By Chris Wright
We’ve already seen several sides hemorrhaging players over the past week or so, with the likes of Bolton and Sunderland parting company with 22 players between them, while poor old Macclesfield Town even went as far as releasing 21 players from a squad of just 33 on Monday following their relegation from the Football League.
We thought we’d have a quick look at some of the players going on freebies this summer and pick out ten of the best – though, with the sheer amount of contracts being allowed to peter out, you could by rights kit out an entire, perfectly serviceable Premier League squad for next to zip this summer (we know it says ‘Top 10’ on the tin, but these aren’t really in any particular order)…
1. Craig Gordon: Sunderland were never likely to get their money’s worth from Gordon, largely because they paid so bloody much for him – spunking a then-record £9 million on the Scottish ‘keeper back in 2007 – but his time on Wearside has been largely underwhelming thanks to near-constant injury and lapses in form. He’s a decent goalie mind you, and would be worth a free flutter if his wage demands aren’t still astronomical.
Likely suitors: We’ve got a funny feeling that West Ham may come a-callin’.
2. Alessandro Del Piero: Oh how we desperately want to see Del Piero given one last whirl in the Premier League. The obvious drawbacks include him being older than most Sequoias and only good for about 2o or so bit-part appearances, but the pros include him being Ale-bloody-ssandro Del Pi-sodding-ero.
Likely suitors: Arsenal have been mentioned in passing, but the exorbitant £0 fee may prove a stumbling block. Maybe ‘Arry’s chairman can do a deal?
3. Michael Owen: Unwilling to besmirch his CV by mixing with the smelly, typhoid-riddled proles in mid-table, it’s difficult to envisage where Owen is going to wash up next – what him suffering from rather prohibitive delusions of grandeur and all. It all comes down to that age-old paradox again: He definitely is still worth a gamble BUT that gamble is almost certain to backfire miserably. What’s a gal to do?
Likely suitors: Damned if we know. He’ll be holding out for someone like Tottenham but, let’s face it, he hasn’t got a prayer. The world’s moved on, it isn’t 2002 any more. How about a move back to Newcastle? They bloody love him up at St James’.
4. Carlos Cuellar: Pies have been fans of the retainer-wearing Spanish centre-half since his Rangers days, impressed early on by his positional sense, aerial fortitude and penchant for the flying last-ditch block. Also able to fill in at right back (though he’s definitely better off in the centre) as he did do in most of his Villa run-outs, Cuellar could definitely provide a reliable service for a side hovering around the upper middle of the table.
Likely suitors: Sunderland are said to have already been in contact with a deal looking ‘imminent’ though he’s a far better player than Seb Squillaci *nudge nudge, wink wink* for instance.
5. Didier Drogba: Having left Chelsea in just about the most heroic of circumstances, 34-year old Drogba seems almost certain to now make that lucrative last move to China or the UAE to play out his days in less demanding climes – though there is a sneaking possibility that he may be tempted by one more year in mainstream football, though he probably won’t be staying in the Premier League out of courtesy. He’s certainly still got the chops for it (on a pared-down basis), even if the knees are beginning to creak like a rusty Penny Farthing.
Likely suitors: Barcelona and Real Madrid are now both rumoured to be giving it the once over, but £450,000-a-week in Qatari fun money may prove too tempting to turn down.
6. Gennaro Gattuso: One of the many veterans (five players with a combined age of 179!) cast adrift by Milan at the end of the Serie A season, there are tentative whispers on the wind that a couple of Premier League clubs are drafting up one-year deals for Rino. Intriguing. In his heyday, Gattuso routinely gave opponent’s migraines with his subtle blend of niggling gobshitery. Worth a punt on a free? Yeah, perhaps – though we choose to refrain from being any more committal than that.
Likely suitors: Lazio are apparently favourites, though QPR are said to be sniffing around. However, surely a reunion with old chum Joe Jordan at Tottenham would be the more entertaining option?
7. Ivan Klasnic: It seems to have gone unheralded but Klasnic was Bolton’s top scorer last season. Fair enough, he only managed eight Premier League goals and nine in toal, but he hardly started a game after November-ish. Sharp in the box, the Croatian clearly ‘knows where the goal is’ and that’s the kind of thing that top flight managers tend to appreciate.
Likely suitors: Call us daft Ethels if you must, but we reckon Stoke will ‘ay a go.
8. Salomon Kalou: We’re not ones to usually default to this particular line of thinking, but either we’re missing something entirely or Kalou is actually one of the rare breed of players that properly convince us we could’ve been professionals were it not for all those damn Ginsters. He just doesn’t seem to very proficient in any capacity bar being able to run quite fast for extended periods, yet still manages to come out with 15 goals at the end of the season. Our utter confusion aside, expect Kalou to turn up somewhere bafflingly illustrious come August.
Likely suitors: AC Milan are known to be interested, as are Arsenal.
9. Brad Guzan: Good, solid, dependable goalkeeper who’s hardly had the chance to show it at Villa thanks to an unfortunate string of slightly more gooder, solider, dependabler first-choices being ahead of him in the pecking order during his four years in the West Midlands. Only 27 and definitely worthy of a ‘No. 1’ spot somewhere.
Likely suitors: QPR again. Call it a premonition.
10. Michael Essien: Arguably the most surprising name on Chelsea’s list of summer flotsam (though it’s not quite 100% confirmed as of yet), these days Essien is liable to break at any moment and is a shadow of the domineering midfielder he once was. His legs have pretty much gone, which is a bit of a bind for a former tyrannical all-action whirligig – but surely there’ll be plenty of clubs lined up to offer him future employment.
Likely suitors: Dare we venture to suggest Manchester United? Yes, we dare.
Notable mentions: Nicky Shorey, Jose Bosingwa, Florent Malouda, Paulo Ferreira, Abdoulaye Faye, Peter Lovenkrands, Gai Assulin, Owen Hargreaves, Maynor Figueroa, James McFadden, Emile Heskey (the joke being that Heskey was so upset at being released by Villa that he went on a shooting spree in Birmingham. No one was hurt.)
Any other ‘worth a punt’ freebies you’ve got your eyes on this summer Pies fans?