The best things in life are free

So, the transfer window has closed and the 20 Premier League teams are stuck with the players they have. Or are they?

There are plenty of players yet to find a club after being released in the summer, and they are all free to sign for any club who will take them.

In the past there have been plenty of Premier League managers willing to take a punt on cast-offs from across Europe, with some experiencing more success than others. For every Peter Lovenkrands there is a Mario Jardel, and for every Stephen Carr there is a Mineiro.

To show the wealth of talent available on a free, I have constructed a team of players still on the market. I would not be surprised to see certain top-flight managers take a punt on one or two of the following eleven.

Goalkeeper – Dida

For all his propensity to drop a clanger, Dida remains capable of doing a job in the top flight. After all, you don’t win 91 caps for Brazil without having some talent.

Behind the occasional (and often comical) mistake lies a ‘keeper with phenomenal shot-stopping ability. While his reflexes may not be quite what they used to be, the 36-year old could provide useful cover at a number of different clubs.

Right-back – Ricardo Rocha

There is little doubt that Portsmouth would have kept hold of Rocha if they could afford his wages, and it is something of a surprise that no club has snapped him up so far.

Impressive during Pompey’s run to the FA Cup final last season, the versatile Portuguese defender put a disappointing spell at Tottenham behind him to prove he has what it takes to succeed in England. I would not be surprised to see former Portsmouth boss Avram Grant bring him to West Ham in the near future.

Left-back – Max Tonetto

Italian international Tonetto has played European football for two clubs, and might be best remembered by English fans for missing the decisive penalty as Roma were knocked out of the 2008/09 Champions League by Arsenal.

The versatile 35-year-old is as comfortable on the wing as he is at left-back, and he could prove a valuable asset to a number of sides.

Centre-back – Danny Shittu

Shittu might not have played any club football for over a year, but any doubts about his fitness were extinguished when he played all 270 minutes of Nigeria’s World Cup campaign.

The former Bolton man has bags of Premier League experience, and may feel he is still capable of playing at the highest level. However at the very least he could do a job for any Championship club, and it is a little baffling that no club has come in for him as of yet.

Centre-back – Jay DeMerit

Another World Cup regular, Demerit will want to sort out his future quickly to ensure he remains in USA coach Bob Bradley’s plans.

While offers from the MLS and England’s Championship are likely to be forthcoming, the 30-year-old may want one last hurrah in one of Europe’s top leagues before he hangs up his boots.

Right midfield – Yildiray Basturk

Turkish midfielder Basturk hardly set the world alight in his short spell with Blackburn Rovers, but on his day he is practically unplayable.

The versatile playmaker, while not the hardest worker, has impeccable close control and bags of skill, as evidenced by his contribution to the great Leverkusen team alongside such illustrious names as Ballack and Ze Roberto.

Left midfield – Jacek Krzynowek

Plenty of clubs could do with owning a player of Krzynowek’s ability, even if he is the wrong side of 30.

The Polish winger is skilful and has a powerful shot, which he demonstrated against Real Madrid in a Champions League tie a few years ago. While he may have lost a bit of pace, Krzynowek is still capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat from time to time.

Central midfield – Arnold Bruggink

After beginning his career as a striker, Bruggink has found a new niche for himself in an attacking midfield role.

The former Dutch international has carved a successful career for himself, first in his homeland, then in Mallorca, and most recently in the Bundesliga with Hannover. With an eye for a pass and an even greater eye for a goal, the former FC Twente prodigy may wish to extend his career in a fourth country.

Central midfield – Ruben Baraja

Plenty of clubs are in need of a midfield enforcer, and there are few available who do that job better than Baraja.

After captaining Valencia for much of his 10-year spell, the Spaniard opted to leave the Mestalla this summer. Injury problems have limited his involvement in recent years, but Baraja has never been one to rely on pace, and he could well have another year or two at the top.

Forward – Julio Cruz

A regular goalscorer in Argentina, Holland and Italy, the former Inter striker is without a club after being released by Lazio at the end of last season.

The powerful Argentine frontman has 22 caps for the Albiceleste, the last coming in 2008, and he played twice for Jose Pekerman’s side in the 2006 World Cup.


