13 free agents still available with Champions League experience

Quick Reads

The transfer window in England may have come to a close this week, but there are still plenty of clubs that are desperate for new recruits.

If they are going to add players to their squad they’ll now have to look at free agents and there are lots of top players who are currently without a club.

We’ve rounded up 13 free agents that have previously played in the Champions League and might be of interest to a few clubs ahead of the new season.

Daniel Sturridge

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since Sturridge was scoring every week and playing great football alongside Suarez and Sterling in Liverpool’s title-chasing team.

The striker scored 21 league goals in 2013-14 and was named in the PFA Team Of The Year but things haven’t been quite gone to plan for him since then.

Injury problems derailed his time at Anfield, and he was eventually released by the club earlier this year. However, he’s still only 29 and showed his quality with a goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League group stages last season.

Despite never playing in a Champions League final, Sturridge has two winner’s medals and is also the first Englishman to win the trophy with two different clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool.

 

Fabio Coentrao

Coentrao spent seven years with Real Madrid, winning two La Liga and Champions League titles while in Spain, but he soon became their forgotten man.

After loan spells with Monaco and Sporting Lisbon, the left-back returned to Portugal to play for Rio Ave last season, but he’s now looking for a new adventure.

How different things might have turned out if he’d signed for Manchester United on deadline day in 2013.

Martin Caceres

Caceres was part of the Barcelona squad that won the 2009 Champions League final and was later with Juventus when they lost in the final against Barcelona in 2015.

The Uruguayan international had a strange three-month spell at Southampton in 2017 where he only made one appearance before joining Hellas Verona and then Lazio.

Caceres spent the second half of last season on loan at Juventus for this third spell at the club before his contract with Lazio expired.

Fernando Llorente

It’s not very often that a World Cup winner and two time Champions League finalist is available for nothing but Llorente is a free agent with an incredible CV.

The former Athletic Bilbao, Juventus, Sevilla and Spurs forward has plenty of experience across Europe, and he came off the bench in the final minutes of the 2015 and 2019 Champions League finals.

Llorente may not have been a revelation at White Hart Lane, but the 34-year-old did score crucial goals against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City in Spurs’ run to the Champions League final last term.

Fernando Llorente celebrates win over Man City

READ: Fernando Llorente shooting from the hip is what football needs right now

Lewis Holtby

Holtby was once regarded as one of the most talented midfielders in Europe after guiding Schalke to the Champions League round of 16 in 2013.

However, after signing for Tottenham he never really got the chance to impress and Holtby admits he could have acted differently while at White Hart Lane.

“I thought I had the quality but maybe I was a bit naïve. I made too many rash decisions. I wasn’t as professional as I am now in a lot of things,” said Holtby.

The 28-year-old went on loan to Fulham before rebuilding his career at Hamburg but he wasn’t offered a new contract at the end of last season.

Lazar Markovic

Liverpool have made some excellent signings in recent years including Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, but it’s easy to forget that they haven’t always been successful in the transfer market.

Markovic was a huge flop at Anfield and spent most of his time at the club out on loan. He eventually left for Fulham back in January but he only made one appearance for the Cottagers and was released at the end of the season.

Remarkably, he’s still only 25 so maybe he’s worth a gamble for somebody.

Franck Ribery

During his twelve years at Bayern Munich, Ribery won the lot including nine Bundesliga titles and the Champions League.

The French winger may now be 36 but he’s not ready to hang up his boots just yet, and he’s still on the lookout for his next club.

“I’m still hungry. And I think that I still have something to give. As long as I feel that I have a high level in my legs and in my head, I’ll try to find it. I’ll never lie,” said Ribery.

“I could perhaps still play at a big club… I’m thinking about it. I have the experience that often makes a difference.”

 

Hatem Ben Arfa

Newcastle United fans will probably remember Ben Arfa as a frustrating talent who was capable of amazing trickery and stunning goals.

He has had troubled spells since leaving St. James’ Park and has recently played for Hull, Nice, PSG and Rennes. After helping Rennes beat PSG and win the Coupe de France last season, Ben Arfa left the club when his contract expired.

The 32-year-old has been linked with a return to Newcastle and we’d certainly love to see him back in the Premier League.

Wilfried Bony

Bony became one of the best strikers in the Premier League after joining Swansea in 2013 but he left for Manchester City 18 months later as he wanted to play Champions League football.

He was never able to recreate his Swansea form at the Etihad and joined Stoke City on loan before returning to Wales in 2017, but he struggled for regular playing time last season.

“I’m a free agent now so I’m following a programme of training, and I’ll have meetings with my agent to see if anything concrete comes in and then we’ll sit and talk about my future,” said Bony.

“There’s been plenty of talking but nothing concrete yet. But as always, I’m used to this, it’s not the first time this has happened.”

Claudio Marchisio

Marchisio ended a 25-year association with Juventus last summer to join Zenit St. Petersburg but his contract in Russia was cancelled after just 10 months.

The legendary midfielder won seven Serie A titles and played in two Champions League finals with the Old Lady, but he has been blighted by injuries for the past three years.

More importantly though, he’s still able to pull off a pair of sunglasses better than anybody else. The cool bastard.

 

Yohan Cabaye

Alongside Ben Arfa, Cabaye is another former Newcastle United favourite that is currently a free agent.

The French international was a key part of the Newcastle side that narrowly missed out on the top four in 2012. He then joined PSG in 2014 and scored his first goal for the club in the Champions League round of 16.

Cabaye returned to England with Crystal Palace before joining Dubai-based Al-Nasr last year but he left the club after just six months. He could surely still do a job for a few Premier League teams.

Ignazio Abate

Abate came up through the AC Milan academy and in 2003 he became the youngest player to play for the club in the UEFA Champions League, when he featured against Celta Vigo at the age of 17 years and 27 days.

The right-back left the club in 2007 but returned two years later and helped the club win Serie A in 2011. Ten years after returning to the Rossonero, Abate said a tearful goodbye to the club at the end of last season.

Mario Balotelli

Balotelli is one of football’s greatest mavericks, the striker plays by his own rules, and he doesn’t care about what anybody else thinks.

The Italian was part of Inter Milan’s treble-winning team in 2010 and then became a cult hero at Manchester City. More recently he’s played for AC Milan, flopped at Liverpool and had spells with Nice and Marseille.

However, any clubs that are interested in him will have to act quickly as he’s reportedly in talks with Flamengo in Brazil.


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