January represents not only the opening of the winter transfer window, but also marks the beginning of a negotiating period where players out of contract at the end of the season can start talking to potential suitors.
As it stands, the summer of 2013 will see more prominent players become available on free transfers than any in recent memory, with the likes of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole nearing the end of their deals.
Ferdinand may yet sign a new contract with Manchester United, but Lampard and Cole are expected to leave Chelsea, while several other big names on the continent will also be free agents in July.
GMF outlines five of players soon to become available who are likely to attract the most attention in the coming months.
Theo Walcott - Arsenal
Wanted by: Chelsea/Juventus/Liverpool
Walcott wants assurances from Arsenal that he will play more frequently as a striker, while the 23-year-old's wage expectations do not meet those the Gunners are willing to offer.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - Schalke
Wanted by: Arsenal/Liverpool
Given that he scored 48 goals in 48 appearances for Schalke last season, it is somewhat of a surprise the majority of Europe's top clubs are not fighting to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
As it is, Arsenal and Liverpool appear to be the two most prominent sides in contention to capture the Netherlands international, and both Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers have been tipped for January swoops.
Liverpool are in desperate need of goalscoring reinforcements given their threadbare forward department, while Arsenal have yet to sufficiently compensate for the summer departure of Robin van Persie.
Fernando Llorente - Athletic Bilbao
Wanted by: Arsenal/Juventus/Liverpool/Manchester City
Llorente scored 29 goals in all competitions for Athletic Bilbao last season, as Marco Bielsa's side impressed with their performances at home and abroad, including famously knocking Manchester United out of the Europa League.
Ashley Cole - Chelsea
Wanted by: Manchester United/Paris Saint-Germain
Interim Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez has revealed that he expects Ashley Cole, along with Frank Lampard, to leave Stamford Bridge for nothing in the summer, just like Didier Drogba at the end of last season.
Chelsea are not willing to offer Cole the long-term security he is looking for, and the England left-back appears most likely to join former Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti in Paris.
PSG have already inadvertently 'announced' the signing of Cole on Twitter - although it was believed to have been the work of a hacker - while Manchester United have also been linked with the 31-year-old.
David Beckham - LA Galaxy
Wanted by: Paris Saint-Germain/Perth Glory/Queens Park Rangers/West Ham
Although David Beckham's contract will not expire following his final outing for LA Galaxy later this week, the Manchester United legend will buy out the final year his deal in order to secure a free transfer elsewhere.
Beckham also may not fall into the category of a summer free transfer, although former England captain could wait until the end of the European season before revealing his destination.
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