Forward – Guille Franco

Despite an impressive 2009/10 campaign with West Ham, Mexico international Franco once again finds himself without a club after being released as part of the Irons’ cost-cutting operation.

The Argentine-born frontman endeared himself to the Upton Park faithful with his tireless efforts, and has a knack for scoring vital goals. Any young striker could benefit from watching Franco go about his game.

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Transfer window – best bits of business

I know it’s a bit late for a post on the deadline day deals, so I thought I’d take a look at the plethora of deals done over the whole summer.

With the World Cup not finishing until mid-July, it took a while for the biggest transfers to be completed. Milan and Manchester City were among the biggest movers and shakers, with high-profile deals for the likes of Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Yaya Toure standing out, but other teams went about their business more efficiently.

I have highlighted five summer transfers which – while not as headline-grabbing as others – will soon be looked back on as some of the more intelligent pieces of business to take place this summer.

1. Fabio Quagliarella – Napoli to Juventus (loan)

The classy forward was one of very few Italian players to improve his profile at the World Cup, scoring one of the goals of the tournament against Slovakia.

But it is Quagliarella’s Serie A record which suggests Juventus have made a tidy purchase (they have paid €4.5m up front with an option to make his signing permanent for a further €10.5).

He has netted at least 11 league goals in every season since 2006/7, earning him some international recognition, but he has failed to hold down a regular starting spot for the national side. At the age of 27, Quagliarella will hope the move to the Delle Alpi will endear him to new Italy coach Cesare Prandelli as the Azzurri look to get their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign off to a good start.

2. Diego – Juventus to Wolfsburg (€15.5m)

With Quagliarella moving to Turin, along with Milos Krasic and Leonardo Bonnucci on big-money deals, new Juve boss Luigi Delneri needed to clear some space in his squad.

Diego had not enjoyed the best of debut seasons after moving from Werder Bremen in a big-money deal, and Juve felt the time was right to cash in on him. Wolfsburg jumped at the chance to sign the Brazilian playmaker, and who can blame them given the way he starred in Bremen.

Certain players seem to really stand out in the Bundesliga yet fail to make a similar impact in Europe’s ‘bigger’ leagues, and Diego is certainly one of those. He has already netted on his Wolfsburg debut, and it will surely only be a matter of time before we see more goals like this start to fly in.

3. Diego Godin – Villarreal to Atletico Madrid (€8m)

Victory in the Europa League final does not mask the fact that 2009/10 was a largely disappointing season for Atletico. A lowly 9th place finish in La Liga and an early exit from the Champions League meant boss Quique Sanchez Flores knew a lot of work would need to be done.

With an imposing front-line containing Forlan, Reyes, Simao and Aguero, it does not take a genius to realise defence is where Sanchez Flores needed to improve his options. Dominguez is still raw, while Ujfalusi and Juanito are coming to the ends of their careers, so a top-class defender in his prime was on the shopping list.

Godin enjoyed a strong partnership with Diego Lugano in Uruguay’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, and already has 43 international caps at the tender age of 24. When added to three years of La Liga experience at El Madrigal, it is easy to see why president Enrique Cerezo freed up the funds for his purchase.

4. Miguel Veloso – Sporting to Genoa (€9m)

While Liverpool were making their move for Raul Meireles at an over-inflated €14m price-tag, Meireles’ Portuguese international team-mate Veloso was ending his 10-year association with Sporting.

The holding midfielder has seen his stock fall a little in recent years, with Manchester United among others dropping their interest, but he remains a valuable asset to any team.

Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini looks to be building a good side at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, with Kakha Kaladze, Luca Toni and Rafinha all joining Veloso at the club this summer.

5. Dieumerci Mbokani – Standard Liege to Monaco (€7m)

Perhaps the least well-known of my five picks, Mbokani could well prove to be the one who makes the biggest impact. It is not often that Monaco fork out big sums of money, so this guy must be something special, right?

Right. The Congolese striker has a phenomenal scoring record in African football, netting 88 times in 99 games in his homeland, and continued the record in Belgium with Anderlecht and Standard.

He joins a talented young squad including World Cup stars Park Chu-Young and Nicolas N’Koulou, as Les Rouge et Blanc look to get back among the Ligue 1 elite.

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