Free Agents XI Provides Some Stellar Skills
Premier League clubs published their Released Lists at the weekend with a number of huge hitters included now searching for a new club.
I’ve put together a formidable list of the biggest names available in the off-season.
Goalkeeper: Keiren Westwood
The Republic of Ireland keeper is no stranger to being a free agent, having signed for Sunderland in 2011 after his contract at Coventry City expired. His spell at the Stadium of Light has been blighted by injuries, which have also contributed to him losing his starting place with his national side. Simon Mignolet’s departure for Liverpool last summer was the perfect opportunity to cement his place in the Black Cats side. However, an injury in November led to Vito Mannone establishing himself as Gus Poyet’s preferred number one.
Left Back: Ashley Cole
Despite an emotional farewell at Stamford Bridge, and on Twitter, the timing of Cole’s departure could prove to be as impeccable as his tackling. The defender clearly feels he can still play at the top level and is targeting a two-year deal at a Champions League side as his next port of call. It just so happens that a host of such clubs have a possible vacancy at left-back. Liverpool, Manchester City and newly-crowned European champions Real Madrid are all rumoured to be interested with Monaco also entering the chase now that Patrice Evra is remaining at Old Trafford for another season.
Centre-Back: Rio Ferdinand
QPR had barely lifted the play-off trophy before the rumour mill began speculating on whom Harry Redknapp might sign to bolster his side for their return to the Premier League. Top of the list was Rio Ferdinand, released after twelve trophy-laden seasons at Old Trafford. While a move to the MLS is still Ferdinand’s likely destination, a reunion with his former West Ham boss is of interest, particularly as he considered Redknapp a mentor during the early stages of his career. However, QPR’s wage bill is already higher than Atlético Madrid’s and adding Ferdinand’s potentially gargantuan stipend to the payroll may put a dampener on any move.
Centre-Back: Joleon Lescott
While Manchester City may not have wanted him, there are a host of clubs clamouring for the signature of the former Everton centre-half. West Ham United have been heavily linked with the 31-year-old while Aston Villa, Hull City and Turkish side Besiktas have also entered the race. The latter may be of interest to Lescott, who has admitted that he has spoken to clubs in a number of countries. However, he was on around £90,000 per week at the Etihad and will need to take a substantial pay cut to secure a move to a new employer.
Right Back: John Heitinga
Fulham have reacted to relegation by culling half their squad, with the more experienced high-earning players departing Craven Cottage. Among them is John Heitinga who, despite turning 30 last November, still has a lot to offer to his next club. The vastly experienced defender has enjoyed spells at Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Everton and will have no shortage of suitors this summer. Heitinga will have no distractions during the transfer window – despite winning 87 caps for the Netherlands he’s been omitted from Louis van Gaal’s World Cup squad.
Left Wing: Damien Duff
While Arjen Robben has enjoyed another triumphant season at Bayern Munich, his fellow winger in Jose Mourinho’s first title-winning side at Chelsea has had a year to forget. The former Ireland winger couldn’t help save Fulham from the drop and has been released along with several other veterans as manager Felix Magath plots to earn promotion with a more youthful side. A move to the MLS, where he’d join former Ireland team-mate and friend Robbie Keane, has been touted but Duff remains characteristically tight-lipped about his future.
Centre Midfield: Frank Lampard
Chelsea’s highest ever goalscorer remains uncertain about his club future as he jets off to Brazil with Roy Hodgson’s England squad. Lampard was named on the club’s official ‘Released Players’ list at the weekend but there are rumours that he may yet sign on for one last season at Stamford Bridge. If he does move on there’ll be no shortage of clubs, at home and abroad, vying for his signature. He’s another West Ham alumni linked with a reunion with his uncle Harry Redknapp at QPR, but a move abroad seems most likely with several MLS clubs and Monaco among the favourites to snap up the 35-year-old.
Centre Midfield: Gareth Barry
It says a lot about Gareth Barry’s impact at Everton last season that there was some genuine surprise and regret amongst many critics that he did not make Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad. He arguably had more impact than Roberto Martinez’s other high-profile loan signings and became an essential part of the Toffees midfield. It seems likely that the versatile 33-year-old will remain at Everton but several clubs such as Arsenal and West Ham are willing to gazump Martinez with more lucrative offers.
Right Wing: Joe Cole
He starred as a youngster at West Ham under Harry Redknapp. He’s been released by his club, who’ll be glad to remove him from their wage bill, after a disappointing season. Yes, you’ve guessed it – Joe Cole is another big name who’s been linked with a move to QPR to link up with Redknapp. Cole’s career has been on a downward trajectory since he left Chelsea and, with his best days clearly behind him, a move to a lower league club may be his only option. The likes of Bournemouth, Brighton and Fulham have all been linked but, again, the MLS offers a potential final pay-day for the former England midfielder.
Striker: Samuel Eto’o
Despite netting nine goals, his only season at Chelsea was relatively disappointing for the Cameroonian striker. However, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan star will still represent a high-profile capture for whatever club he chooses as his next stop on a much-travelled career. Eto’o has hinted that he’d like to remain in London but only Arsenal and Spurs could even countenance meeting his exorbitant wage demands.
Striker: Marouane Chamakh
You wait ages for an out-of-contract, much derided former Arsenal striker and two come along at once. While Niklas Bendtner has been linked with a move to Burnley, Chamakh may represent a more suitable signing for the likes of The Clarets. The Moroccan had a relatively successful season at low-scoring Crystal Palace, where he could still remain next season. However, he’s been listed on their ‘Released List’, which allows other clubs to discuss a contract with him.
Mark Schwarzer, Liam Ridgewell, Marc Albrighton, Steve Sidwell, Federico Macheda, Zoltan Gera, Matthew Etherington