The transfer window for the summer has slammed shut, bringing an end to the soap opera that circles football for months at a time and leaves many shouting for money to be spent when there’s not always a need to splash the cash.
Once again, we were ‘treated’ to a record-breaking summer that saw Neymar and Ousmane Dembele move for mouth-watering fees, whilst an astonishing 14 Premier League sides broke their own transfer records this summer – including Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.
For all the money spent, it’s remarkable when you remember that money doesn’t always guarantee success and some minor deals end-up standing as bargains – just look at Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United last season and Esteban Cambiasso at Leicester City a couple of years ago.
The demand to spend heavily has never been higher, though, and free transfers never excite fans as much as a £50m addition does, which means that many top-players have been left without a club at the end of the summer window.
Here, we’ve assembled an XI of the best free agents – which may be coming to a club near you soon or, alternatively, they’re ones to remember for when you download Football Manager later this year.
GK: Shay Given
Now 41, there’s no doubt that Irish centurion Shay Given is well past his sell by date and probably already has a room reserved at a retirement home. However, he’s still more than capable of doing a decent job for a club – particularly in the lower leagues.
Released by Stoke City this summer, Given is remarkably yet to drop down the divisions fully but may have to in order to secure first-team football. He’d be a stellar signing for any side outside in the Premier League, particularly in League One or Two.
CB: Kolo Toure
Irish fans singing the Yaya/Kolo Toure song with a French fella and he is loving it! pic.twitter.com/MZqkw8Ov0r
— Football Chants (@FootyFansChants) August 24, 2017
Still kicking around at the age of 36, Kolo Toure boasts something that not many others can; going the entire season in the league undefeated with two different sides, having been a key part of Arsenal’s Invincibles side in 2003/04 and helping Brendan Rodgers’ side to a treble last season.
Following his release at the end of the season, the Ivorian defender is available on a free transfer and his performances for the Scottish champions last season show he’s more than capable of continuing to perform at a top level – which should attract the attention of the Premier League’s relegation candidates or any Championship side looking for experience in defence.
CB: Chico Flores
— The Jack Army (@The_JackArmy) August 30, 2017
Formerly of Swansea City, the Spanish defender has spent the last three years playing in Qatar but is without a side at the start of the season. At just 30, Flores has some years left in him and could be a quality addition to a lower-end side.
A return to Spain would probably be the most beneficial for the centre-back, though, where a relegation threatened side could be a good port of call, but he may be tempted to drop down to the Segunda Division to join one of his former employers: Almeria or Cadiz.
CB: Joleon Lescott
Joleon Lescott giving his forehead a run about on sky sports news I see. pic.twitter.com/F3kpIWjTCZ
— Darren ✌ (@comeonaspur) August 31, 2017
Now 35, it’s clear that Joleon Lescott doesn’t have too many years left in him and he may have to venture out of the Birmingham area to continue his career – having represented Wolves, West Brom and Aston Villa so far over the course of the past 17 years.
Making just six league appearances in the past two years with AEK Athens and Sunderland, Lescott will probably need to drop down the divisions if he is to earn more first-team opportunities – and cutting out the social media mishaps and sharing pictures of his luxury cars after a heavy defeat would also be beneficial.
CM: Jan Kirchhoff
— H (@HaydnD__) May 30, 2017
Having made seven first-team appearances for Bayern Munich, Jan Kirchhoff’s signature was deemed to be quite a coup for Sunderland in 2016 but the reality is that the German, who can play in midfield or defensively, was joining a sinking ship.
Still just 26, Kirchhoff has the ability to be a decent asset for a mid-table side in the Premier League or in the Bundesliga, where former employers Mainz may be worth a look-in. It’s unlikely he’ll ever get back to the heights of a team like Bayern but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
CM: Joe Ledley
— AC (@AlexChiles_) June 10, 2017
A key-part of Wales’ heroic side at last summer’s European Championships, 30-year-old Joe Ledley will be desperate to find a new side and get first-team football to bolster his chances of making the World Cup next summer – assuming the Welsh dragons qualify.
Released by Crystal Palace this summer after three years in South London, Ledley certainly possesses the ability to continue being a Premier League midfielder for a lower-level side and could also be an important asset to any side in the Championship eyeing promotion. We’re looking at you, Sunderland.
CM: Youssouf Mulumbu
"Dab if you're an £89m dancing Youssouf Mulumbu" pic.twitter.com/5lBAUjmMXE
— Niall (@Sanogology) February 26, 2017
It seems like the former West Brom man has been around for decades and it’s therefore surprising to see he’s still just 30, meaning he still has a number of years ahead of him. With experience at international level with Congo, earning 36 caps, and numerous years in English football, Mulumbu could be a bargain for numerous sides.
Released by Norwich this summer after just 18 appearances in two years, Mulumbu may have to find another Championship club or potentially return to France – where he started his career with a Paris Saint-Germain side that is very different to the club currently residing in the French capital.
RW: Giuseppe Rossi
Giuseppe Rossi is a free agent at the moment…
Not only am I still here, I'm scouting for us too, put me on the pay roll.
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) September 1, 2017
Former Manchester United striker and Football Manager hero Giuseppe Rossi has endured varied years since leaving English football, spending time with Fiorentina and numerous Spanish sides. Having been released by Celta Vigo, the 30-year-old is now on the hunt for a new employer.
Born in New Jersey, a move to the MLS is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility and the Italian international could equally return to his homeland or find another lower-end side in Spain. We’d advise a move to the United States though, where he could be a star.
CAM: Sulley Muntari
Sulley Muntari is fighting against the spiritual wickedness of racism in European soccer &ev'where it reveals itselfpic.twitter.com/Si1XClWtyI
— Jayson (@JayT584) May 16, 2017
Since leaving Portsmouth for Inter Milan in 2008, Sulley Muntari’s career has unfortunately been plagued by numerous racist incidents – the most recent of which saw him quit Pescara in April after being issued a yellow card for complaining about abuse during a match against Cagliari.
That means a continuation of the former Inter and AC Milan midfielder’s career in Italy is extremely unlikely and the 33-year-old Ghanian should certainly find a spot in a league that’s more welcoming, potentially in England, France or Germany.
LW: Jose Antonio Reyes
It's Jose Antonio Reyes' birthday today. Which offers us the perfect excuse to watch this goal again.. pic.twitter.com/t39ULo0M4U
— SportPesa (@SportPesa_UK) September 1, 2017
Formerly Arsenal’s most expensive signing, the Spanish forward has been a journeyman on the continent since leaving the Gunners in 2007; representing the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Sevilla and Espanyol.
Now without a club for the 2017/18 season, the 34-year-old will probably remain in Spain and may have to lower his sights to join a relegation candidate or a side in the second division. Newly promoted outfits like Girona, Levante and Getafe could be ideal clubs for the veteran.
ST: Claudio Pizarro
To celebrate the anniversary, let's take another look at this 😍 pic.twitter.com/qGVrV35YIT
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) August 28, 2017
Now 38, it’s highly unlikely the former Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen man will earn himself a long-term deal or a stint with a top-side. However, his experience could be extremely valuable to a lower-end side and the opportunity to start his coaching career could be too good to turn down.
That would likely see the Peruvian international remain within German football, whilst a move to Qatar or China could come about if he intends to continue with his playing career. In reality, though, focusing on the next step of his footballing career would probably be the most beneficial.