According to a bevy of media outlets, one-time Juventus captain and corner stone Fabio Cannavaro is set to make the short hop from Real Madrid back to Turin at the close of the season. The World-Cup-winning Azzurri-armband wearer left in the bleak aftermath of Calciopoli, trading treks to the mindful of mid-level teams in Serie B for a central position in the backline of the white half of the Spanish capital. However, after three years and a La Liga title to make up for the two revoked from Juve, Cannarvo is set to return. And, without a penny changing hands.
Ever since unheard of Belgian Jean-Marc Bosman changed the face of football transfers and European employment law as a whole, the summer shopping sprees have been given the added incentive of players looking to either let contracts wind down to give them a little leverage in new deal talks or simply walk away from clubs when their time comes. Cannavaro, although probably the most high profile, is not the only Italian likely to be involved in a free transfer this summer.
Another experienced international looking to take advantage of life sans contract is Roma stalwart Christian Panucci. The 36-year-old – who happens to have spent some of his career at Cannavaro’s current stead Real Madrid – has been open with the discord between himself and Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti and may decide to look for fresh feuds when his contract expires at the end of June.
Apparently the club where Panucci learned his trade as a youngster, Genoa, are potentially looking to fit the eight year veteran of the Stadio Olimpico in alongside another former Giallorossi Matteo Ferrari at the heart of their defence when Serie A resumes next August. However, Panucci himself has claimed that he would listen to any suggestions of an extension from the Roma hierarchy even with the club set to miss out on Champions League football for the coming year.
A man who might be heading to the capital rather than away from it when his contract runs down to zilch over the summer is Julio Cruz. The super-sub, who helped to salvage a hatful of much needed the goals at the start of the 2007/08 campaign for the Nerazzurri, has featured fitfully since Jose Mourinho’s suave persona inhabited the San Siro hotseat and has struggled to gain affection with the sudden, unavoidable prominence of Mario Balotelli. Discussions on the peninsula have presented the theory that Spalletti will look to lure the Argentine striker to Roma over the summer months as cover for Mirko Vucinic and the walking wounded Francesco Totti.
Over at Inter, the departure of Cruz could spearhead a host of old heads clearing out their lockers at the champion’s training ground, with Olivier Dacourt and Hernan Crespo the most notable names on the list of players unlikely to be given renewed deals. Frenchman Dacourt has featured inconsistently since tearing ligaments in his left knee against Fiorentina in December 2007 and has been farmed out to English side Fulham until the end of the season but may only be stopping back in Milan to pick up his stuff when his deal elapses in June before either hopping off to England or maybe his homeland and the confines of Ligue Une.
Crespo is another man looking to walk away free of charge, which is a sad summation of the talented Argentine’s relegation to bit-part player in recent years. A two-year loan from his parent club Chelsea – a club on which he failed to make any lasting impression – was made permanent last summer but, after just one full start this time around, Crespo will now be looking to either the Spanish or Italian mid-to-top table teams for salvation.
Not all players with deals set to expire in the summer sun will be looking to prolong their playing days. Pavel Nedved has made it clear in the Press that his days of technically and aesthetically pleasing football will cease at the end of this year, with the former Czech international bringing to close an impressive career which saw him bag the Ballon d’Or in 2003.
Others like Giuseppe Favalli and Emerson could go either way when they exits are opened by the Rossoneri in June, as both are capable of continuing playing but also surely comfortable enough to call time. Emerson, a relative young buck in the Italian game at 33, turned heads when he joined the bloated ranks of the Milanese midfield in August 2007 but injuries have delayed him making a meaningful impact on the side, whilst Favalli has found himself like a man without a country over the recent years.
One institution in the legendary ranks of Milan will certainly not be planning any extensions – Paolo Maldini. Age has finally caught up on the long-serving icon of Italian defending and the 40-year-old looks set to take the prized number three shirt with him when he goes, with only his sons able to resurrect the number should they reach the upper echelons of Italian football.
Elsewhere, Portuguese-veteran Luis Figo looks set to finish his rather uneventful stay at the Giuseppe Meazza with a simple handshake and a goodbye. Once having commanded a €45m transfer fee to switch from Barcelona to vicious rivals Real Madrid, the 36-year old is now contemplating a rather different dénouement to his illustrious career with talk of moves to the Far East to ply his trade at great return or simply hang up his gifted boots for good.
Figo is set to be one of just many top quality players changing allegiances in the summer and with a wide array of players in a similar situation across the continent, all at just the cost of a signing on fee, there could also be some wildcards entering Italy from the leagues in England, Spain and France. Bosman has certainly added an entirely different dimension to the transfer market.