Ranking the 25 Best Free Transfers on the Market This Summer

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Ranking the 25 Best Free Transfers on the Market This Summer

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    With the transfer window now officially open, the market should begin to pick up pace.

    Although record-breaking price tags tend to hog the headlines, teams with tighter budgets will seek out bargains on free transfers.

    Most contracts expire at the end of June, so there are now a host of players actively looking for new clubsincluding some who are currently starring in the World Cup.

    In this piece we count down the 25 best free-transfer signings your club could make this summer.

25. Nicolas Anelka

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    Nicolas Anelka may have played his last football match. After leaving West Brom under the cloud of his quenelle gesture, per James Dickenson of The Express, Anelka may yet choose to walk away from the sport entirely.

    However, should he decide to keep playing, he could be an intriguing signing for any club willing to gamble on his undoubted talent. Although he is now 35 and shorn of the pace that once made him so devastating, he is still the coolest of finishers.

24. Diego Lugano

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    Having been released by West Brom, Uruguay skipper Diego Lugano is available on a free transfer.

    Although chronically lacking in pace, he's still an intelligent defender and charismatic leader. Even if he isn't able to step foot on the pitch every week, most clubs would still benefit from having his belligerent presence in the camp.

23. Tom Ince

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    England U21 international Tom Ince has already turned down a move to Inter Milan this summer, so he's obviously confident of having lots of options on the table.

    After rejecting Inter, Ince told The Guardian:

    After lengthy discussions with my family I have decided that my immediate future in the game lies in the Premier League.

    I am flattered to have received such strong interest from several big European clubs. But I believe at this early stage of my career I need to continue my football education in England.

    I would like to thank the clubs overseas for their interest and kindness. I still have ambitions to one day play in Europe. I am now looking forward to what lies ahead next season.

    If Ince does stay in England, he may not end up being a "free" transfer after all. Under FA regulations, Blackpool would be due some compensation for his transfer.

22. Carlos Kameni

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    Carlos Kameni was once the bright young hope of African goalkeeping. In 2000, he became the youngest footballer to ever win an Olympic gold medal.

    However, his career hasn't quite panned out as expected. After falling to third choice at Malaga, his contract was allowed to run down and expired on June 30.

    Kameni is still only 30 years old, with 70 international caps behind him. He has a point to prove and plenty of gas in the tank. Someone out there could pick up a veritable bargain.

21. Marouane Chamakh

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    Many scoffed when Marouane Chamakh left Arsenal to join Crystal Palace's relegation fight. However, at Palace, Chamakh looked like a player reborn. His Trojan-like performances helped keep Palace up. Now, they could be facing a fight to keep hold of him.

    Although still erratic in front of goal, Chamakh is a tireless worker across the front line. Many teams would benefit from his selfless running and impressive hold-up play.

20. Patrick Weihrauch

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    Patrick Weihrauch is not a big nameyet.

    The Bayern Munich youngster has represented Germany at various youth levels, but he is out of contract this summer. With the first-team picture looking congested at Bayern, the promising forward could be tempted to look elsewhere for employment.

    His youth and potential would make him an exciting coup for any club.

19. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

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    Mainz' Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a Berlin-born striker who travelled to the World Cup with Cameroon this summer.

    He is a quick, gangly forward capable of playing on the flank as well as through the middle. Although he didn't make any waves in Brazil, his athleticism and skill should be enough to attract a number of interested parties in the transfer window.

18. Eric Abidal

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    Eric Abidal's courage has made him a hero to football fans across the world.

    With his deal at Monaco at an end, Abidal looked set to be seeking some of his far-flung admirers to secure his next contract.

    However, the Ligue 1 club have now reached agreement on a new one-year deal for the 34-year-old, as the official Monaco website reported on Thursday.

17. Nicklas Bendtner

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    Although Nicklas Bendtner has become something of a joke figure, beneath the facade of foolishness lurks a decent player.

    Let's not forget that Bendtner is a regular scorer at international level with Denmark. When he is granted playing time, he invariably makes an impact.

    Now 26, Bendtner must find a club where he is guaranteed regular first-team football in order to further his career.

16. Rio Ferdinand

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    To sign a defender of Rio Ferdinand's class on a free transfer would undoubtedly be an enormous coup.

    Although back injuries have robbed him of his pace, his reading of the game remains immaculate. His arrival would immediately bring experience and a proven winning mentality to any club.

15. Mario Gaspar

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    Mario Gaspar is a former Spanish U21 international and a technically assured right-back.

    He has been a regular member of the Villarreal squad in recent years, but he now seems poised to move abroad.

