What do Mohamed Salah, Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Lionel Messi have in common? Their contracts are all expiring in 2025.
While the summer transfer window looks set to be headlined by Kylian Mbappe and the saga of his potential switch from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid, the world’s biggest clubs will be on alert as they attempt to navigate the contract situations of some of the best players in the world.
Who might move? Who looks likely to stay at their club? Which teams are interested in Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich, whose contracts also expire in 2025?
The Athletic explains below.
Who is the player most synonymous with Liverpool’s success during the Jurgen Klopp era, if not Salah?
The Egypt international is out of action after suffering a hamstring injury during the Africa Cup of Nations. Still, he remains as important as ever to his club as they aim to win their second Premier League title.
The 31-year-old was the subject of significant interest during last summer’s transfer window, with Saudi club Al Ittihad testing Liverpool’s resolve with a bid of £150million ($188m), and this saga appears likely to continue into next summer providing the prolific forward does not sign a new contract.
Salah, Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold contracts: What we’re hearing
Sources close to Al Ittihad indicated they had not given up hope and were prepared to pay up to £200million for the most famous Arab footballer on the planet — a move that would place him alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar as poster boys for the Saudi Pro League. The package offered, understood to be worth around £1.5million ($1.9m) per week, around four times his current salary, would help grease the wheels, too.
Salah appears to be in his prime years, unlike Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, whom Liverpool sold to Saudi clubs last summer, and has shown no signs of agitating for a move. However, with Liverpool’s future uncertain in light of Klopp’s upcoming summer departure, Salah may want to wait for key roles to be addressed before committing his future to the club.
All is not well for Brazil’s biggest star in Saudi Arabia.
Two months after joining Al Hilal from PSG in an £80million ($102m) transfer last August, he suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in his left knee, requiring surgery. The 32-year-old is not expected to play again this season.
In recent weeks, he has addressed claims from Saudi supporters that he has put on weight during his injury rehabilitation, with Neymar responding in Portuguese, “Overweight, great. But fat? I don’t think so!” in a video posted on Instagram.
Due to his unfortunate start to life in Saudi, Neymar’s long-term future is in the air. With the World Cup coming to the United States in 2026, Brazil’s record goalscorer may want another attempt to win one of the only trophies that has evaded him, potentially opening the door for a return to Europe to ensure he plays at the highest level before the tournament. A homecoming to Brazil cannot be ruled out either, nor can staying with Al Hilal, where Neymar is due to earn an estimated $300million (£235m) over two years.
Fresh from being named men’s player of the year at the FIFA Best Awards in January, Messi is travelling the world on a pre-season tour with Inter Miami and a few of his best friends — Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.
His decision to depart Europe for Major League Soccer before staying with PSG, returning to Barcelona or following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and going to Saudi Arabia looks like the right one.
While his move has been an undoubted commercial success, the prospect of rejoining his hometown club in Argentina, Newell’s Old Boys, retains its appeal.
Messi will be 38 on the expiry of his contract, leaving the prospect of staying in Miami, returning to Rosario, or even retiring as genuine possibilities. As is customary for MLS players, his contract expires in December (the end of the American soccer season) rather than June, with an option to extend his deal until 2026, which would take him to the age of 39.
Before Harry Kane’s arrival, Kimmich was arguably Bayern’s most important player.
Since joining the club in 2015 from RB Leipzig, the 28-year-old has made 248 league appearances and won eight Bundesliga titles, as well as the Champions League once. With Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller approaching the end of their careers, all seemed set for Kimmich to take over the mantle as club captain and play the remainder of his career in Bavaria — which makes it more surprising that his contract situation is not yet sorted.
Manchester City are exploring a move for the midfielder as they look for someone to play alongside Rodri, as well as providing cover for his position, but they know a deal will not be straightforward. If Kimmich does not sign a new contract with Bayern in the coming months, with negotiations yet to begin, the German giants are expected to put him up for sale in the summer. That would be a shocking development for a player that former club executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described as “the embodiment of world class” in 2021.
