The 20 Best Players Released by Their Premier League Clubs
Call them “The Undesirables.”
Cut loose by their Premier League clubs, they found themselves in the bottom sections of the English top flight’s eerily labeled “retained and released list,” which was made available on Friday.
Some of them, needless to say, underachieved their way to free agency; others, perhaps because of salary issues, simply didn’t open negotiations with their former employers.
Then there were those discharged by the division’s relegated outfits—teams that will have to be rather more austere in the Championship next season.
Following are the 20 best players released by their Premier League clubs.
20. Nathan Delfouneso, Aston Villa
It just didn’t pan out for Nathan Delfouneso at Villa Park. A star with England’s underage categories, the now-23-year-old never transplanted his international success into the club circuit, and a 2012-13 campaign in which he scored seven goals while on loan at Championship side Blackpool represents his best season to date.
19. Joe Cole, West Ham
A three-time Premier League champion during a prolific seven years at Chelsea, Joe Cole struggled in subsequent stints at Liverpool and West Ham and was released by the Upton Park outfit in mid-May.
Now 32 years of age, the one-time pacey winger has certainly lost a step and only started six matches in 2013-14. But for the right club, he could still do a good job, and Major League Soccer’s official website has already reported, per Dan Itel, he could be headed to expansion side Orlando City.
18. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion
Liam Ridgewell has run himself out of West Midlands clubs to represent. The former Aston Villa and Birmingham City left-back was released by West Bromwich Albion this month, so no matter where he finds himself ahead of next season, he’ll have to get used to some new surroundings. A serviceable player at 29 years of age, Ridgewell played 33 matches in 2013-14, scoring once.
17. Robert Koren, Hull City
Robert Koren didn’t get off the bench in Hull City’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal last weekend, and with that, it ended his four-year association with the KC Stadium outfit. The 33-year-old midfielder began the season with a foot injury but still appeared in 22 matches and scored a pair of goals.
16. Juan Agudelo, Stoke City
Stoke City wanted to keep Juan Agudelo at Britannia Stadium, but the 21-year-old United States international’s re-application for a work permit was turned down. The forward scored three goals in 14 matches while on loan at Eredivisie outfit Utrecht in 2013-14.
15. George McCartney, West Ham
Admirers of George McCartney will have to beware of a recurring knee injury that kept the defender out of action for the first three months of the 2013-14 season. When he returned to the line-up, however, he played 22 matches for West Ham and showed the sort of qualities that will make him a decent pickup for another club during the summer.
14. Mark Schwarzer, Chelsea
Mark Schwarzer retired from international football last November, but the former Australia goalkeeper is still hoping to continue his club career, despite a May release from Chelsea. The 41-year-old made 12 appearances for the Blues in 2013-14 and took over the net in the Champions League following Petr Cech’s injury.
13. Marouane Chamakh, Crystal Palace
Marouane Chamakh joined Crystal Palace from Arsenal last August, and the five goals he scored for the Selhurst Park outfit represented the second-best haul of his Premier League career. At 30 years of age, he may still be able to do the job for a side that doesn’t expect too much, as he has typically underwhelmed since moving to the Gunners from Bordeaux in 2010.
12. John Heitinga, Fulham
Defender John Heitinga didn’t get much of a look under new Everton manager Roberto Martinez, and during the January transfer window, he joined Fulham on a six-month deal. The 30-year-old is a physical centre-back—albeit one lacking in pace—and has been capped 87 times for the Netherlands.
11. Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal
After an uneventful loan spell at Juventus, Nicklas Bendtner returned to parent club Arsenal ahead of the 2013-14 season and went on to score a pair of goals in 12 appearances in all competitions. No doubt he’ll be happy to put Emirates Stadium behind him—and, as far as Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is concerned, the feeling will surely be mutual.
10. Steve Sidwell, Fulham
The past two seasons have been Steve Sidwell’s best, yielding seven and four goals, respectively. But with Fulham headed to the Championship for the upcoming campaign, the relegated outfit opted to release the 31-year-old after a four-year association. Sidwell has also represented Reading, Chelsea and Aston Villa over the course of a nine-year career in the English top flight.
9. Kagisho Dikgacoi, Crystal Palace
Kagisho Dikgacoi was acquired by Crystal Palace for just £600,000 in a 2011 deal with Fulham. He went on to play 39 matches for the Eagles in their promotion season of 2012-13, and in the recently completed campaign, he turned out 26 times in the Premier League. A South Africa international, the 29-year-old will prove a decent, inexpensive pickup for one side or another in the coming weeks.
8. Costel Pantilimon, Manchester City
Just six months ago Costel Pantilimon was keeping Joe Hart out of the net at Manchester City. Now he’s a free agent—released by the Premier League champions after two years of service following a 2012 move from Politehnica Timisoara. The 27-year-old has been capped 17 times by Romania.
7. Matthew Etherington, Stoke
At 32 years of age and with a history of injuries, Matthew Etherington will represent something of a risk to the side that eventually takes a chance on him. But someone will, because when at his best, the former Stoke winger is a dangerous, intelligent attacker, despite never being fully appreciated away from Britannia Stadium.
6. Samuel Eto’o, Chelsea
Samuel Eto’o will not come cheap. During the 2013-14 campaign, he earned €8 million with Chelsea, and after already taking a pay cut from the €20 million he was making as an Anzhi Makhachkala player, he won’t want to see his remuneration reduced once again. But someone will pay him, if for nothing else than to be a luxury player—a big name who can still bang in a handful of goals each season.
5. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City
In 2009 Manchester City signed Joleon Lescott from Everton for £22 million. In the spring of 2014, the 31-year-old finds himself without a club—released by the Premier League champions after making just eight Premier League appearances in the season just completed.
Capped 26 times by England, the central defender shouldn’t be a free agent for long, although the high life of Eastlands is almost certainly over for him.
4. Ashley Cole, Chelsea
Ashley Cole won the Premier League title, four FA Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League as a member of Chelsea.
But the 33-year-old saw his playing time cut following the return of Jose Mourinho, and Cesar Azpilicueta operated as the club’s first-choice left-back through much of the 2013-14 campaign. Still, Cole proved he remained an important asset with a string of impressive, late-season appearances, and he’ll no doubt be worthwhile signing for whichever club comes after him.
3. Gareth Barry, Manchester City
Gareth Barry was at the centre of Everton’s surprising season in 2013-14, starting 32 matches and providing a reliable, experienced presence in midfield. He also scored three goals and assisted on four others while on loan from Manchester City. At 33 he’s not exactly pacey, but at this point no one expects him to be.
2. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United
While at his peak, Rio Ferdinand was among the best defenders in the world.
Acquired from Leeds for nearly £30 million in 2002, the centre-back went on to win six Premier League titles and the Champions League while at Manchester United, although persistent back injuries hampered his performances toward the end of his tenure at Old Trafford.
Now 35 years old, he’ll still be able to provide a year or two of service, albeit not in top level football.
1. Frank Lampard, Chelsea
Frank Lampard may well return as a Chelsea player next season, but at the moment, he remains on the club’s “released” list. One of the finest midfielders of the Premier League era, the now-35-year-old has scored 20 or more goals in five seasons, although he managed just eight in 2013-14.