• Matt Daley

BEST FREE AGENTS XI: TEAM INCLUDES WORLD CUP FINALISTS, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS AND MORE


The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many questions for clubs not just up and down the country, but around the footballing world. Many clubs have felt the effects of the lack of regular income from ticket prices. With the fans not being allowed back into grounds, clubs have had to heighten their belts as the threat of administration and liquidation looms over many. 

Figures estimated before the start of the season that 1,400 players from England’s Football League and Non-League teams would see their contracts with their clubs ended, allowing them to join any other club for free. 

Although the transfer window closed on October 16th, players without a club are able to sign for a new club whenever they want.  

Since 2010, many world-class players have moved clubs for nothing; Robert Lewandowski, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have joined clubs on a free contract. 

There are still players out there looking for a new club, many of which would be more than useful for teams around the globe. I have compiled World Cup finalists, Champions League winners and former European Golden Boy winners into an XI, to showcase who is available. 

GOALKEEPER

Warner Hahn

Not many football fans outside The Netherlands would be too familiar with the Dutch born colossus Hahn.

Released from mid-table Eredivisie side Heerenveen in July, Hahn stands tall at 6ft,3ins and is very comfortable in the air. 

Having spent three years in Ajax’s famed academy, the keeper spent time at Zwolle, Feyenoord and Excelsior before moving to Heerenveen.

The 28-year-old has played 110 games in the Dutch top flight, keeping 22 clean sheets. 

Young for a keeper, Hahn has plenty of years ahead of him if he can stay fit, having suffered two serious knee injuries, one of which kept him out of action for the whole of 2016, as well as two shoulder injuries; having missed over 60 league matches through injury since 2015. 

Swansea City were interested in the keeper- who has 14 caps for the Dutch U-21 side- last year and would be a good capture for many championship clubs. 

RIGHT BACK

Daryl Jaanmat 

A solid right back with a tendency to get forward when he can, Jaanmat made his name in the Netherlands with first Heerenveen, and then Feyenoord, making over 150 appearances in his homeland before his £5.4 million move to Newcastle.

A mixed few years at St James’ Park followed, winning Supporters Player of the Year in his first campaign, followed by relegation to the second tier in his final season. 

After signing for Watford, Jaanmat appeared 85 times in all competitions, helping The Hornets to the FA Cup final in 2019. 

A knee injury had ruled the Dutchman out of action since November last year, however in an interview with the ‘Watford Observer’, he admits he is fit enough to play and is ready to find a new club.

34 appearances for The Netherlands, including a World Cup Semi-Final, the 31-year-old brings needed experience to any defence.

CENTRE BACKS

Daniel Schwaab 

Having most recently spent four years at PSV, Schwaab is looking for his fifth club of his very respectable career that currently spans 14 years. 

Having played over 300 games in Germany for SC Freiburg, Bayer Leverkusen and VFB Stuttgart, the German moved to Holland where he played over 100 times for PSV.

Schwaab has European experience too, playing 15 times in the Champions League and 16 in the Europa League.

The centre half has been a more than capable defender all his career, standing at 6ft 2ins he is strong in the air, winning 60% of his aerial duels last season, as well as very comfortable on the ball, having also been deployed at right back during his career. 

At 32, Schwaab still has a few years left in professional football- and with the likes of Gary Cahill and Jonny Evans still playing week in week out for their clubs, the German would be a smart acquisition for Premier League clubs. 

Ezequiel Garay

Coming out of a four-year stint in Spain with Valencia, Garay, 34, has had a career many would be jealous of.

Having amassed a total of over £40 million in transfer fees, the highest being the £21 million pound deal that saw him move from Zenit St. Petersburg to Valencia, the Argentinian has spent most of his long career in Spain. 

Moving to Europe in 2006, Garay spent two seasons at Racing Santander before arriving at Real Madrid for £9 million. 

Garay’s stock was highest in 2014, part of the Argentina side that finished runners up at the World Cup in Brazil, with serious links for a move to Manchester United silenced when Garay moved to Zenit that summer. 

With 32 caps for his nation, Garay is a leader in the dressing room and reads the game excellently, maybe a short-term deal at Liverpool would be an option as the Reds have Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk out for lengthy spells. 

LEFT BACK

Gael Clichy 

There is not much that hasn't been said about the Frenchman since he left Istanbul Basaksehir this summer, with media outlets pointing clubs towards the services of the experienced full back. 

A member of Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’ team in 2004, the defender has left a strong impression since his time at Highbury and The Emirates.

He may be 35 and in the twilight of his career, but the 20-time capped French international has played over 100 times for current Turkish league champions Istanbul Basaksehir since his move from Manchester City in 2017. 

With almost 400 games in English football and over 100 in European competitions, the Frenchman can offer both solidity and experience in a team's back line.

