Plenty of value for money to be found amongst free agents

Running down your contract is very much a part of the fabric of modern football. As your contract heads towards the final 12 months, if your services are still required, your parent club will start to get twitchy and a new contract at an inflated rate is usually awarded, as Samir Nasri is likely to soon find. If this bumper new deal fails to materialise, you can always try to negotiate a transfer at a discounted rate or run the deal down and sift through the wealth of options that come your way the following summer. A free transfer is by no means a guarantee of value for money though, for every Sol Campbell there are several Joe Cole’s.

The best available free agents have already been snapped up by some of Europe’s giants, Philippe Mexes and Taye Taiwo were captured by AC Milan to shore up their defence and Hamit Altintop moved to Real Madrid. At domestic level, the likes of injury-ravaged Jonathan Woodgate and Owen Hargreaves are about as glamorous as it gets but there is still plenty of quality to be found.

Nigel Reo-Coker and Sebastien Larsson, at 27 and 26 respectively, are approaching their prime and are likely to find a club further up the food chain than their previous employers, with Larsson seemingly set for Sunderland. Giles Barnes appeared destined for big things at Derby before injuries intervened, still only 22, he has age on his side and may still shine should he find the right club. Former Manchester United prospect David Jones, although surplus to requirements at Wolves, is technically gifted and would enhance a fair few Premiership squads, as would the versatile Jonathan Spector, also released by West Ham. The cultured Andy Reid, signed by Blackpool at Christmas, had a clause in his contract that was activated with relegation, freeing him from his current deal.

Matthew Upson stands out amongst the veteran free agents, at 32, the opportunity has probably arrived a year too late, having featured for England in the World Cup last summer, 12 months later he leaves a relegated side with his reputation tarnished. The much travelled John Carew still provides a formidable presence at 31 and 32-year-old Zoltan Gera was released by Fulham only for new manager Martin Jol to consider taking him back. Ibrahima Sonko, John Pantsil, Diomansy Kamara and Abdoulaye Meite form an contingent of 30-year-olds of African descent that boast plenty of Premiership experience that could prove to be shrewd acquisitions.

There is also plenty of available talent at Championship level, Jay Bothroyd turned out for England as recently as February and found prolific goalscoring form last term, Dave Nugent has netted for his country and cost Portsmouth £6m, when they were enjoying more affluent times. Kieren Westwood is one of the best goalkeepers outside of the Premiership, Neil’s Danns and Kilkenny are attacking midfielders of note, Guy Moussi is a highly regarded defensive midfielder and Robert Earnshaw is up for grabs, having enjoyed a prolific career in front of goal. It is stick or twist time for free agents and clubs with squads in need of bolstering, with pre-season just around the corner.

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