Like in 2014, when Toni Kroos was allowed to depart for Real Madrid, Bayern could lose a top-class player in his prime for under market value.
Like Jamie Carragher or Steven Gerrard — up until his late-career move to the LA Galaxy — it is difficult to see Alexander-Arnold, who grew up a 10-minute drive away from Anfield, ever playing for a club other than Liverpool.
Having been promoted to vice-captain by Klopp before the start of the season, Alexander-Arnold has grown under the extra responsibility and he looks set to wear the armband permanently in the future. With 18 months remaining on his contract, Liverpool will look to tie down the 25-year-old to a long-term deal that reflects his importance to them.
While the departures of Klopp and his staff may complicate things slightly, given the German coach gave him his debut and has retained faith through more challenging moments in recent seasons, Alexander-Arnold is a bedrock for Liverpool to build on when they enter a new era.
Alongside Kimmich and Leroy Sane, Davies rounds off the trio of world-class talents whose contracts are set to expire with Bayern in 2025.
Still only 23, Davies broke into Bayern’s first team in 2019 at 18 and has since won five Bundesliga titles and a Champions League. He’s already considered among the best full-backs in the world and there are few players, if any, who can replicate his pace and attacking quality in his position.
Bayern are expected to put him up for sale in the summer if they cannot agree a contract extension beforehand. Many clubs will be interested in a move this summer and Real Madrid are monitoring his situation. Considering he has started in all but one of the 27 games he has played for Bayern this season, they will not let him depart easily.
Kevin De Bruyne
Despite missing half of the season through injury, it has not taken long for De Bruyne to find his best form. In his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury on the season’s opening day, he scored and assisted in City’s 3-2 win against Newcastle United in January.
On January 31, in his first start back, he assisted Julian Alvarez as City made light work of Burnley in a 3-1 win. For almost any other player with De Bruyne’s injury history, a club with City’s resources would likely be searching around Europe for his immediate replacement. Still, the Belgian is arguably the best midfielder in the world and any alternative in the same position would be a certain downgrade.
Given De Bruyne’s age (32) and injury history, it would be irresponsible for City not to be preparing alternatives. With most clubs in Europe unable to offer a salary he would demand, there are very few realistic options available, particularly if he can put his recent injury woes behind him, and City will be keen to keep their star creator.
After three years in Munich, Sane has found his best career form under Thomas Tuchel. In 20 Bundesliga matches this season, he has scored eight goals and laid on 11 assists, an excellent return for the wide player who has adjusted brilliantly to the arrival of Kane.
Yet if his contract is not renewed in the coming months, Sane will likely be put up for sale in the summer. Expect Bayern to be keen to renew his deal, given his immediate connection with Kane, but the former Manchester City man will have suitors.
The prospect of attracting the versatile 28-year-old — a left-footed wide player capable of playing on either wing — at a cut price means top European clubs will keep an eye on his situation before this summer’s transfer window.
Following the departures of Hugo Lloris and Kane from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, Son has taken on the mantle as club captain and star player this season. Under Ange Postecoglou, the South Korea international has put last season’s struggles behind him — scoring 12 goals and adding five assists in 20 league games.
Son signed his most recent deal in 2021, a four-year contract with an option to extend by a year — something Tottenham are expected to do. But this will likely be Son’s last major contract as he will turn 34 in 2026.
Virgil van Dijk
Since being given the captain’s armband by Klopp in pre-season, Virgil van Dijk has quietened suggestions that his prime years are behind him with some dominant performances at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. But with 18 months remaining on his contract, he and Liverpool are caught in a dilemma.
Van Dijk is one of the Premier League’s greatest centre-backs, combining athleticism, technical quality and defensive anticipation in a way that few have ever done, making Liverpool’s decision whether to invest heavily in the future more challenging.
He is turning 33 this summer and there will be question marks on whether he can replicate his best form as his physical qualities decline, particularly as Van Dijk is one of the club’s highest-paid players.
