An XI of the best free agents to sign at the start of Football Manager 2021

Quick Reads

Any Football Manager 2021 gamer working on a budget will need to make good use of the free agents – those players who still didn’t have a club when you first start a new save. 

There is, as always, plenty of value to be found in scouring the ‘contract expired’ list of players in the game, with plenty of well-known veterans available as well as some hidden gems.

Here’s our first XI of the best players on the game available on a free, arranged in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

GK: Heurelho Gomes

He might be 39, but the former Tottenham and Watford goalkeeper Gomes is still a superb player and could easily fit in at a Premier League club. The veteran remains erratic – he has decisions 8 and concentration 10 – but this is more than made up for with some superb base stats.

He has no fewer than six attributes of 15 or above in the ‘goalkeeping’ category, as well as seven more 15+ stats in the physical and mental department.

RB: Antonio Valencia

A 36-year-old whose career is clearly winding down, Valencia is no more than a stop-gap for any Premier League team willing to pay some relatively high wages. But that experience and leadership as a former Manchester United captain are well worth paying for.

CB: Ezequiel Garay

As one of the most high-profile players on the list, it is no surprise that Garay is the best centre-back available on a free transfer.

The former Argentina international, with 32 appearances for his country, was a regular for Valencia last season and has previously played for Real Madrid, Benfica, and Zenit.

Garay remains a top player despite being in his mid-30s. All of his core defensive stats are at least 15 and, while his pace (10) prevents him from being a target for top clubs, he remains a smart signing for mid-table Premier League outfits.

READ: An XI of the best Football Manager 2021 wonderkids: Camavinga, Meslier…

CB: Jozo Simunovic

It is surprising that Sports Interactive rate the uncapped Bosnian centre-back so highly, given that Simunovic hasn’t managed to find a new club since leaving Celtic in the summer.

At 26, he should be entering his prime – and indeed he can be a very useful player for anyone looking to get promoted from the Championship.

Simunovic is excellent in the air and a strong tackler. While he cannot compete with Garay, the former Dinamo player has better passing and technical stats.

LB: Ivan Strinic

The 33-year-old Croatian left-back is a very solid and dependable player, having played for Napoli and AC Milan after a long career in Ukraine.

Strinic never quite became a regular in Serie A, but nevertheless he has very good all-round stats for an attacking left-back and is willing to sign for a Championship club.

With crossing and teamwork at 14, as well as plenty of 13+ stats for defensive attributes, Strinic makes a good squad player for bottom-half Premier League teams.

CM: Jack Wilshere

Is it worth the risk? Wilshere will never get over his injury problems, but one look at those stats and it’s hard to resist the temptation to roll the dice on such an immensely talented player.

The 28-year-old still has a few years left, too, and is capable of leading a Premier League team if his fitness holds.

Wilshere has 15+ attributes for passing, technique, first touch, vision, and teamwork; this is a highly talented player only available on a free because of his track record on the treatment table.

READ: Where are they now? A wonderkid from every Football Manager game

CM: Benat Etxebarria

Athletic Bilbao let go of a long-time servant over the summer and Benat has been unable to find a new club, which is a surprise given the amount of quality he possesses as an all-round box-to-box midfielder.

The Spaniard, capped four times by his country, is even willing to drop all the way to League One. If you can get him at that level he will be a star, with almost no stats below 11 and a smattering of 14s and 15s in important technical areas.

He is arguably an even better addition than Wilshere.

RW: Jefferson Farfan

A Peruvian winger with 95 caps and 27 goals for his country, Farfan is a legend in his native country and has enjoyed an impressive career in the Bundesliga and the Eredivisie.

The 35-year-old can also play across attacking midfield and in the middle of the park, making him a versatile option.

But it’s on the wing that Farfan flourishes. He has 14+ in more than a dozen categories including passing, off the ball, agility and finishing.

CAM: Samir Nasri

Something of a luxury signing, Nasri is a playmaker who is unlikely to have a lasting influence as a starter. But the Frenchman appears on this list because he is happy to join a Championship club – if you can afford him – and will add an element of flair and creativity to the side.

Nasri has 16+ in passing, first touch, flair and off the ball, although his physical stats are very weak. The former Arsenal and Manchester City player was never consistent or hard-working – and that hasn’t changed in the years since.

Cherno Samba

READ: Cherno Samba: My Champ Man stats were right, but I didn’t put the work in

LW: Kwadwo Asamoah

Although he is better as a defensive winger, Asamoah has enough technical ability to be a hard-working and effective attacker for any Championship club with hopes of reaching the top tier. His work-rate, determination and concentration are particularly strong.

The 33-year-old is fresh from a spell at Inter Milan and has previously played for Juventus and Udinese. The Ghana international also has 74 caps to his name, although with leadership 9 should not be bought for his influence in the dressing room.

ST: Mario Mandzukic

Not just the best striker to sign on a free, but the best player overall, former Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic still has immense talent. Few of his stats have waned despite his age. While there are only a handful of clubs who can afford his wages, he is worth it.

He has 13 stats that are 16 or higher, reflecting a power and mental strength that has made the Croatia international such an important player for Juventus, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid over the years.

By Alex Keble

More Football Manager

Cherno Samba: My Champ Man stats were right, but I didn’t put the work in

An XI of the best Football Manager 2021 wonderkids: Camavinga, Meslier…

Kennedy Bakircioglu: The true story of the Champ Man icon & Man Utd trialist

Can you name the top Premier League goalscorer for every nationality?