The transfer window may be closed but there are plenty of experienced, top level players available for free
Many fans of English top flight clubs are disappointed with their activity, or lack thereof, in the market this summer. Liverpool only signed a backup centre back. Newcastle made only one real acquisition of note. Burnley left it late to make their only significant signing of the window. The market has been complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic and even in the richest league in the world, many clubs have been hit hard.
What if your club could bring in some experienced, top level players for free? That's where the free agent market comes in. There are several high profile players currently without clubs who could surely come in and do a job, at the very least for a relegation threatened team. In these times of frugality, what's better than picking up a player with a track record for only the cost of wages? The risk is very low. As long as your club doesn't throw around Barcelona contracts, some of these names are worth a shot for a year or two.
Here are four of the more noteworthy names on that free agents list:
The 28-year-old Ivory Coast international just left Spurs after his contract expired. Despite this recent shifting of the goalposts in which players over 25 seem to be considered over-the-hill, at 28, Aurier is in his prime. He doesn't have a shocking injury record. Last season he was out for a total of 30 days with some minor knocks and a foot injury. He made 77 appearances for Spurs at right back chipping in with a decent number of assists from that position, including 5 in 33 Premier League games in 2019-20. Aurier isn't going to be displacing the likes of Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold any time soon but he could surely elevate a team lower down the table. The Ivorian is said to be open to a move to Arsenal. Controversial as it would surely be, that switch could reignite his career and help him bring some quality to a squad that sorely needs it.
30-year-old Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez has always been a patchy player. He endured a frustrating period in England in which he played for Southampton, Hull and Middlesbrough. His talent has always been there for everyone to see since his days at Bologna in the early part of his career. He's a talented playmaker who also has strength and grit, but for whatever reason he wasn't able to consistently replicate his form from Serie A in the Premier League. After returning to Italy with Sampdoria, he played 115 games and largely impressed, chipping in with a decent number of goals and assists for an at best mid-table side, before struggling for game time last season. His experience playing in England and Italy, as well as representing his country at major tournaments, makes Ramirez a player well worth taking a risk on, especially in the bottom half of the Premier League or top six in the Championship.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Some Newcastle fans have been clamouring for a return from their former player Hatem Ben Arfa for years. The Frenchman became a cult hero during his four seasons at St. James' Park and would surely be welcomed back with open arms by the Geordie faithful. At 34, he doesn't quite have the legs he used to have but he could offer something different to a lot of clubs who are perhaps lacking creativity, Newcastle included. Apart from a short spell in Spain at Valladolid, he's been back in France playing for Nice, PSG, Rennes and most recently Bordeaux. He managed two goals and four assists in 24 games in Ligue 1 last season - not the kind of numbers that inspire much confidence granted, but as a super sub, rotation type player he could surely contribute something at the highest level for at least one more season.
The tragic story of Jack Wilshire has been in the news again recently after his candid interview with David Ornstein for The Athletic. The 29-year-old's career has been plagued by injuries. During a decade spent at Arsenal, he featured in only 125 Premier League games, around a third of those for which he would have been eligible. He tried to resurrect his career at Bournemouth and West Ham but struggled for consistent fitness and form. He's now a free agent looking for a club. Make no mistake, Jack Wilshire is and was one of the greatest ever products of the English youth system. In terms of pure talent, there are few that can touch him. In his first days at Arsenal, England fans were joyfully imagining the major honours he might bring home for the country.
It's all gone wrong for Jack, and mostly through no fault of his own. Of course, football clubs aren't charities and it's not their responsibility to sign players out of the goodness of their hearts, but if his workload were managed well, he could contribute something in the Premier League again. He still has fantastic touch, vision, passing. If he can be kept fit, surely he could bring something to the table for a newly promoted club. In recent weeks, Wilshire had been training alone until he was invited to train with Serie B side Como but he will unfortunately be unable to register for them due to his non-EU passport.
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