Football Manager 2024 is out now. If you’re anything like us, you’ll already strategising about how you’ll turn your moderately-sized club into a European juggernaut. To do so you’ll have to think creatively in the transfer market – and here’s where free agents can be incredibly handy.
Football Manager obsessives (via FMScout) are already hard at work speculating about the best footballers you can try sign for no transfer fee at all.
Here are 10 of the best free agents you ought to consider buying in FM24.
Yes, Lingard struggled at Nottingham Forest. Yes, he’s barely done anything in the past couple of years. But remember that brief period where he looked a world-beater on loan with David Moyes’ Hammers? If you really fancy yourself as a decent man manager you’d give it a go.
The former England international has trained with West Ham and been linked with a move to Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq but he still finds himself without a club.
The Argentinian made over 200 appearances for PSG and won five Ligue 1 titles during his seven-year stint in the French capital.
And yet he was among the more underwhelming glamour signings of their QSI era, with a sense that he never quite fulfilled his potential as a wonderkid back in his Palermo days.
Recent years have seen the 34-year-old turn out for Roma, Elche and Qatar Sports Club – but that stint only lasted six months and he’s on the search for a new club once again.
Following Eden Hazard’s retirement announcement, Pastore is FMScout’s joint highest-rated free agent with a rating of 83.
The Serie A legend waved a tearful goodbye to Sampdoria following their relegation at the end of last season.
Quagliarella arguably didn’t peak until his late thirties, with that ridiculous 26-goal haul in 2018-19 responsible for beating Cristiano Ronaldo for Serie A’s Capocannoniere top scorer award.
It looked as though time finally caught up with the Italian striker last season. He’s now entered his fifth decade and scored just one goal in 2022-23.
But he’s yet to announce his retirement, and it would be fun to rope in for one last job – like European football’s answer to The Expendables.
Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella broke down in tears after he received a surprise award from Napoli's ultras. 💙
40-year-old Quagliarella spent 2009-11 at his hometown club Napoli and is expected to retire at the end of this season. 🥺 pic.twitter.com/p08R1fX637
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 4, 2023
The 24-year-old Brazilian was recently released by Vitoria. He’s a forward with only a couple of senior goals to his name – so we’re not exactly expecting clubs to queue up for his signature – but he’s relatively youthful and is among FMScout’s higher-rated free agents with a rating of 82.
Worth a punt, maybe?
The German already became something of a punchline during his latter years at Arsenal – and that was before he suffered back-to-back relegations with stints at Schalke and Levante.
Mustafi was last seen featuring in Levante’s painful play-off final defeat to Alaves, having barely featured for the Spanish club due to injuries last term. Somehow he’s still only 31.
Still, he is a World Cup winner, was actually pretty decent at Valencia, and wasn’t always entirely useless at Arsenal. Rehabilitating his reputation could be a fun challenge in and of itself.
Who? Good question.
Paraguayan striker Lopez was released by Atlanta United back in August. He’d been talked up as a promising prospect but never quite established himself as a regular starter and scored just one goal for the club.
He’s still just 21 and something of a rough diamond if you back yourself as a Roberto De Zerbi-esque developer of youngsters.
OH MY, @Eriklopez_32! 😱
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 29, 2021
Regular watchers of Spanish football might remember the right-back turning out for Real Betis, with ‘Francis’ adorning the back of his shirt.
The former Spain Under-21 international looked half-decent for Los Verdiblancos, particularly with regular appearances under Quique Setien as they finished 10th – while being wonderfully entertaining – back in 2018-19.
But he fell down the pecking order from there and was last seen turning out for Rayo Majadahonda in the Spanish third tier. A viable option if you fancy taking on a Segunda job and attempting to take a club like Real Zaragoza back to former glories.
It wasn’t long ago that the technically gifted Spanish midfielder looked outstanding at Levante. An early career move to Crystal Palace never quite worked out but he was good enough in La Liga to earn interest from Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds a few years back.
But he couldn’t singlehandedly turn the ailing club’s fortunes around and was released alongside Mustafi after a year in Segunda.
A solid option if you fancy an easy-on-the-eye, possession-focused approach. Admittedly not at the elite level.
David de Gea
The goalkeeper’s stock has fallen considerably over recent years, he’s out of Spain contention altogether, and he committed a few high-profile errors last term. Yet he still kept more clean sheets than any other Premier League ‘keeper in 2022-23 and remains a world-class shot-stopper on his day.
Unless you’re absolutely adamant about playing out from the back, you could do a lot worse. Wage demands might be an issue – which might well explain why the real-life De Gea is still searching for a club.
David de Gea, last season's Premier League Golden Glove winner, is still a free agent ⏳ pic.twitter.com/87Cm1NK5eN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 3, 2023
We’re going to lay our cards on the table and admit we’ve never heard of this bloke. But a brief look at his Wikipedia page shows he’s built like a brick sh*thouse – so there might be some entertainment value in utilising him as a battering ram up top.
The 27-year-old Argentinian’s most recent stint was at Mexican second-tier side Atletico Morelia. He’s previously represented Racing Club, Portland Timbers and Colon.