The Premier League transfer window may have slammed shut last week but clubs still have the freedom to dabble in the free agent market.
As managers now get to grips with their current playing squads, some may feel they underinvested in the summer and there are still one or two discernible vulnerabilities that need patching up.
The likes of Juventus have proven in the past that you don’t need to jeopardise the balance sheets in order to improve a squad, instead showing that a free transfer can be just as influential as a marquee acquisition.
So, will clubs in England follow the Old Lady’s blueprint and take a punt on a freebie? Well, there are still a number of top players unattached and looking for their next footballing venture, and we’ve ranked the current top 10.
10. Andrea Bertolacci
Former club: AC Milan
Position: Central midfield
Released from the Rossoneri earlier this summer, Bertolacci’s four-year stint at the San Siro was plagued by inconsistency and injury problems, with the Roman never truly establishing himself as a prominent first-team member following his £19m move from Genoa in 2015.
Such was his form for the Griffin that Antonio Conte handed him six caps for the Italian national team when he was head of Gli Azzurri, while he also impressed during a loan spell back at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris during the 2017/18 season. The dynamic footballer is still only 28 and could yet transform any midfield should he rediscover his early-career form.
9. Fabio Coentrao
Former club: Rio Ave
It never quite worked out for the 52-time Portugal international at Real Madrid after relocating to the Bernabeu from Benfica with high expectations in 2011 but, at just 31, the seasoned defender would still be a tidy piece of business for any middling club.
He left the Spanish capital to return to boyhood club Rio Ave in 2018, but both parties went their separate ways this summer and, so, the buccaneering full-back is now on the hunt for his next adventure, though he recently made an Eleventh Hour transfer U-turn on Greek outfit PAOK, so he remains up for grabs.
8. Ignazio Abate
Former club: AC Milan
Italian football’s equivalent to Kyle Walker: a right-back with pace and power to burn. The Italian stalwart closed the curtains on his decade-long spell at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium at the end of the season, captaining his side out to a cauldron of noise during his final home appearance against Frosinone, which prompted the 32-year-old to break down in tears.
That emotional farewell illustrated just how highly-regarded Abate is in Milan, and with the full-back still being in the prime years of his career, he could prove a hit at most top-flight clubs should someone take a gamble, adding great tenacity and speed to any defence.
7. Claudio Marchisio
Former club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
Position: Central midfield
The Juventus legend most recently turned out for Russian Premier League champions Zenit Saint Petersburg but terminated his contract prematurely last month and is now a free agent, though the main problem is, he only recently recovered from knee surgery and will be severely lacking in match sharpness.
But as the old adage goes: ‘form is temporary, class is permanent.’ And Marchisio’s name is almost synonymous with class, with the 55-capped Italy international in that rare bracket of majestic midfielders who exude elegance. At 33, he is certainly in the twilight years of his career, but his innate technical ability would still thrive if deployed in any industrious midfield.
6. Markel Susaeta
Former club: Athletic Bilbao
The one-time Spain international expressed his desire to see out his career at the San Mames Stadium but along with stalwarts Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Rico, the trio left Los Leones at the end of the campaign. With the small pool of players available to Gaizka Garitano, as per the club’s cantera policy – or, unwritten law dictating that they can only sign players in the Basque region – it seemed nonsensical that they chose to part with three first-team members.
However, unlike Iturraspe and Rico, Susaeta is yet to find a new club, but at 31, and having made over 500 appearances for Athletic Bilbao, he should be signed up fairly soon.
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5. Fernando Llorente
Former club: Tottenham Hotspur
From playing in the Champions League final one month to being without a club the next, it’s safe to say it has been an interesting summer for the veteran forward, who has recently been training with Sevilla’s B side to maintain his fitness levels while he finds a new club.
At 34, the Basque-born striker is certainly getting on, but you wouldn’t know it from his performances last season, helping the Lilywhites reach the European final in Madrid and, well, if Andy Carroll can find a new club following his injury-plagued release from West Ham, Llorente should have no trouble in the coming weeks.
4. Franck Ribery
Former club: Bayern Munich
It was the end of an era when ‘Robbery’ decided to leave Bavaria at the end of the season, bringing an end to years of byline devastation at the Allianz Arena, and while Arjen Robben has chosen to hang up his boots following his departure from Bayern, Franck Ribery is still on the market.
The Frenchman has had his lion’s share of injury agitations across his career and at 36, some may feel his wage demands are a significant stumbling block. If last season taught us anything, however, it’s that the iconic No. 7 still has plenty of touchline trauma to inflict on unfortunate full-backs.
3. Daniel Sturridge
Former club: Liverpool
Another on this list who has seen his career hampered by recurring injury complications but with the England international yet to turn 30, he could still prove an astute piece of business if he stays fit and gets some all-important minutes under his belt – though that is a big if.
When on song, Sturridge is no doubt one of the most clinical finishers in the business, as highlighted at times last campaign, but, like Ribery, wage demands will likely scupper any deal to a Premier League club, unless, of course, he lowers his fee. Otherwise, he’s MLS-bound.
2. Hatem Ben Arfa
Former club: Rennes
Position: Attacking midfield
Despite winning the Coupe de France with Rennes last season, at the expense of former club PSG, Ben Arfa left the Roazhon Park upon the expiration of his contract and has been looking for a new club for nearly two months now.
The mercurial midfielder proved last term that he still has the capabilities of flourishing in the upper echelons of club football and, at 32, he would no doubt slot seamlessly into any top team’s starting XI. There have been no shortage of reported suitors and it will certainly be interesting to see where he pitches up next.
1. Mario Balotelli
Former club: Olympique Marseille
Balotelli may reflect on his career with a glimmer of sadness when he eventually winds down as he knows he could have been one of the modern era’s great strikers, but a combination of final third inconsistency and off-field issues have restricted him from truly fulfilling his potential.
He’s certainly turned out for some of the continent’s top sides but to be a free agent in the prime years of his career is telling, while the only club who have seemingly expressed an open-aired interest is Brazilian outfit Flamengo.