talks such is their focus on the act of actually playing for their club in the present, but it does little to detract the swirling rumours regarding which city they will be residing in come next summer.
IBTimes UK have complied a list of seven players across Europe's top five leagues who are edging closer to the end of their contracts and ponder where they may eventually end up should they continue to hold fire on signing a new deal.
Bacary Sagna - Arsenal
In 2011, it was Robin van Persie. Last year, it was Theo Walcott. In 2013 it is the subject of Bacary Sagna's future that remains a priority for Arsene Wenger in the coming months, although the emergence of Carl Jenkinson suggests the wily Frenchman may have covered all the angles. Both the former Auxerre defender and his manager have claimed talks over a new deal are on-going, but the lack of a clear resolution at this late stage suggests a move away from north London after five impressive years could be on the cards.
Possible destinationd: Paris Saint Germain, Monaco, Galatasaray
Diego - VfL Wolfsburg
Having caught the imagination for the first time with Werder Bremen over seven years, ago, Brazilian international Diego has been back in the Bundesliga for the past couple of seasons with Wolfsburg following an aborted stint at Juventus. The inventive midfielder could be on the move again as his contract dwindles and has made no secret of his desire to make a switch to the Premier League, namely Arsenal.
Given the Gunners' embarrassment of talent in attacking midfield berths, a move to the Emirates may be out of the 28-year-old's reach, but reported interest from Southampton has also grabbed his attention. Speaking of interest from Mauricio Pochettino's side Diego said: "Southampton have great organisation and discipline and big talents like Adam Lallana. But again there is nothing concrete. "
Possible destinations: Arsenal, Southampton
Mame Biram Diouf - Hannover 96
The former Manchester United striker insisted in August he was looking forward to signing a new contract with Hannover, but that could have been down to his only real suitor being Stoke City. Five months later Diouf is no closer to signing a deal. The Senegal international hardly exploded into life at Old Trafford; in fact his time in England as a whole - including a loan spell at Blackburn Rovers - was a fairly dismal effort. But 21 Bundesliga goals following his move in January 2012 represents an improved return, one that may catch the eye of Premier League managers looking to strengthen their forward options.
Possible destinations: Stoke City, Hull City
Xabi Alonso - Real Madrid
The man who Rafa Benitez once wanted to replace with Gareth Barry still holds the reputation as one of the finest deep lying playmakers in European football as he enters the final six months of his Real Madrid contract. His standing at the La Liga giants remains as high as ever - upon the Spaniard's return from injury, the club have won seven games, drawn one and scored 32 goals - and Los Blancos fans are desperate to see him extend his stay in the Spanish capital.
But from January 1st, Alonso will be free to enter negotiations with other clubs, immediately instilling Liverpool fans with the romantic prospect of a return to Merseyside. Having been on Jose Mourinho's very few disciples during the Special's One time at the Bernabeu, the Blues have inevitably been linked with a tempting offer. Could a Premier League return be on the cards?
Possible destinations: Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus
Jeremy Menez - Paris Saint Germain
Menez has endured a turbulent last six months. The winger has started just five league games for Laurent Blanc's side this season with the former Bordeaux manager preferring the option of Javier Pastore. As a result, Menez has dropped out of contention for Didier Deschamps' France squad, not ideal in a World Cup season. To make matters worse, the former Roma man moodily left Parc de Princes after not being brought on as a sub in a Champions League game in October, which did little to endear himself with club management.
Not the most alluring feats to add to your CV when looking for another club, but the 26-year-old is likely to have suitors from across France and in Italy over the next few months. A departure from PSG is almost a certainty after Blanc stated: "There is nothing stopping him continuing with Paris, but it seems to me that would be difficult."
Possible destinations: Inter, Milan, Napoli
Bafetimbi Gomis - Lyon
Newcastle United's hopes of pairing Loic Remy with his compatriot Bafetimbi Gomis took a hit during the summer when the Lyon's striker's proposed move to St James' Park fell through. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said one thing, Newcastle director of football Joe Kinnear said another, Gomis was left far from happy. With Remy's stay on Tyneside at the moment a temporary one, Newcastle could look into the possibility of launching another attempt for Gomis in January, or hold out until the summer and bring him in for nothing - which might not be a bad idea given Lyon and particularly Aulas' notoriously unyielding stance in the transfer market.
The Frenchman's agent confirmed earlier this season that a number of Premier League clubs are interested in his services, all of whom are willing to take on his £40,000 a week pay packet.
Possible destinations: Newcastle United, Cardiff City
Andrea Pirlo - Juventus
The evergreen Andre Pirlo has yet to enter talks with the Bianconeri regarding an extension to his new deal. Comments made by the club's general manager Giuseppe Marotta earlier this season suggested that the club intend to hold off on talks until February next year, which can either be identified as a testament to the midfielder's commitment to Juve, or a hugely perilous act of mismanagement by the club.
Having played an instrumental role in Juventus' two successive Scudetto triumphs, Pirlo's standing as perhaps the best player in Europe in his position remains as strong as ever. The impasse in negotiations would appear to be the length of the contract with the former Milan midfielder eager to ensure he can carry on playing for the foreseeable future, rather than gaining any significant financial disagreements.
Tottenham remain the sole English club persistently linked with an offer for the 34-year-old. After a Serie A career spanning 19 years, would Pirlo consider a change?
Possible destinations: Tottenham
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