Now that the Premier League season is over, it’s time for clubs to inform players that will not have their contracts renewed (or indeed, those refusing to sign new deals to leave). While it can be a distressing and uncertain time for those players, it can provide some useful options for clubs looking to recruit on the cheap. In fact, we’ve gathered a starting XI of Premier League players about to become free agents this summer (at least revealed so far) and reckon they could do pretty handy together in the top flight. Read on and see if you agree…
[Players under 24, such as Luke Garbutt and Danny Ings, have not been considered due to the compensation clubs would have to pay]
GK: There will surely be some decent suitors for Thomas Sorensen and Steve Harper, but we’ve picked out Finnish legend Jussi Jaaskelainen as our free agent between the sticks. The former Bolton Wanderers stopper has rejected a new deal at West Ham United, where he lost to his place in the team to Adrian following an injury, and at 40 years old it’s understandable that he wants more gametime in his final year or two as a professional. If Sam Allardyce finds a new management job in pre-season, don’t be surprised to see him bring Jaaskelainen along for a third club together.
RB: While there were farewells of contrasting emotions from Liverpool fans for Steven Gerrard and (surely) Raheem Sterling on the final day, there was one goodbye that went by almost unnoticed at the club. Glen Johnson watched the last two games of the Reds’ season from the bench, and as such wasn’t given a last hurrah before he left the club. The 30 year-old full back has fallen out of favour at club and international level but can surely still offer something in the lower half of the Premier League, if not abroad.
CB: There are a wealth of experienced Premier League central defenders facing uncertain futures, and while there are names with more prestigous careers than Gareth McAuley we’d have him ahead of the likes of Wes Brown, Sylvain Distin, Richard Dunne and Brede Hangeland in our side. At 35, the Northern Ireland international is entering the twilight of his career and only played five league matches for West Bromwich Albion before the New Year, but the arrival of Tony Pulis saw him become a regular fixture in the The Baggies side as they climbed from danger. West Brom kept 12 clean sheets in the 24 league games that McAuley featured this season, and with contract talks at The Hawthorns still not resolved there will certainly be a promoted side or two at the very least interested in his services.
CB: Having been announced as club captain at the start of the season, it seemed as if Younes Kaboul had a future at Tottenham Hotspur under Mauricio Pochettino but the defender hasn’t played in the Premier League since November, with messrs Fazio, Dier and Chiriches rather damningly preferred ahead of him. Still only 29, the former France international is more than likely to go abroad but there will be mid-table top flight clubs that will fancy their chances of getting the best out of him.
LB: There are several players from relegated sides who were in contention for making our team but the only one to do so is Maynor Figueroa. The 32 year-old has spent the last seven seasons or so in the Premier League but was out of favour at Hull City this season as Steve Bruce preferred young Andrew Robertson at left wing back, and the Honduran is being released in a few weeks. AEK Athens are rumoured to be interested in the defender but there may be a promoted side tempted to offer Figueroa a stay in England.
DM: Leicester City’s surprise signing of Esteban Cambiasso last season was a masterstroke, as the Argentinian led The Foxes to survival and earned the club’s Player of The Year award in the process. Leicester may well be the victims of his success, though – such has the 34 year-old former Real Madrid and Inter Milan midfielder impressed that a wealth of interested clubs have enquired about his services for next season, and having only signed a one year deal at the King Power Stadium he is free to leave if he feels like it. A contract extension is on the table from Leicester and if Cambiasso decides not to take it then expect a free-for-all for a man who still clearly has what it takes to shine at the top level.
RM: Perhaps the most sought after player in our team, James Milner will have no problems finding a new club by pre-season. The England international decided against a new contract at Manchester City, where he appreciated by fans but not necessarily by the manager, and there is a race for his signature ahead of the next Premier League campaign. Rumours suggest that Liverpool are leading the race to sign Milner, with Arsenal supposedly interested too, but there’s still perhaps time for another club to step in and nab the two-time title winner.
LM: There’s something about the way Jonas Gutierrez was treated by Newcastle United that doesn’t sit too well with us, but rest assured there’s a home for him in our side. Having survived testicular cancer, the former Argentina left winger worked his way back into The Magpies starting XI and finished the season with a goal at the Gallow Gate End to confirm the club’s survival. Gutierrez has played across the pitch in the last few years, from right back at the 2010 World Cup to holding midfield in the last Weary-Tyne derby, but we’ve got the 31 year-old in his natural left side position and his crossing will prove very useful to the strike pairing we have.
AM: A much maligned figure at Old Trafford, Tom Cleverley seemed much more comfortable while on loan at Aston Villa and has been performing confidently while there. He’s not quite earned a recall to England team in doing so but there are decent teams in the Premier League rumoured to be interested in adding him, including Everton and Liverpool. Still only 25, there’s still potential from Cleverley if not necessarily at the highest level and he can be the creative outlet in this side.
ST: If anyone has been counting down the days to the end of the season, it’s Carlton Cole. The forward was all set for a January deadline day move to West Brom before other moves failed to materialise ahead of the chain and Cole had to leave The Baggies’ training ground and drive back to a West Ham United club that no longer wanted him. His contract is about to expire at Upton Park, and while that hasn’t always meant the end there – he was released in summer 2013 before re-signing in October of that same year – the 31 year-old will be keen to get some games.
ST: It looks as if there’s one more year in football as a player for Didier Drogba and we’d love it to be in our team, probably as captain. The Ivorian legend returned to Chelsea last season and scored seven goals in all competitions, playing far more than even he was probably expecting to. The one year deal suggested retirement this summer before a coaching role at Stamford Bridge, but Drogba has stated that he’d like one more season elsewhere before any such end to his playing days. He may be 37 and not as mobile as he once was, but he will find a good (and almost certainly lucrative) home this summer.
What do you make of our Free Agent XI? Who should have made the cut? Where they would finish in the Premier League? Tweet us @jdfootball