31st December 2022; Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England; Premier League Football, Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Manchester United; David De Gea of Manchester Utd celebrates their 0-1 win

Six free agents with Champions League experience available right now

The transfer window is officially closed but there are still some high-profile free agents still looking for new clubs.

It’s around this time of the year that anxious directors of football and chairmen start getting worried about the gaps left in their club’s squads and think about offering a deal to those still on the market – and there are former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea names available.

We’ve identified six players that have played at Champions League level that are currently available for no transfer fee.

David de Gea

The contract saga that rumbled on throughout last season, De Gea was Manchester United’s longest-serving player and was the last of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2012-13 title winners to depart Old Trafford.

There always remained question marks over the Spaniard’s distribution and willingness to come off his line, with replacement Andre Onana looking a more natural fit for Erik ten Hag’s demands, but he still enjoyed a respectable enough final season by winning the Premier League’s Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets.

The Athletic reported back in June that De Gea had agreed a fresh new deal with a considerable pay cut, only for United to back out of the agreed proposal. And in mid-July, the 32-year-old announced his departure with a heartfelt farewell message on social media.

Bayern Munich had been linked with a move for De Gea amid Manuel Neuer’s ongoing injury concerns but Thomas Tuchel reportedly vetoed the signing.

We can see De Gea earning lucrative dosh out in Saudi Arabia, but your guess is as good as ours as to where he ends up. He’s still a very good shot-stopper and could be an asset to any big club not intent on playing out from the back.

Manchester United's David De Gea celebrates during a Premier League game against Everton. Old Trafford, April 2012.

READ: Where are they now? The Man Utd Xl from David de Gea’s debut in 2011

Jesse Lingard

That one-year stint at Nottingham Forest didn’t really work out, did it?

Lingard has trained with former club West Ham over the summer, but it remains to be seen whether David Moyes fancies signing up the 30-year-old former England international.

Now whether young Lingard is a player to drive a club to win the Champions League is open to debate, but that half-season loan stint at the London Stadium was Lingard’s best period of form in recent years by a country mile. He really should’ve just joined Moysey’s Hammers last summer.

Eden Hazard

There have been widespread reports that Hazard will announce his retirement after his big move to Real Madrid proved to be a disaster.

He’s still just 32 and we’re clinging to hope that the Belgian winger, who was so electric on his day for Chelsea, decides to try rekindle his career.

Papu Gomez

Part of Argentina’s World Cup-winning squad and one of the key figures of Gian Piero Gasperini’s outrageously entertaining Atalanta side, Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez was only a peripheral figure for Sevilla as they won the Europa League last term.

The attacking midfielder terminated his contract with the club over the weekend. He’s 35 and on the wane so it’s difficult to imagine an elite club coming in for him.

We could definitely see him going back to his hometown of Buenos Aires. He started out at smaller club Arsenal de Sarandi and later represented San Lorenzo but we can imagine him at Boca Juniors or River Plate too.

Kasper Schmeichel

Fair enough, Schmeichel doesn’t have extensive Champions League experience, but he was an ever-present throughout Leicester’s memorable run to the quarter-finals back in 2016-17.

The veteran Dane was a top Premier League ‘keeper on his day and will surely have suitors in England after ripping up his contract with Ligue 1 club Nice. But the latest reports from France suggest that the 36-year-old is set to sign for Anderlecht.


Part of the Lille side that upset the odds to win the Ligue 1 title back in 2020-21, Xeka further caught the eye by scoring their match-winner against PSG in the Trophee des Champions that summer.

The Portuguese midfielder had been linked with Arsenal but moved to Rennes on a free long after last summer’s transfer window closed but an ankle problem restricted him to just six league starts as they punched above their weight to finish fourth.

One year on he finds himself looking for a club once again. Xeka is still only 28 and could be a canny pick-up if he’s able to put his injury woes behind him.

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