Top 20 Under-the-Radar Free Transfer Signings This Summer
Once again, this summer will be loaded with free transfer deals ripe for picking.
Those with a beady eye on the market can pick up some serious quality at a bargain price, and we've constructed a list of 20 under-the-radar talents who could be available for as much as a signing-on fee.
You won't find Patrice Evra, John Terry or any other obvious, documented, household names here. How about some love for Anthony Pilkington and Co. instead?
Billy Jones, West Bromwich Albion
Back in February, Billy Jones told The Express & Star, via Sky Sports, that he was focusing solely on the football in front of him and not a potential new contract with West Bromwich Albion—a wise choice.
The 25-year-old has quietly developed into one of the better, more solid right-backs in the Premier League, and if WBA are relegated, he won't want to stick around.
Should Pepe Mel's troops survive, he's guaranteed a new, better-paid deal; if not, he's free to shop himself around for more top-tier football.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mainz
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is becoming a regular fixture in the Cameroon national setup, but he still can't convince his manager at Mainz he's the real deal.
He's electric with the ball and combines real attacking intent with force and power; he's the ideal free acquisition for a team looking for a Yannick Bolasie-esque spark they're hoping to refine.
At 24, he's the ideal age too.
Anthony Pilkington, Norwich City
Anthony Pilkington is injury-prone, but that's really the only knock against him.
His ailments have given Robert Snodgrass and Nathan Redmond the chance to become the premier wingers in East Anglia, but his 14 Premier League goals is bettered only by Grant Holt.
When on the pitch he's a reliable scoring presence. Despite his questionable record, the Canaries really should have tied him up.
Aaron Hunt, Werder Bremen
Aaron Hunt is in talks with Werder Bremen, per Bild (h/t Sky Sports), and a decision will be made in March as to the midfielder's future.
No inclination either way has been mooted, and if the Anglo-German believes he should trial a different league or club, he'll have no shortage of Premier League options.
Hunt is a very capable attacking option who qualified to play for England before choosing Die Mannschaft. You may know him as the man who declined a penalty after admitting he tripped over in the box.
Jorge Fucile, FC Porto
Jorge Fucile was a key part of FC Porto's successful run under Andre Villas-Boas, but his career has taken a turn for the worst after falling out with a succession of managers.
He's been frozen out by Paulo Fonseca this season at the Dragao but could come into contention under the new man, but his exit is more than likely at this stage.
If he can find the right fit personality-wise, Fucile is a versatile, mobile and highly skilled Uruguay international capable of playing on both flanks.
Jack Colback, Sunderland
Jack Colback has emerged as a key player for Sunderland over the last two seasons, filling in at left-back, left-midfield, centre-midfield and even right-back when asked.
He's holding off on a new deal for the same reason Pilkington is: Sunderland's Premier League status is far from secure, and he wants to see how the season plays out.
Colback is a strong worker and so versatile; he'd be a great signing for someone as high up as Southampton.
Guillermo Ochoa, Ajaccio
According to Voxxi.com, Guillermo Ochoa is set on leaving Ajaccio this summer to try and find the best possible free-agent deal he can.
After putting in several sublime showings over the past 18 months in Ligue 1, that shouldn't be a problem, with the 28-year-old Mexican boasting agility and shot-stopping ability few others can.
All of France, and most of Europe, should be interested in this deal.
Andreas Beck, Hoffenheim
Andreas Beck didn't exactly grow to become the all-encompassing right-back we thought he might, but he's still a very serviceable option and an upgrade on most situations.
The blonde ball of energy tears up and down the flank with commitment every game, has skills at both ends of the pitch and, critically, is locked in negotiations that aren't going very well, per Bild (via Thomas Zocher of Sky Sports).
After years at the Rhein-Neckar Arena, he might just be willing to try something new.
Mame Biram Diouf, Hannover 96
Mame Biram Diouf has been a revelation in the Bundesliga following his ill-fated move to Manchester United.
He's bagged 20 goals and 10 assists over the last two seasons for Hannover 96, marking a more-than-reasonable return for the £1.5 million used to lure him from the Red Devils.
Hannover chairman Martin Kind wants him to sign a new deal, but it seems like Diouf is ready to test the water and find himself a better club.
Manuel Fernandes, Besiktas
Manuel Fernandes, still only 28 years old (somehow), looks set to leave Besiktas and the Turkish Superlig behind this summer.
