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29 June 2017

Sulley Muntari and Richmond Boakye among best out-of-contract bargains available this summer

Sulley Muntari

Ghana duo Sulley Muntari and Richmond Boakye-Yiadom have been named among the best free agent during this transfer window.

The window in the major leagues will be shut at the end of August.

Here’s Nick Miller’s article for the Guardian Newspaper.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

If a player is a free agent in the middle of a transfer window, it is usually because something is unattractive about them: for the most part, it will either be because they are no good or because of their age. Iker Casillas is 36 – old for a sportsperson but not necessarily scrapheap time where goalkeepers are concerned. Casillas ended his two years at Porto this summer after his contract expired, a moment he marked by posting a clip of him slowly walking into the sea.

Presumably this was either a symbolic act representing his departure from Portuguese shores or a touching tribute to Reginald Perrin. Either way, it displayed that he is off to something new, and even at his advanced age he will be useful for someone, even if it is for his keen knowledge of 1970s British sitcoms.

Defence: Pepe

Football is supposed to be about fun. Winning, sure. Skill, absolutely. But most of all, fun. So with that in mind, we implore someone, somewhere to sign Pepe as soon as possible. The Portuguese bruiser is no longer a Real Madrid player and is open to offers, with PSG, Besiktas and a clutch of other clubs who have a slightly unhinged but ultimately very entertaining centre-back-shaped hole in their defence.

As often with players who are rather “rambunctious” on the pitch, Pepe is apparently a perfectly sensible, approachable chap off it, but has perhaps the most emphatic case of white line fever in football history. And who wouldn’t want that in their team?

Defence: John Terry

You wonder if John Terry regrets managing to force through that extra year at Chelsea. Sure, he got himself another Premier League winners’ medal but he barely played as Antonio Conte’s broadly unchanged side stormed to the title.

Had he left 12 months ago, he might have secured a two-year contract somewhere half-decent, enjoyed another full season of contributing in a meaningful way to a team, and perhaps been left with more options for the latter days of his career.  Of course, he may still have some of that but it is tempting to think of it as a year wasted. So where will he pop up at the start of next season? It is hard to see him playing near the top of the Premier League again but one imagines he will have some choices to make, and pretty soon.

Defence: Gael Clichy

At some points last season Pep Guardiola looked thoroughly unhappy with life, a man haunted by the vague notion that he’d made a mistake. Plenty of that was to do with the Manchester City defence, partly assembled by him but partly inherited, an ageing backline featuring players past their best.

That was particularly true at full-back, where Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and Gaël Clichy have been cut free as Guardiola attempts to fashion a team more in keeping with his own image. But just because some of them weren’t good enough for City, that doesn’t necessarily mean they might not be useful for another side, although Liverpool’s reported offer of a two-year contract might say more about their other options than Clichy’s ability.

Right wing-back: Jesus Navas

It remains one of the great mysteries of our time that Jesus Navas clocked up 183 appearances over four seasons with Manchester City. The last time he scored a league goal was in January 2014, and he recorded two assists in 35 games last season. The statistics for how many times he ran down the wing and wellied the ball straight into the opposition left-back’s shins are, alas, not available.  Still, what Navas will do very happily is work hard, work quickly and provide a doughty presence on the flank for someone that needs it.   Last season’s excursions at right-back indicate that he could do a reasonable job as a wing-back, and in an age where three-man defences are not so much fashionable but available on most high streets, he may be a decent option for someone there.

Central midfield: Jan Kirchhoff

You can identify a broad range of reasons for Sunderland’s decay and ultimate demise, but somewhere in the mix must be the frustrating campaign suffered by Jan Kirchhoff.

The big German didn’t play a minute of first-team football after December, and since he was one of the key men in the great escape as guided by Sam Allardyce the previous season, his absence with hamstring then knee injuries blew a big hole in the side of David Moyes’s attempts to do similar.

It’s his adaptability that makes him attractive, most at home as a defensive midfielder but also able to play at the back, and if a team are prepared to look past a season of questionable fitness, they may try to reawaken the player who was so promising on Bayern Munich’s books.

Central midfield: Sulley Muntari

It has been, to say the least, an emotional few months for Sulley Muntari. In May, he was booked for the crime of protesting against racial abuse, and as that represented his fifth booking of the season, he was suspended before the ban was rescinded. He walked off the pitch in protest and didn’t play another minute for Pescara but now is a free agent and looking for another club, not least to restart his international career with Ghana. The football world does not quite work like this but it would be a fitting and just denouement to the whole sorry business if someone took a chance on Muntari, a man who has suffered countless examples of abuse throughout his career.

Left wing-back: Zoran Tosic

Eight years ago, the expensive arrivals of Zoran Tosic and Adem Ljajic were announced with no little fanfare by Manchester United. Tosic, in particular, was viewed as a potential successor to Ryan Giggs, but at the end of a rather curious couple of years in Manchester, he left having played fewer games for United than Bebe. Now, after seven years at CSKA Moscow, he’s available on a free, still with a yard of pace despite being 30.  It would be too narratively perfect for United to re-sign him, but a man able to do a job as winger or wing-back might be useful for a side on a tight budget. There’s talk of him heading to Turkey to sign for Galatasaray or Besiktas, so bargain hunters, there’s no time to lose.

Forward: Rachid Ghezzal

Most scouts who have shown up at Lyon in the last year or so will presumably have been largely there to watch Alexandre Lacazette, but they might have kept half an eye on another product of the club’s youth system, Rachid Ghezzal.

A left-footed winger who can play on either flank and cites Arjen Robben as his “reference point”, Ghezzal broke into the Lyon team relatively late, having endured a stop-start first few years to his career.

The 25-year-old’s form in the season just ended was thought to be a little less consistent than what came before, but he clearly has the capability to be a terrific performer. Everton have been linked, Milan are supposedly keen and some reports indicate that Roma have identified him as the man to replace Mohamed Salah.

Forward: Richmond Boakye Yiadom

Like assessing the lots in the auction of a bankrupted man’s estate, in football sometimes opportunities present themselves when clubs fall on hard times. That’s the case for Latina, last season a Serie B club who towards the end of the season were deemed financially unviable, so have been demoted to the amateur leagues, meaning all their contracted players are free to find new clubs.

One such man is Richmond Boakye Yiadom, a Ghanaian forward who spent last season on loan at Red Star Belgrade, scoring 16 goals in 19 appearances. He would be a somewhat left-field choice, but in the uber-competitive, sharp-elbowed world of modern football, clubs need to grab any advantage they can. Signing this sort of player for nothing might be just that.

Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

It must have been extremely strange to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic when his knee gave way at the end of last season. The Swede hadn’t really suffered any serious injuries previously, but when his cruciate ligament snapped against Anderlecht the last great chapter in his story might have been derailed. It will be a terrific shame if this spells the end of his career, but as he’s already been training at Manchester United it looks as if he isn’t planning on going out just yet. Ibrahimovic will in all likelihood start the season unsigned, and his first choice will presumably be to finish what he started at United, but might an enterprising club take a (significant) gamble by offering him a contract now?



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