Football Features

10 free signings from last summer who are tearing it up this season

By Harry Edwards

Best free signings from last summer who are tearing it up this term

Published: 15:30, 22 January 2021

Over the years the average transfer fee has risen, but that doesn’t mean good players aren’t available for free.

For every £200m Neymar there is a Robert Lewandowski, or whoever Juventus decide to add to their unbelievable list of free transfers.

Perhaps more than ever in the summer of 2020, clubs were looking to add to their squads without spending too much, which led to a lot of free transfers.

Not all of them have worked out so far, but we’ve picked out 10 free signings who we believe have made a big impact on their new clubs this season.

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Thiago Silva

From: Paris Saint-Germain
To: Chelsea
Football Index value: £0.19 (Sell)  £0.28 (Buy)

Chelsea spent a lot of money over the summer bolstering their attack, but one of their most important signings came without a transfer fee: Thiago Silva. The Blues had a lot of defensive problems under Frank Lampard last season, but the arrival of Silva has helped reduce them.

Going straight into the Chelsea team, Silva has formed a good partnership alongside Kurt Zouma, helping the side to keep six clean sheets in his 14 Premier League appearances, including three consecutive matches without conceding in October.

Silva has also captained Chelsea on several occasions this season with Cesar Azpilicueta often on the bench, and while it hasn’t been perfect, the Brazilian’s move has definitely worked out well for both club and player.


From: Barcelona
To: Paris Saint-Germain
Football Index value: £0.34 (Sell)  £0.59 (Buy)

It’s a move that may have gone under the radar in the summer, but Rafinha called time on his Barcelona career to join PSG and, despite the problems that existed in Paris, the Brazilian has done well.

The 27-year-old was a key part of Thomas Tuchel’s side in the first half of the campaign, starting nine of his 11 league appearances under the German, recording three assists – only bettered by four of his team-mates. He is yet to play under Mauricio Pochettino due to illness, but is reportedly a big part of the Argentinian’s plans and looks set to make a more pronounced impact than many expected.

Luis Suarez

From: Barcelona
To: Atletico Madrid
Football Index value: £0.23 (Sell)  £0.39 (Buy)

The Luis Suarez that left Barcelona in the summer looked a shadow of his former self, having suffered a poor final campaign in Catalonia. But somewhere in the flight between Barcelona and Madrid, Suarez must have found whatever made him click, because he has been on fire.

The Uruguayan is Atletico’s top scorer in La Liga, netting nine goals so far, while adding a further two assists (just under a third of the side’s total goals this season) in 13 appearances. But, perhaps more importantly, his place in the team has allowed other players around him to start finding their feet.

Dani Parejo

From: Valencia
To: Villarreal
Football Index value: £0.60 (Sell)  £0.77 (Buy)

It was seen as a pretty big deal in the summer when Valencia allowed arguably their best midfielder, Dani Parejo, to move to rivals Villarreal. And, for absolutely no transfer fee. Valencia needed to sell players to cut costs and their loss was Villarreal’s gain.

The Spanish midfielder has missed just two of Villarreal’s La Liga games so far this season, and is an integral part of Unai Emery’s side, who currently sit fifth in the league. His impact is a bit more understated than some of the others in this list, but it should not be ignored.

David Silva

From: Manchester City
To: Real Sociedad
Football Index value: £0.19 (Sell)  £0.30 (Buy)

David Silva is undoubtedly the best Spanish player in Premier League history and arguably one of the top foreign imports to English football. But in the summer he called time on his career at Man City and returned to his native Spain, joining Real Sociedad.

At the time of writing, Silva is currently out injured but that has only shown how important the midfielder is to his new team. With Silva playing, Real Sociedad found themselves top of La Liga and considered to be genuine title contenders. However, they have won just one of the seven games he has missed since the end of November, dropping down the table to sixth.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

From: Arsenal
To: Roma
Football Index value: £0.40 (Sell)  £0.58 (Buy)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was on loan at Roma last season and, although his spell was interrupted, the Armenian did enough to earn a permanent move, terminating his contract at Arsenal to secure it. And you cannot say he hasn’t made his mark.

Mkhitaryan has been phenomenal for Roma this season, arguably their most important player, as they push for a top-four finish. He has scored eight goals and recorded eight assists, more than any other Roma player for both. Furthermore, only Cristiano Ronaldo (17) has been directly involved in more goals than Mkhitaryan (16) in Serie A this season.

Max Kruse

From: Fenerbahce
To: Union Berlin
Football Index value: £0.15 (Sell)  £0.29 (Buy)

Union Berlin have been excellent in the Bundesliga this season, currently sitting sixth in the table, just one point behind fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund. In the summer, Union Berlin bolstered their squad with a number of free transfers but the one that has perhaps stood out the most is Max Kruse.

Kruse, signed after he left Fenerbahce in the summer, had played 10 games before injury hampered his progress. In that time he scored six goals (a club high this term) and recorded five assists. At 32, Kruse wasn’t a long-term signing, but his Bundesliga experience has proved vital.

Antonio Adan

From: Atletico Madrid
To: Sporting CP
Football Index value: £0 (Sell)  £0.12 (Buy)

One of the reasons behind Sporting CP’s rise to the top of the Primeira Liga table, and their unbeaten run, has been their defence. And a big part of their defence has been summer signing Antonio Adan, who joined from Atletico Madrid on a free transfer.

The Spanish goalkeeper has conceded just nine goals in 14 Primeira Liga games so far this season, with only two teams managing to beat him more than once in a single match. His seven clean sheets is the best in the league and if he continues on this run, Sporting will have an excellent chance of winning the title.

Alvaro Negredo

From: Al-Nasr
To: Cadiz

Cadiz prepared for life in La Liga following their promotion by signing veteran striker Alvaro Negredo on a free transfer, but the 35-year-old has perhaps had a better impact than many expected.

The Spaniard has been directly involved in seven La Liga goals this season, scoring four and adding three assists, more than any other Cadiz player. His goals have been crucial to Cadiz currently sitting rather comfortably in eighth, and could be the difference between safety and relegation come the end of the season.

Burak Yilmaz

From: Besiktas
To: Lille

When Burak Yilmaz signed for Lille from Besiktas in the summer, there can’t have been too many who expected him to be such a big part of their season. The Turkish striker, signed initially as back-up, is Lille’s top scorer in the league with nine goals, only bettered by four players across the rest of the division.

He has also added four assists, and with Lille currently second in Ligue 1 (only behind PSG on goal difference), Yilmaz’s impact cannot be understated.


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