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Free Agent XI

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Free Agent XI

With the January transfer window now shut, we have taken a look at players that are available to join clubs on free transfers following rumours that several Premier League clubs are still exploring potential late additions to their squads.

GK: Diego Alves

The first player on this team is experienced Brazilian shot-stopper Diego Alves following the 37-year-old’s release from Flamengo.

During his time in Europe, with Almeria between 2007 and 2011, as well as Valencia from 2011 to 2017, Alves had a reputation of being an incredible penalty saver, breaking La Liga’s record, keeping out 23 penalties during his time in Spain.

Since returning to his homeland with Flamengo, Alves was part of a side that managed to win 11 trophies in five years, winning the most prestigious competition in South American football, the Copa Libertadores twice in 2019 and 2022.

RB: Sime Vrsaljko

Croatian right-back Sime Vrsaljko is a free agent after his contract was terminated all the way back in November. At the age of 31, the former Atletico Madrid man could likely do a job for plenty of sides across Europe.

During his career, Vrsaljko managed to win one La Liga title with Atletico Madrid in 2020/21, as well as a Europa League with the Spanish giants in 2017/18. On top of this, he was a mainstay in the Croatia side that reached the 2018 World Cup final.

CB: Federico Fernandez

Having left Newcastle United in the summer, Federico Fernandez joined La Liga side Elche on September 1st, but, after playing just one match the 33-year-old departed the club in December and is yet to find a suitor.

Fernandez has bags of experience having made exactly 200 Premier League appearances combined for Swansea City and Newcastle United, while also previously being an Argentina international during his days at Napoli between 2011 and 2014, with 32 caps to his name.

CB: Eliaquim Mangala

Former Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala has seemingly struggled to find the right career path since joining the Sky Blues back in August 2014.

The 31-year-old joined City from FC Porto for £42m as one of brightest prospects in world football, as they looked to find a regular centre-back partner for then club captain Vincent Kompany, but, he has played in just 118 league matches since then having struggled to find form in England.

During his latter years at City, Mangala was loaned out to Valencia and Everton, before returning to the Mestalla on a permanent basis in August 2019 on a free contract, however, following just 15 La Liga appearances in two years, he would be without a club until Saint-Etienne snapped him up in January of last year. He played 14 Ligue 1 matches, and received nine yellow cards, seeing him suspended three times, while Les Verts were relegated to Ligue 2 following a relegation play-off loss to Auxerre.

LB: Jetro Willems

At Euro 2012, Jetro Willems became the youngest-ever player to feature at the finals of a European Championship at 18 years and 72 days old with the then PSV man expected to be the Netherlands' next big star, however, things haven’t quite panned out the way he’d have hoped.

Willems saw his contract terminated at Greuther Furth in September 2022. At the age of 28, there is still time for the left-back to get a move to another established team. Noticeably, Willems looked like a handy player while on loan at Newcastle during the 2019/20 campaign from German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

CM: Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa is another case of what could’ve been, having shown a lot of promise during the early years of his career.

The 35-year-old made just seven Ligue 1 appearances for Lille last year, the tenth club of his career, having initially started at Olympique Lyon in the same youth team as Karim Benzema. Despite this, Ben Arfa has won 15 trophies during his time in France, while also venturing to England with Newcastle United and Hull City, while playing five matches for Real Valladolid in 2020.

Ben Arfa’s best individual season to date came back in 2016/17, bagging 17 goals in 34 Ligue 1 outings for Nice, earning him a stunning move to Paris Saint-Germain.

CDM: Sandro

Former Tottenham defensive midfielder Sandro is without a club following his release from B-SAD following their relegation from Liga NOS last season.

The 33-year-old regularly played for Spurs between 2010 and 2014, however, since then, his career has significantly stalled, playing just 118 league matches since then, with the second most appearances he has made at a single club since leaving White Hart Lane being the 36 he managed at Queens Park Rangers.

CM: Isco

Late on in the January transfer window, decorated Spain midfielder Isco looked set for a move to high-flying Union Berlin of the German Bundesliga, however, the move broke down following reports that Isco’s demands differed from the initial agreement.

The 30-year-old has since been linked with a move to Everton, due to the Toffees' lack of creativity and options in the attacking third of the pitch. Isco made 12 La Liga appearances for Sevilla since joining the club on a free transfer from Real Madrid in August, having played a part in 19 of Los Blancos’ most recent major honours.

RW: Ricardo Quaresma

At the age of 39, Ricardo Quaresma finds himself without a club, having been one of the most sought-after players in world football during the younger years of his career.

Quaresma is known for having an outstanding trivela technique and has played for some of the biggest clubs in world football, such as Barcelona, Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea with his two spells at Porto being arguably the best of his career.

Since leaving Inter in 2010, Quaresma added the likes of Besiktas, Al Ahli, Kasimpasa and Vitoria Guimaraes to his CV having left the latter last summer. The 39-year-old made 80 caps for Portugal, winning Euro 2016 as well as 17 major honours in his club career, including the Champions League in 2009/10 under Jose Mourinho.

ST: Alexandre Pato

Alexandre Pato is currently without a club, having not been offered a new deal at MLS side Orlando City SC following a 2022 season that saw the 33-year-old score just three times in 22 matches.

Pato had knee surgery in August that may have ultimately made Orlando City’s mind up on whether to renew the Brazilian’s deal, having already missed 26 games in 2021 due to the same issue with his knee. This ultimately means that he will have spent well over 600 days on the sidelines during his career.

The Brazilian burst onto the scene when he scored five goals in nine matches for Internacional in 2007, resulting in AC Milan paying a fee of €24 million, of which he would score a decent goal tally of 51 goals in 177 Serie A games while at the San Siro. What epitomises Pato’s dwindling career is the fact that his 30 goals in 47 games for Tianjin Tianhai of the Chinese Super League remains his best goal to game record for any side.

LW: Andre Ayew

The final player on this list is Andre Ayew who is subject to interest from Premier League outfits such as Nottingham Forest and Everton.

Ayew starred for Ghana at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, having also plied his trade in the country with Al Sadd where he scored 18 goals in 30 matches. The 33-year-old has previously had spells in England with Swansea City on two occasions, separated by the two years he spent at West Ham between 2016 and 2018.

Ayew has made a total of 113 caps for Ghana, scoring 24 times, while his longest spell at any cub side came with Marseille between 2007 and 2015, making 160 league appearances, scoring 44 Ligue 1 goals, famously winning the Coupe de la Ligue with them in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

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