From Taribo West to Pep Guardiola, free transfers have always been one of the first things Football Manager users look out for when the new game is released.
Every year there seems to be one or two must-buys – hidden gems available for nothing when you first load up a game.
So here’s a list of our favourite XI, all good enough to play in the Championship at least.
Certainly a good goalkeeper for Championship level and a decent back-up option for those on a budget, Viviano boasts some excellent raw goalkeeping stats including reflexes, one on ones, kicking and throwing – all 16 or above.
The 33-year-old has been around the block, too, his six Italy caps and years in the game giving him decent leadership and work-rate, although a low concentration attribute means he may not be the best person to warm the bench.
The Scottish Cafu, as he is affectionately known, has enjoyed cult-hero status at Rangers and Aston Villa and for the Scotland national team. The 34-year-old is without a club largely because of his wage demands, but Hutton is worth it.
Boasting pace and dribbling still 12 or above, Hutton really isn’t showing his age on FM20 and has pretty good stats across the board. A Premier League relegation candidate could do worse than getting Hutton in to cover right-back and left-back.
The best centre-back available on a free transfer is undoubtedly the former Palermo defender Rajkovic, who played 30 Serie B matches in Italy last year and could certainly do a job as a Premier League squad player.
With 13 or above in all the key defender attributes, Rajkovic – who was once bought by Chelsea for £3.6million – is only 30 and should stay good for a couple of seasons. He has marking, tackling, heading and strength all 14 or above.
A relative unknown who most recently played in China, Serbian centre-back Pejcinovic is a hidden gem on FM20 and the second-best defender available on a free transfer. Most of his key attributes, 14 or above, are exactly what’s needed for a Championship player in his position.
Pejcinovic, at 31, isn’t a long-term option and certainly no Taribo West, and yet he is still an excellent squad player also capable of filling in at left-back and right-back.
At left-back is former Croatia international Strinic, who is the sort of all-rounder needed to play as a full-back in the modern game. Having featured 49 times for his country and coming straight from AC Milan, there is no doubt Strinic will do a job even at one of the big five leagues.
He has no fewer than 30 attributes rated 12 or above. While determination is the only stat above 15, Strinic is a reliable 7/10 player who at 31 can still get up and down.
Probably the best bargain on the game, 26-year-old Lucas Silva left Brazilian football in his prime and would make a good addition to any mid-table Premier League outfit.
Silva has seven different mental attributes that are 14 or above, a testament to his excellent temperament – crucial for a central midfielder.
He’s technically gifted, too, although some clubs won’t be able to get him a work permit having never played for his country at senior level.
Nobody on this list has more green-lit stats than Sonogo, a 30-year-old Ivory Coast international who has the work rate, stamina, aggression and teamwork to make him a competitive anchor man all the way up to Premier League clubs chasing Europe.
His passing and technique stats – both 13 – prevent Sonogo from playing higher up the pitch, but no matter: he is a very assured team player who will break up the play all day long.
The former Newcastle United and PSG playmaker can be picked up for nothing on Football Manager, and while most would be wise to stay away, Ben Arfa is great fun for the wildcard manager – the sort happy to let luxury playmakers swan around in their attack.
The 31-year-old’s flair and technique are still impressive, and he is a coup signing for any Championship clubs hoping to build into the Premier League with swanky attacking football.
He’s by no means the most technically gifted winger in the game, but 24-year-old Biro Biro is young enough to improve – with the right training – on that front. His strength (8), however, is the sort of ropey stat that explains why Biro is a free agent.
But the FM20 match engine somewhat overpowers pacey wingers who can beat a man and rush to the byline, and so his 16+ stats for pace, agility and dribbling are enough to make Biro the infuriating-but-effective Adama Traore suber-sub of your team.
There is no chance this 38-year-old can still play at the highest level, but the reason Texeira makes the list is he will happily drop to a lower tier and become a marquee signing.
Granted, he has absolutely no pace, strength, or stamina, but those dibbling, flair, vision, and technique stats will make him a fans’ favourite in no time.
The biggest stumbling block will be wages, because this is one lazy prima donna who won’t come cheap. For Championship clubs, he’s worth it.
The ex-Manchester City and Ivory Coast international is still a decent player with finishing, balance, strength, technique, and heading all 15 or above, making him a very useful starting player for a relegation candidate in the Premier League.
Bony wants too much money for most clubs, however, so he’s perhaps one for bigger teams in need of a rotation option late in the window.
By Alex Keble