He may not have the pace he once had, but since his move to Turkey, his defensive positioning has improved, and could still give a club, possibly in his homeland or in Italy, a decent season or two before retirement. 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS

Jack Wilshere 

Wilshere looked to have the world at his feet in 2011, when his ‘Man of the Match’ performance in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Barcelona oozed both class and professionalism whilst only aged 19.

Now at the age of 28, Wilshere is without a club and is attempting to get his career back on track, leaving West Ham United after a torrid two years where he only made 18 appearances. 

With a 93% take-on success, and 89% pass completion in the 2018/19 season shows that he still has the talent that any team in Europe looks for. 

However, with his long list of injury troubles, and uncertainty on how much game time he will be able to play, clubs will be weary of signing the former shining light of English football.

A player he has had many comparisons with in Xavi, has urged the English midfielder to join Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side, after reports say Wilshere is in deep discussion with the Scottish side. 

Alen Halilovic

Another player that seemed to have the potential to become a world class footballer was Alen Halilovic. The Croatian was signed by Barcelona in 2014, after showing promise at his boyhood club Dinamo Zagreb, where he became the clubs youngest ever player in 2012. 

Halilovic is also Croatia’s youngest ever player making his debut in 2013.

However, he was not able to fulfil his potential at the Nou Camp, signing for SV Hamburg in 2016, and then moving again to AC Milan in 2018.

Having spent the 2019/20 season out on loan at Heerenveen, scoring once in 17 appearances, Halilovic was released by his parent club Milan on his return to the San Siro.

Skilful and attack minded creating 2.3 chances per 90 minutes in Holland, Halilovic, at the age of 24 still has plenty of time to show the world what he can do, and with a manager who can nurture him, he could certainly get his career back on track.

Kwadwo Asamoah

The versatile Ghanaian has had a long and prosperous career in Italy, signing for Udinese on a permanent contract in 2009 after a loan spell the previous season.

For four years, Asamoah was one of the first names on the team sheet, playing all 38 games in the 2010/11 season.

Moving to Juventus in 2012, the Ghanaian won 13 pieces of silverware in Turin, playing over 150 times for The Old Lady. 

Deployable in the middle of the park, Asamoah has spent his career being the man to do the dirty work, rotating between the left flank, either in defence or midfield, as well in the centre of the pitch. 

Ever reliable, with a great cross, the man with 74 caps for his country would be an astute signing for any club looking for Europa League football, although, his style of play would seem that staying in Italy would be his best option. 

FORWARDS

Daniel Sturridge

“If he stays fit, he would be an amazing signing for anyone.” This has probably been said by every pundit and journalist in the country.

However, it seems Sturridge is always out with an injury, which led to Liverpool releasing the forward in 2019. 

Trabzonspor picked him up on a free transfer in 2019, both scoring and assisting four goals in his 11 matches in Turkey, before being banned for betting offences.

Everyone knows the class the Englishman has, even though he has lost a bit more than just a yard of pace, his left foot still has the accuracy of a tracer bullet. 

68 goals in 160 matches for the Reds shows his talent, and although he has not been able to prove his class fully in recent years, he still has the ability to finish a scoring chance when one arises. 

Mario Mandzukic 

It was less than 12 months ago that the Croat was in line for a loan move to Manchester United, and since then he has only made five goalless appearances for Qatari club Al-Duhail.

Before 2020, Mandzukic had spent the past decade being a consistent performer at the top of European football, playing for Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus. 

The 6ft 3ins target man is a threat in the air, winning over 60% of his aerial duels. His 48 goals in 88 appearances for Bayern shows how effective he once was and could still be.

The former Croatia forward has a stellar international career, scoring 33 times in 89 matches, including a goal in the 2018 World Cup Final against France.

It would be a risk to bring in the big striker, but if used correctly, a team can have a very effective talisman on their books. 

Alexandre Pato

After winning the Golden Boy award in 2009, Alexandre Pato’s career to many has been a failure to reach his undoubted potential. 

57 goals in his first 125 matches for AC Milan saw Pato become a household name in European football.

As like many on this list, injuries were the cause of the downfall of the charismatic forward.

Multiple injuries in his last two seasons in Milan saw the young forward lose some of his electric pace as he only made 15 league appearances in the two years. 

A small comeback in his homeland where he scored a respectable 55 goals in 160 matches saw a return to Europe, first with a loan to Chelsea and then a permanent switch to Villareal. 

More positive results in China followed before another return to Brazil, with Sao Paulo, where he last played, scoring four times in 13 matches in 2020.

If the confidence of the man who once lit up Europe can return, and a coach can get the best out of him, then without a doubt the Brazilian can become the complete forward that we once expected. 

Would you like to see any of these players play for your club? Or at least see them lighting up European football once again?