    To acquire a 23-year-old defender with Gaspar's attributes on a free is a rare opportunity. Premier League clubs will doubtless be watching the situation carefully.

14. Eduardo da Silva

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    Eduardo da Silva's appearance at the World Cup may have served as something of a shop window for the Croatian striker.

    He is out of contract this summer and looking for a new club. Anyone who signs Eduardo will recruit a forward with the dream combination of instinctive movement and considered finishing.

13. Urby Emanuelson

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    Versatile Dutchman Urby Emanuelson would make a useful addition to any squad.

    Emanuelson is comfortable at both left-back and left-midfield. Having fallen out of favour at AC Milan, he'll be looking for a club who can offer him the security of regular first-team football.

12. Daniel Van Buyten

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    Veteran defender Daniel Van Buyten looks set to move on from Bayern Munich this summer.

    The giant Belgian may be heading toward the end of his career, but he never had much pace to lose. His positional sense and aerial power ensure he is still a centre-half to be revered.

11. Frank Lampard

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    Frank Lampard is a Chelsea legend. Though he is unlikely to ever gain that status elsewhere, he could still be a significant contributor next season.

    There are rumours in The Daily Mail of a move to New York City FC, but the switch has yet to be announced. There could still be time for another club to pounce and secure Lampard's services from this summer on.

10. Esteban Cambiasso

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    Argentine Esteban Cambiasso is a complete midfield player.

    Not only is he a tenacious tackler, but he's also an accomplished passer of the ball.

9. Gareth Barry

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    After a standout season with Everton, Gareth Barry will not be short of offers this summer.

    The Toffees will presumably be desperate to retain the services of Barry. However, it would be no great surprise if another elite club swooped in to snap him up. Barry has the class to play anywhere on the continent.

8. Roman Shirokov

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    Russia captain Roman Shirokov missed a great opportunity to advertise his skills when injury robbed him of the chance to play in the World Cup.

    Nevertheless, it won't be too long before he is ready to make a return at club level.

    At 32, he could be a valuable source of goals from midfield for some time yet.

7. Samuel Eto'o

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    At Chelsea, Samuel Eto'o showed he still has what it takes to thrive in Europe's top competitions.

    Having been released by the Stamford Bridge club, he'll be eager to win another high-profile deal to ensure he ends his glittering career on a high.

6. Didier Drogba

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    After a botched move to China, Didier Drogba will be determined to enjoy every moment of what remains of his career in elite football.

    The legendary target man would be a tremendous acquisition for any number of European sides. Who better to bring on to change a game than the irrepressible Drogba?

5. Ashley Cole

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    If Ashley Cole had been selected for England's World Cup team instead of Leighton Baines, England's chances of progressing beyond the group stage would probably have improved.

    There are few more reliable full-backs in world football. Signing someone of that calibre on a free transfer is the sort of deal managers dream of. Any club in need of a new left-back is sure to look closely at Cole.

4. Tiago Mendes

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    After being part of the Atletico Madrid team that won La Liga and reached the Champions League final in 2013/14, Tiago Mendes is hot property.

    The box-to-box midfielder seemingly feels he's achieved as much as is possible with Atletico and is looking to move on. According to The Express, he could find himself returning to Chelsea for another crack at English football.

3. Guillermo Ochoa

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    Guillermo Ochoa's agent must have one of the easiest jobs in world football.

    After the Mexican goalkeeper's stunning performances at the World Cup, he must be inundated with offers.

    It's surely just a matter of time until Ochoa announces the lucrative new contract his displays in Brazil deserve.

2. Victor Valdes

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    Victor Valdes has decided to leave Barcelona in search of a new challenge. The Spanish international undoubtedly still has the class to play for the Catalan giants, but he no longer has the desire.

    The latest reports in The Daily Mail suggest Valdes has already undergone a medical with Monaco. Should the deal go through, it'll be another statement signing from the principality club.

1. Xavi

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    Xavi is not just the best player available on a free transfer this summer—he is one of the best players of his generation.

    Although his powers may be on the wane, he is still a remarkably gifted midfielder with the ability to dictate play at the highest level.

    Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has admitted to SkySports that he hopes Xavi will stay, but the signs are that the Catalan schemer could have his heart set on going elsewhere. Although Xavi's contract is not yet up, it seems Barca are prepared to let him leave for free if he so desires.

    Should he decide to leave Camp Nou, there will be no shortage of suitors. Xavi is likely to have offers from the U.S. and Asia, but he still has the skill to dominate in the world's strongest leagues.

    A move could give him the lease of life he needs to extend his career.