He was once thought of as one of the world's top prospects, but after ill-fated spells with Valencia and Everton, he's been drifting around Europe looking for a home.
Tomas Rincon, Hamburg SV
Tomas Rincon looks set to leave Hamburg at the end of the season whether they're relegated or not.
Like Andreas Beck, he didn't really turn into the monster it seemed he would four or five years ago when he was bursting onto the scene, but you could do a lot worse in midfield than this Venezuelan warrior.
He has eye-popping technique and an all-round game, and his tendency not to "show up" in the very biggest of games won't worry teams taking him for free.
Tomer Hemed, Real Mallorca
Tomer Hemed suffered relegation last season with Real Mallorca, and although he stuck around for one more season in the Liga Adelante, it doesn't look like the island club will come back up at the first time of asking.
There will be a host of English clubs interested in his physical style as he translates perfectly to the Premier League, and his goalscoring touch is undisputed.
Urby Emanuelson, Milan
Gazzetta dello Sport, via Football Italia, reported in January that manager Clarence Seedorf's first task would be to extend the contract of Urby Emanuelson.
Unfortunately, that still hasn't happened, and the Dutchman isn't figuring regularly in Seedorf'd 4-2-3-1 formation due to the emergence of loan signing Adel Taarabt.
He's as versatile as they come and an incredibly strong worker. It's a nice little present for a sly team here.
Jean Beausejour, Wigan Athletic
Wigan Athletic have managed to keep Jean Beausejour around, despite dropping into the Championship, but that fantasy run could end this summer.
The versatile left-sider is electric with the ball and works so hard he's still in Jorge Sampaoli's plans for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
While that would usually elevate hyperbole, the focus won't be on him, and one lucky club can strike a deal here.
Alejandro Faurlin, Queens Park Rangers
If a new club were to take Alejandro Faurlin on, it'd be a certifiable gamble.
He sustained a season-ending injury early in the 2013-14 campaign, and no club will have anything tangible to work off, bar his loan spell at Palermo last season and a medical scan in the summer.
He was playing well before he got hurt, but knees are worrying joints to harm so severely. Will he be the same majestic, ball-playing central midfielder we knew before?
Marc Albrighton, Aston Villa
Marc Albrighton's contract is spiraling down, and Aston Villa fans are starting to worry the club won't extend it.
The winger burst onto the scene under Gerard Houllier and scored against Manchester United in 2010, but then disappeared off the face of the earth. It was a succession of unlucky injuries—including a broken foot and throat surgery—that kept him away from the pitch.
At full fitness he's a livewire, though, and possesses wonderful crossing technique. He's basically a brilliant fit for Villa in their current state, hence the confusion as to why no action has been taken as yet.
Sebastian Larsson, Sunderland
Sunderland could see another key cog leave them this summer, as Sebastian Larsson's contract is up and he's not prioritising talks, as per Sky Sports.
He's a wide midfielder converted inside, with his remarkable curling delivery and accurate long passes still his defining trait. It feels like he's been around forever, despite being only 28, so for free you could be landing a set-piece wizard with close to a decade of Premier League experience.
It's a Kevin Bacon no-brainer.
Eduardo, Shakhtar Donetsk
Eduardo, the man who's leg was cruelly broken while at Arsenal playing against Birmingham City, looks set to leave Shakhtar Donetsk this summer at age 31.
He's had injury issues, certainly, but he has looked in good fettle this season and has managed to score goals in every campaign he's played.
Perhaps a UEFA Champions League club is out of the question, but he's an attractive free signing for a club challenging slightly lower down.
Didier Ya Konan, Hannover 96
That's right, Hannover 96 could well lose two key pieces to their attacking puzzle this summer for free; Mame Biram Diouf's striking partner Didier Ya Konan is also seemingly set to leave.
At 29 he could be looking at a move to the Chinese Super League rather than a swansong in the Premier League, but the Ivorian speedster is one to keep an eye on anyway.
Jeremy Menez, Paris Saint-Germain
According to Sky Sports, Jeremy Menez has committed to seeing out his contract with Paris Saint-Germain this season—and will begrudgingly accept the inevitable Ligue 1 winner's medal headed his way too.
It's a tough life being a footballer, honest.
His next destination is unknown, but clubs will know what they're bidding for in the Frenchman: a supremely talented, brilliant individual with some obvious, recorded behavioral problems.
Whoever takes the plunge could get an offensive spark, but it's high-risk, high-reward.