With the end of the season comes the expiration of contracts, and as Premier League teams begin the offseason and the end of June nears, more and more clubs are working to pin down their rosters and make room for imminent transfer arrivals.
Manchester United announced the release of 15 players on Friday, including captain Antonio Valencia and midfielder Ander Herrera, while Arsenal confirmed the departure of striker Danny Welbeck.
The Red Devils have cleaned house, although most of the departures are youth players who never made an impact on the first team squad. The most notable names are Valencia and Herrera, with the former ending a 10-year career at Old Trafford that saw the Ecuadorian international rack up 339 appearances and score 25 goals while assisting 62 more. Valencia hoisted two Premier League championship trophies and won domestic cup competitions three times, also winning the Europa League once.
At 33 years old, Valencia made just six Premier League appearances for the club this past season, and his time at Old Trafford was clearly coming to an end. It will be interesting to see where Valencia lands should he decide to continue playing.
Herrera, meanwhile, is leaving Manchester United still in the prime of his career. At 29 years old, Herrera made 28 appearances last season and was an integral part of the Red Devils midfield. Still, with his contract expiring and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leaving Herrera out of the squad a number of times down the stretch, the Red Devils decided not to extend the Spaniard and he moves on from the club after five years at Old Trafford.
Juan Mata was not on the released list despite his contract ending this summer, instead appearing on the retained list, and reports in England indicate that he has been offered a new contract which the club is hopeful he will sign. At 31 years old, Mata has been with the Red Devils since joining from Chelsea in 2014, and while he was not a regular starter for the club this season, he is still an important squad player racking up over 1,700 minutes across all competitions.
Welbeck sees a five-year Arsenal career come to a close as he departs the Emirates on the expiration of his contract. The 28-year-old England international made 126 appearances for the Gunners but was hampered by consistent injury problems, with his knee, ankle, hip, and groin all troubling him at some stage or another. He began this season as a consistent option off the bench for Unai Emery but suffered a broken ankle in early November and never returned to action. Still in the prime of his career, Welbeck could be an important free transfer for a club that is willing to take the risk brought on by his injury history, and if he can find some luck and stay healthy, he could still have an impact wherever he should land.