Have you ever loaded up a new FM save, intent on revolutionising a football club, only to find that your chairman has sloth-like aspirations and sets the transfer budget at exactly £0m? We’ve all been there.
Hamstrung by the balance sheets and with no financial muscle, your premature, adrenaline-fueled dreams of taking Bolton Wanderers to the Champions League final quickly diminish and fall flat right there.
However, you then remember that you are a Football Manager virtuoso. You have proven time and time again that you don’t need the chequebook to oversee a renaissance. Your all-encompassing vision in the market, shrewd tactics and development skills make an absolute mockery of the modern game’s spending power.
To pull off this miraculous task you will have to revert to type and let instinct kick in, allowing your savvy management to do the talking, not the marquee signings you once craved. But you’ll need a little help along the way.
Free transfers will be imperative to this mission. And ahead of Football Manager 2020’s release on November 19, we’ve taken a look at the early-access Beta, plucking out the best freebies available this year.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Despite guiding Rennes to a Coupe de France triumph last season, at the expense of former club and tycoon powerhouse PSG, Ben Arfa left Les Rouge et Noir at the start of the summer and has been unattached ever since.
Renowned for his technical brilliance and elite-level end product, the 32-year-old was directly involved in 15 goals for Rennes across 2018/19 (nine goals, six assists), making him one of the best free agents available this year.
He may come with a sunshine-and-showers mood, but if you are able to get the best out of this mercurial phenom, then he could go on to become a leading light for your new club.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper left Sporting CP in the summer having failed to make a single appearance for the Portuguese club and is now up for grabs. Having turned 33 last December, the Italian is at that perfect age for shot-stoppers and could prove a very competent piece of business.
We all know the importance of having a capable No. 1 between the sticks – just ask Jurgen Klopp – but instead of throwing large wads of cash in an effort to remedy your growing problems in the first third, why not bring in an international gloveman with an array of experience for nothing? A no-brainer for any top-flight middling club.
The Italian stalwart shed a tear when he parted from his beloved AC Milan in the summer, but you could offer him a route back into the game, creating a new legacy at your club and being the catalyst for renewed hope.
The energetic full-back comes with plenty of pace but, more importantly, with grit and heart, epitomised by his excellent Work Rate, Teamwork, Leadership and Determination attributes. He may not offer the explosive engine he once showed on a weekly basis at the San Siro, but he will come with a heart-on-sleeve mentality, and no doubt revitalise your dressing room.
The French speedster joined Parma last season but featured just 18 times as the newly-promoted club found its feet, once again, in top-flight Italian football. He has since left the club, having enjoyed four separate spells at the Ennio Tardini Stadium, and now finds himself in limbo.
At 31, and with key traits for Acceleration, Agility and Pace, the Parisian still offers an exceptional threat from the flanks. His end product may need some fine-tuning but for a short-term solution, Biabiany certainly presents a fine option.
The 51-capped Portugal international is still only 31 and could seriously beef up your left byline. There was a time when Coentrao looked like he would become a world-beater at the Bernabeu, the latest left-back Galactico on Real Madrid’s roster. However, things didn’t quite work out that way for the full-back.
His latest spell saw him return to boyhood club Rio Ave, but that rekindled romance lasted just one year and he is now a free agent – though, with his current stats, don’t expect him to remain club-less beyond the summer in Football Manager 2020.
The Cambodia manager recently left Melbourne Victory in the Australian A-League and set about finding a new club via social media, begging Manchester United to give him a gig at Old Trafford…
— KeisukeHonda(本田圭佑) (@kskgroup2017) September 27, 2019
His admirable no-fee offer, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears in the North West, though you could answer the 33-year-old’s prayers by making him a central figure at your new club, though he’ll unlikely offer you such generous terms as he did with Man Utd.
The World Cup runner-up was never able to fulfil his potential at AC Milan having been diagnosed with a heart condition shortly after Croatia’s appearance in the final of Russia 2018. This led to him sitting out for much of last season as a precautionary matter and for further assessment.
As such, his two-year Milan contract was cut short in the summer, meaning you can now bring in a 2018 World Cup final starter to your club for free. With key attributes for a modern full-back, Strinic would be an excellent addition to any top-flight club.
Most of us will think of two people when the word Muller crops up: the Bayern Munich legend, or the guy who injured himself for half a season while celebrating. Unfortunately for FM enthusiasts, the Bavarian ‘Raumdeuter’ – a term that needs no explanation in this domain – has not left Bayern, despite recent reports.
No, as it turns out, the guy who did manage to rupture the ACL in his right knee while celebrating is the player up for grabs, though hopefully, his final third exploits will prove more fruitful than his post-goal antics. The Germany international has exceptional attributes and would bolster any right flank.
A Middle Eastern sojourn seems almost inevitable for Bony, but you could offer him a path back to the big time. He’s only 30 and it wasn’t long ago that Man City thought he was worthy of rivalling Sergio Aguero for the No. 9 berth at the Etihad, so the potential for a productive return is certainly there.
He boasts top stats for a traditional centre-forward, with Strength and Composure both seeing ‘green’, while his Technique, Finishing, Heading and Balance all come in with a more than acceptable 15-rating.
The 66-time Italy international is now a veteran of the game and very much in the twilight years of his career, hence the waning Physical attributes, but from a purely Technical and Mental perspective, the Milano still has plenty to offer.
He is one of those rare breeds of elegant Italian midfielders who lets their feet do the talking rather than making up for technical deficiencies with excellent fitness, strength or speed. Those crafts can be refined and polished in the gymnasium, but an innate quality with the ball at your feet comes from within. Montolivo is one such player and could do a job in the middle of the park, even at the ripe old age of 34.