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Top five Premier League free agents

Sports Mole picks out five Premier League players who are out of contract at their current clubs this summer.

The 2015 summer transfer window officially opens in a little over a week's time, meaning that the future may begin to look a little clearer for those currently in a state of flux.

Many players have recently seen their contracts come to an end, each seeking a move elsewhere over the coming months, while closer to home there is also an array of talent to choose from.

James Milner and Danny Ings, both of whom were out of contract at their respective clubs, will soon complete switches to Liverpool, while many more remain available for others to take a chance on.

Here, Sports Mole looks at five Premier League stars who will be available for free this summer.


1. Ron Vlaar

The Netherlands international looked destined to link up with his former national team boss Louis van Gaal at Manchester United 12 months ago, only for a move to apparently break down. Vlaar's future is currently in limbo, with the choice of remaining at Villa Park where he remains a strong leader, or ending his three-year stay in the West Midlands to further his career elsewhere.

Ron Vlaar in action for Aston Villa on December 26, 2014© Getty Images

Having recently hinted towards the latter of those options, it is likely that the former Feyenoord man will be at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war when he officially makes his decision known. United could again show their interest in an attempt to bolster their defensive options, although a move to a mid-table Premier League side seems to most likely option at this stage.

Knee and calf injury issues forced Vlaar to sit out 19 games last season, while incoming boss Tim Sherwood warned his skipper that a repeat of his dodgy performance against Stoke City - Sherwood's first game - would see him dropped. Hardly ringing words of endorsement, then, but signing the experienced World Cup semi-finalist on a free contract is one that would fit firmly in the 'calculated gamble' category.


2. Didier Drogba

The Ivorian's return to Stamford Bridge last summer surprised a few, but it was a move that paid dividends in many ways. Drogba was always going to play a bit-part role in his second coming, with star signing Diego Costa very much providing the focal point of Chelsea's strong-looking attack.

Didier Drogba during Chelsea's Premier League victory parade on May 25, 2015© Getty Images

In fact, Drogba was even behind fellow signing Loic Remy in the pecking order; a full 90-minute appearance seemingly no longer a possibility at the highest level. However, seven goals and a further couple of assists in his 14 starts in all competitions paints a picture of a player who certainly still knows how to find the net. For comparison, Remy, who often cut a frustrated figure on the bench, scored nine goals in his 10 starts.

While Remy is not likely to leave West London for anything less than £15m, fellow back-up strike-partner Drogba can be signed for free. It remains unclear where exactly the 37-year-old's final days will be played out, but should he turn down the approaches of Major League Soccer clubs then a Premier League swansong could be on the cards.


3. Glen Johnson

Following six years of marauding down the wing at Anfield, Johnson's Liverpool departure was announced earlier this month with very little fanfare. He may well be a player who failed to truly match the early potential shown, yet there will surely be many mid-table sides eager to add the Englishman to their ranks.

Glen Johnson in action for Liverpool on August 10, 2014© Getty Images

Johnson failed to make the cut for the Reds' last two league games of the 2014-15 campaign, showing just how out of favour he had become in his final days on Merseyside. It is easy to forget now, some six years on, but Johnson was named in the PFA Team of the Year on the back of a highly-impressive campaign with Portsmouth prior to joining Liverpool.

That could very well have put some unneeded pressure on Johnson who, after some promising early displays, never truly pushed on at the Champions League-chasers. Still, at 30 years of age there is still plenty more to come, you feel, even if that means temporarily moving abroad to regain form and an appetite for the game. The next two years will no doubt prove key in Johnson's future, so he must think carefully about this next step.


4. Joey Barton

He is never likely to win a popularity contest, although supporters of the clubs Barton has represented will attest for his hard-working demeanour. It would be wrong to assume that the former Queens Park Rangers skipper will be given a chance at a top Premier League side, but a move to a team battling for survival - particularly one of those newly-promoted teams - could prove to be a good fit for all involved.

Joey Barton for QPR on May 10, 2015© Getty Images

Of course, bringing in a player of Barton's ilk, who is hardly the most calming of influences, could unsettle a collective group of players. On the flip side, Barton has plenty of experience following spells at Manchester City, Newcastle United and most recently QPR. Convicted twice for acts of violence, the 32-year-old will certainly divide opinions of the fanbase at his next club - whomever that may be.

Marseille appear to be the current frontrunners to land Barton's signature, which again may be the best move for all those involved, as the controversial figure aims to do his talking on the field once more. A successful spell across the channel in 2012-13 proved that the midfielder certainly has the ability to make an impact at an elite side, it is just a shame that his off-field issues have often proved to be his downfall.


5. Sylvain Distin

If it is experience you want in the heart of defence, then look no further than ex-Everton man Distin who has spent the past 13 years playing in English football. The Toffees opted for change due in large to the breakthrough of John Stones, meaning that 37-year-old Distin is now seeking a final career move.

Sylvain Distin in action for Everton on August 3, 2014© Getty Images

Norwich City were recently linked with the defender, as were West Ham United back in the January window, so there appears to be a few options for the Frenchman in the dwindling years of his impressive career.

The circumstances surrounding his exit from Goodison Park sullied what had otherwise been a fine relationship spanning six years, but for the first half of the campaign Distin was still first choice at the back as Everton looked to adapt to the challenge of balancing European and domestic football. There is little denying that his best days are behind him, but will one more side take a gamble and offer the former Portsmouth, Manchester City and Newcastle United player one final payday?


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Didier Drogba during Chelsea's Premier League victory parade on May 25, 2015
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Thursday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

MARATHON SWIMMING
· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

BOXING
· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

DIVING
· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

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· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

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