Blackout and older model boots are more often than not a key indicators that a player is – or is soon to be – out of contract with their technical sponsor, and are therefore free to start negotiating with other brands. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the five best players who are “on the market”.

A boot contract or sponsorship deal is an easy way for a player to bolster their already significant incomes, while for the brands, having the biggest and best players is a tap in when it comes to marketing their products. Players will often sign multi-year deals that will tie them to a brand for a set period, in which they can obviously only wear that brand’s boots. But when that contract is up, or soon to expire, you’re free to start looking elsewhere, and you can bet that other brands will be battling to bolster their squads with some big name signings.

Of course, some players may enjoy the freedom of not having a contract, allowing them to wear whatever they choose, and that’s something we’ve talked about before, but most will look to switch allegiance, negotiating a bumper new deal on the way.

With several big name players currently appearing to be out of contract, we take a look at the five biggest.

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Erling Haaland

Starting with the most obvious, and probably the most coveted, Erling Haaland has been without a boot sponsor since his deal with Nike ended back in January 2022, sparking rampant speculation and a three way battle for his signature between Nike, adidas and PUMA. But every time it seems that the saga is coming to an end, Haaland throws a curve ball, to the point where it feels like he's actually doing it for fun.

Despite kicking off his time in the Premier League in adidas, the Norwegian usually plays in older Nike models, although he has recently been lacing up in the Air Zoom Mercurial Vapor from the 'Lucent Pack', a fairly recent release. And he has even been spotted in the brand new 'Blast Pack' Phantom GX – so does a new deal with Nike seem the most likely? If there's one thing we've learnt over the last 12 months with Haaland, it's don't bet on it.

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Vinícius Júnior

A very interesting one for Real Madrid's Brazilian star, who has had quite a public and widely reported falling out with Nike. As a result, he's now looking to get his contract with the Swoosh terminated, a move that would see him free to negotiate a move to another brand – adidas and PUMA will be on high alert as they monitor the situation.

On-pitch, the biggest indicator that Vini is not on good terms with Nike is that he has been wearing both blackout Nike boots as well as older models – the two key signs that a contract is either up, or soon to be. No indication yet about how long the legal wrangling could drag on for, so will have to wait to see if we see the attacker in anything other than old or blacked out Nikes any time soon.

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Jack Grealish

This one has come out of the blue somewhat, given that Grealish has been a Nike player since his academy days, and was also one of the key players to be used at the World Cup to launch the new Nike Phantom GX. But, when a contract's up, a contract's up, and that seems to be the case for the City attacker, after he was recently spotted playing in blackout versions of the Phantom GX.

Add to that that he's been seen training in PUMA boots plus the fact that he's removed Nike from his social media profile, and it looks likely that a change is on the horizon. Reports suggest that PUMA – who also sponsor Grealish's team, Man City – are set to offer the England international a ‘a blockbuster record-breaking boot deal for a British player’ that would eclipse the previous £4million a season that Harry Kane and Gareth Bale raked in. Mark this one down as likely to happen in the near future.

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Rafael Leão

Rafa Leão is undoubtedly one of the up-and-coming talents in World Football right now, and while he currently plies his trade with Serie A defending champions AC Milan, you can bet that there will be a host of suitors lining up to take him away this summer, likely to the Premier League. And with his club future is up for grabs, it seems so too is his boot sponsorship.

Like Haaland, Leão appears to be enjoying a little bit of freedom as he negotiates a new deal, with Nike and adidas the frontrunners. It had looked like adidas had all but nailed the Portuguese down, only for him to appear recently in an old pair of Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII from the ‘Clash Pack’, and even more recently on the training ground in the Nike Phantom GX 'Blast Pack'. However, in the 1-0 loss to Inter Milan this past weekend, he wore the adidas X Speedportal + from the brand new 'Own Your Football' pack. Looks like this one is still in the balance for now.

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Kai Havertz

Another one that's come out of nowhere, although the signs were there, is Kai Havertz, who is looking like his time with the Swoosh may be coming to an end. The German played against Fulham in a blackout pair of Phantom GX this weekend, and this was on the back of working his way through most colourways of the Phantom GT II over the last few weeks, including the early 2022 'Shadow Pack' version – a look not normally worn by professionals.

Generally speaking, when a new generation of a boot is released by a brand then athletes that wear those boots would be expected to make the switch, so Havertz not doing so was a sign that all was not as it should be. And this latest appearance in the blackout Phantom GX all but confirms that he is soon to be out of contract with Nike. 

Keep one eye on SoccerBible to find out all the latest boot news as and when it happens.