Who are the best players still available on a free transfer?

Jack Wilshere

The international window slammed shut on Monday at 11pm after what was the quietest deadline day for quite some time. 

In fact, deadline day has now become less of a spectacle. Long done are the days of fans waving rather strange objects behind reporters on Sky Sports News, things are now far more reserved.

But not only are the supporters quieter, but clubs are too. On deadline day in 2014, 25 signings were made by Premier League clubs. However, six years later, just 12 moves were completed. 

Of course, much of this has to do with the ongoing pandemic, but there were only 18 moves done in total by the English top-flight last year. 

The biggest this season was Thomas Partey’s switch from Atletico Madrid to Arsenal in a £45m deal. 

Bigger fees were few and far between over the course of the 2020 summer window, with plenty of clubs pursuing cheaper deals. You only need to look at Tottenham’s recruitment to understand that. They loaned Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius, after signing Matt Doherty, Joe Hart and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for a combined £27m. 

Speaking of the cheaper side of football, there are still a number of free agents that could be snapped up now the window is closed.

Gareth Bale

But who are they? Here are the ten best available options. 

10. Fabio Borini 

This is never a player who is going to set the world alight but on a free transfer, there are certainly worse options than Fabio Borini.

Capped just once by his country, Italy, the 29-year-old is now a free agent after leaving Hellas Verona behind. He was linked with a move to Aston Villa during the course of the window and Premier League clubs could do with a player of his versatility.

Throughout Borini’s career to date, he’s played in ten positions, predominantly as a forward. However, he’s also popped up at left-back and right-back on a few separate occasions. He is the very definition of a utility man.

Borini at Hellas Verona

9. Nathaniel Clyne

There are a number of injury-prone players on this list and ultimately, that probably suggests why they’re a free agent. That being said, Clyne is an England international and would be a solid acquisition for someone looking for added depth this season.

Remarkably, he is still only 29, but has missed a staggering 92 games in the last three seasons. It would be a gamble but if he can rediscover his fitness, he’d be an astute capture. You don’t play 14 times for England for no reason.

Nathaniel Clyne

8. Daniel Sturridge 

Surprise, surprise. Another injury-prone player. Daniel Sturridge spent last season at Trabzonspor but found himself falling down the pecking order as a result of Alexander Sorloth’s quite outrageous form in Turkey. A player who once scored 22 in 29 for Liverpool, Sturridge clearly knows where the back of the net is, but it’s his fitness that lets him down.

Still, if he’s willing to drop as low as the Championship or to the bottom echelons of the Premier League, he’d be a solid enough pick up on a free transfer.

Daniel Sturridge

7. Shinji Kagawa

If you’re in need of a little bit of extra creativity and nous in the final third, then there would be few better additions in a central area than Kagawa. 

He may not have enjoyed a prolific spell in the Premier League with Manchester United, but he showed Spanish audiences last year than he more than has what it takes to compete at the highest level.

Capped an outstanding 97 times by Japan, he scored four goals and produced two assists in 26 outings for Real Zaragoza last season. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but it’s not bad for someone who could be a solid squad player in English football. He is definitely worth pursuing.


6. Jack Wilshere

Wilshere’s West Ham journey came to an end on deadline day in rather sad fashion. A boyhood Hammer, he revealed that despite being fit for large portions of last season, he simply wasn’t afforded an opportunity to play. It’s good for all parties that he’s been handed the chance to find himself another club on a free transfer but like Clyne and Sturridge, much depends on his fitness.

On his day, he is a superb footballer. Wilshere carries the ball forward beautifully and isn’t afraid to play a defence-splitting pass. All he wants to do is play football and with that in mind, a lower wage could be in the offing. After leaving West Ham behind, he’s now been linked with Rangers.

Jack Wilshere

5. Ezequiel Garay

Manchester United could do with a defender, so why don’t they pursue a move for someone that nearly joined them seven years ago? David Moyes was in charge when a deal was almost struck, but ultimately he didn’t join. Of course, Garay is now past his best at the age of 33, but he still performed to an adequate standard at Valencia last season.

The Argentine played 23 times in all competitions so is still in pretty good condition. He would be a fairly solid short-term fix for the Red Devils, or for anyone that needs added depth in defence.

Ezequiel Garay

4. Hatem Ben Arfa

One of the stand out options in the free-agent market is the former Newcastle wizard, Ben Arfa. Cast your minds back to April 2012 and you’ll remember the Frenchman running from inside his own half before scoring a mesmeric solo goal. Those days might be behind the 33-year-old, but he’s still a very threatening player. 

In 2018/19, he scored seven times in Ligue 1 for Rennes, producing a dazzling 4.5 dribbles per game. He may have lost a yard of pace, but he still knows how to beat his market. 

Hatem Ben Arfa

3. Alen Halilovic 

This would be a tremendous pick-up for a number of teams, especially on a free transfer. Possessing bags of potential at the age of 24, Halilovic was once one of the best young midfielders coming through European football. 

The Croatian moved from Dinamo Zagreb to Barcelona in 2014 but unfortunately, never reached the heights expected of him. Since then, he’s joined both Hamburg and Milan on permanent deals but has been subject to loan moves elsewhere. His last was with Heerenveen in the Netherlands.

During that spell, he scored once and assisted a solitary strike, but under the right manager, he could flourish. He is worth the risk. 

Alen Halilovic in action for AC Milan

2. Danny Welbeck 

The former Arsenal striker has found himself in a similar sort of situation to Wilshere. His wages are big and after a season where he was fighting for his fitness at Watford, he has now had his contract with the Hornets mutually terminated

Of course, injuries have got the better of him in recent years but he’s still a fabulous option. He is capped 42 times by England and before his breaking his ankle in 2018/19, had started the season with five goals in 14 appearances. 

You only need to look at his stunning overhead kick for Watford at the back end of last term to realise he still has what it takes too. 

Danny Welbeck

1. Mario Mandzukic

Undoubtedly the best option on this list is World Cup runner-up, Mandzukic. The Croatian is now 34 but offers a great deal to any teams forward line. His last club was in Saudi Arabia but he is so much better than playing in a league of that calibre.

He scored ten goals for Juventus in 2018/19, and as well as possessing the ability to play through the middle, can also play out wide. 

Mario Mandzukic

With Manchester United landing Edinson Cavani, it shows that there is a market for ageing strikers. Certainly, with the hold-up skills that Mandzukic has, he’d be a sound signing if the wages are right. Perhaps Premier League clubs ought to take a look. 

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