With Klopp’s departure this summer, Liverpool’s future is still being determined. Asked whether he sees himself as part of the next era, Van Dijk responded: “That’s a big question. I don’t know.” He later clarified that he is still “fully committed to the club”, indicating he is not considering his long-term future while Liverpool remain in the hunt for four trophies this season.
It seems the right decision for all parties for Toney to depart Brentford this summer. After serving an eight-month ban for betting offences, the England striker has returned to action in excellent form, scoring two goals in two league matches — immediately picking up where he left off last season, where he was one of only three players to score 20 Premier League goals or more.
Fortunately for suitors, Toney has made it clear he sees his long-term future away from Brentford several times.
“You can never predict when the right time to move elsewhere is but I think it’s obvious I want to play for a top club,” Toney told Sky Sports in January. “Everybody wants to play for a top club, (one) fighting for titles. Whether it’s this January that is the right time for a club to come in and pay the right money, who knows?”
In January, Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said it would take an “unbelievable price” to take Toney away from the west Londoners. Still, with one year remaining on his deal in the summer, it would be in the club’s best interests to facilitate a move, with their star striker seemingly seeing his future elsewhere.
PSG are known for producing some of the best talent in Europe. Kingsley Coman, Adrien Rabiot, Christopher Nkunku, Patrice Evra and Nicolas Anelka have all graduated from the Parisians’ academy in the last three decades. Zaire-Emery could turn out to be the best out of the lot.
The 17-year-old has already made his international debut, becoming the youngest player to be called up for France since 1914, scoring a goal in a 14-0 win over Gibraltar. As a versatile midfielder capable of playing as a No 6, 8 and 10, he has drawn comparison to Jude Bellingham, three years his elder. Zaire-Emery is a different type of player but they share world-class potential.
So PSG, who are preparing for the eventual departure of Mbappe, will be keen to tie Zaire-Emery down long term. Born in Montreuil, an eastern suburb around 6km from the centre of Paris, he is the ideal face of a post-Mbappe PSG. If discussions stall, however, expect all of Europe’s top clubs to react quickly.
For those who followed Leeds United’s relegation from the Premier League last season, it might be a shock to see McKennie starting regularly for Juventus. Under Massimiliano Allegri, however, he has developed into a critical cog in Juventus’s midfield as they compete to win Serie A.
With a home World Cup in 2026, McKennie will want to play regular club football to ensure he retains an important role for the United States. Clubs needing a high-energy midfielder will monitor his situation if he falls out of favour. Until then, though, McKennie looks settled and happy in Turin.
If Almada departs Atlanta United this summer, he will likely become the most expensive player to leave Major League Soccer in its history. The record is Miguel Almiron’s transfer from Atlanta to Newcastle United for £21million ($27m) in 2019, and Almada, already a World Cup winner with Argentina, is expected to fetch around $30m.
Like Toney, Almada is keen to secure a move to a top European club. Eager to take advantage of a franchise-altering fee, Atlanta will facilitate a transfer, providing a club meets their valuation. They will have slightly more time than Brentford, however, as the 22-year-old’s deal expires in December 2025. Still, given the potential for a big sale, the MLS outfit will be keen not to let the value decline by allowing Almada’s contract to run down.
At the beginning of 2023, Chelsea tried to sell Gallagher to Everton. Last summer, Chelsea rejected a £40million bid from West Ham. Tottenham were interested in January but a move never materialised. If Gallagher’s future is not sorted before the summer transfer window, his future may lie away from Stamford Bridge.
As the England international is an academy-trained player, a fee received for Gallagher will count as pure profit in the club’s accounts. Having spent over £1billion since Chelsea’s owners took over in May 2022, the money will help when it comes to Profit and Sustainability rules. However, Gallagher has played regularly under Mauricio Pochettino and has worn the armband several times this season — indicating the manager’s trust in him.
A potential departure may upset Chelsea fans, who have seen academy graduates depart frequently in recent seasons, but if there were a decision to part ways, the 23-year-old would not be short of suitors.
(Top photos: Getty Images)