Transfers

Bargain bucket: Seven free agents your club could still sign

 • by Tom Bodell
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The European and Premier League transfer deadlines have passed but clubs can still sign free agents – provided they were released from their existing contract prior to the window shutting.

Thanks to the inflated transfer market and the mega-sums paid for superstars, finding a bargain is easier said than done in 2019. But these free agents could be just that, and we’ve run the rule over seven your club could still sign.

Wilfried Bony

Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony is one of our free agents who could be signed

It’s hard to believe but, as recently as August 31, 2017, Bony was still a Manchester City player. The Ivorian forward’s big-money switch to the Etihad Stadium proved his undoing and he made just 15 Premier League starts after joining from Swansea City in a £28million deal in January 2015.

Bony made a romantic return to South Wales in 2017 but it didn’t work out. In two years he made nine starts, scoring just three times, before being released this summer. Still only 30, the powerful forward has spent the summer back in Wales training at League Two side Newport County.

“My agent is talking with some clubs in Italy and Turkey also,” Bony told BBC Sport in August. “We are waiting for the best offer and then after discussing it, we will try to go there and sign. I hope to find a club as soon as possible.”

Brighton & Hove Albion have been linked most recently while Internazionale reportedly considered him as an alternative to Edin Džeko.

While he has not performed at the top level for some time now, Bony’s hold-up play and line-leading ability could make him a useful pick-up as a free agent.

Hatem Ben Arfa

Another free agent whose big move turned into a nightmare, Ben Arfa looked to be on his way to the top when he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in July 2016 after netting 18 times in 37 appearances for Nice the previous season.

But amid a galaxy of stars at the Parc des Princes, Ben Arfa’s first-team opportunities were limited. He made just five Ligue 1 starts during the 2016/17 campaign and a total of 23 outings before being banished to the reserves.

Ben Arfa did not make a single senior appearance for Les Parisiens from that point on and later took the club to court over harassment claims, suing for €8million in damages after being frozen out for 17 months.

The French international spent last season with Rennes, gaining revenge over PSG in the Coupe de France final as his new side beat his previous employers, but left in the summer.

Controversy has tended to follow Ben Arfa – right back to his days in England with Newcastle United – but there is no doubting his talent.

Ignazio Abate

Milan defender Ignazio Abate is one of the free agents your club could sign

A stalwart of more than 300 Milan appearances, 22 caps for Italy and three major tournaments with the Azzurri, you’d be hard pushed to find better experience among the free agents currently available.

After a decade at San Siro, right-back Abate departed this summer and had looked set for a reunion with former Milan team-mate Mario Balotelli at Serie A new-boys Brescia before the deal fell through.

A popular figure at Milan thanks to his full-blooded displays, the 32-year-old was saluted by Rossoneri ultras in the Curva Sud during his final appearance at San Siro in May with a banner which read: “Ten years of commitment and humility. You’ve gained the respect of the Ultras. Thank you Ignazio.” The full-back promptly broke down in tears.

Despite only making 19 Serie A appearances last term, Abate averaged the tenth-most forward passes for a full-back with 23.45 per 90. Quick and good at beating men, Abate should get a top-flight move somewhere.

Lewis Holtby

Former Hamburg midfielder Lewis Holtby is one of the free agents still available

At one point seen as one of the most exciting young talents coming out of Germany, Holtby’s switch to Tottenham Hotspur from Schalke in January 2013 appeared to signal his coming of age.

In fact, Spurs were so keen to get Holtby in they paid £1.5million to bring his move forward instead of waiting until the summer to get him for free.

But things did not work out for Holtby in the Premier League and after loan spells at Fulham and Hamburg, he returned to his homeland to join HSV on a permanent basis in the summer of 2015 having made just 42 appearances for Spurs in all competitions.

A technically gifted midfield who can slalom between the lines and link the play, Holtby was released this summer after Hamburg failed to win promotion back to the top flight.

At just 28 he is in his prime and a potential return to these isles looked to be on when it was reported by German tabloid BILD he had opened talks with Championship side Cardiff City. A deal failed to materialise, though.

Danny Simpson

Danny Simpson's Premier League stats for Leicester City in 2017/18

A Premier League title winner with Leicester City, Simpson’s time at the King Power came to an end last season as he was phased out by the arrival of Ricardo Pereira from Porto.

“In hindsight, I probably could have stayed but Ricardo Pereira, since he’s come into Leicester, has been fantastic and I didn’t want to be second choice,” he told Goals on Sunday.

The 32-year-old had been set to join Scottish champions Celtic on trial, according to reports north of the border, but the arrival of Hatem Abd Elhamed put paid to that and Simpson remains on the list of free agents.

More recent reports claim the former Manchester United academy product could move to France with Ligue 1 side Amiens keen.

Fábio Coentrão

Former Real Madrid defender Fábio Coentrão is one of the free agents available to clubs

Signed by Real Madrid from Benfica in 2011, Coentrão only made 58 LaLiga appearances in eight years at the Bernabéu, spending time away on loan at Sporting and Monaco before terminating his contract last summer to rejoin Rio Ave – his first professional club.

The versatile Portuguese, who is still only 31, spent a season back in Liga NOS but at the end of the campaign having made 22 appearances for the side, now coached by former Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Coentrão, who became the second-most expensive defender ever when he joined Real for £27million from Benfica, had looked set to join Greek side PAOK before having a change of heart.

He plans to dedicate his time to his other love when he retires – fishing – but for the time being Coentrão is focused on finding a new club.

“My future begins with what I am doing. Train and keep fit to be ready to accept a new project. Let’s see what is presented,” he told Record

Claudio Marchisio

Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is one of the free agents your club could sign

The Italian midfielder was a key component in Juventus‘ midfield during a dominant decade but knee troubles eventually limited his ability to play regularly. So Marchisio packed his bags and left Turin for Zenit St. Petersburg last summer after the Bianconeri agreed to end his contract early.

But despite scoring twice in nine outings for the Russian giants the 33-year-old’s stay was brief and, this summer, the two parties agreed to go their separate ways despite Marchisio having a year left on his contract with Zenit.

A smooth and classy user of the ball who can perform a number of varied midfield roles, injuries have restricted the Turin native to 29 league starts in the last three seasons. But with his experience and ability to pull the strings from deep, Marchisio still has something to offer.

His leadership and experience – lifting 15 honours with the Old Lady – could prove priceless, too.

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