A Free-Agent XI Capable of Challenging in the Premier League

Laura Greene@@Greene_LFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2014

A Free-Agent XI Capable of Challenging in the Premier League

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    There are currently plenty of free agents waiting to find a new club. Out of contract, these players are available for nothing and most of them come with years of experience.

    We've put together a best XI of unattached players who could challenge in the Premier League. While the term "best" can be used loosely in some cases, these names still have something to offer, despite (for many) their advanced years.

    Each slide will also feature one substitute for every position.

    This team would probably be stuttering in the lower echelons of the Premier League and they would sack their manager before Christmas but still, let's give them a chance...

GK: Victor Valdes

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    The Free Agent XI is led by its strongest player—former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

    The 32-year-old left the La Liga side over the summer, after 12 years and over 500 appearances for Barca's senior team, with whom he stocked his cabinet with silverware.

    Valdez was forced to watch from the sidelines during his final months at Camp Nou, after suffering a knee injury in March, but he is currently training with Manchester United as he aims to get back to full fitness.

    As reported by Simon Rice in The Independent, there have been rumours that the Spaniard may join Louis van Gaal's side—the keeper having made his Barcelona debut under the Dutch manager in 2002.

    Substitute:

    Released by Atletico Madrid over the summer, after just one season and five appearances at the Vicente Calderon, Daniel Aranzubia is currently unattached. Previously of Deportivo La Coruna, the 35-year-old was undisputed No. 1 for five seasons before moving to Atleti.

LB: Reto Ziegler

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    If he's good enough to make Ottmar Hitzfeld's 2014 World Cup squad, he's good enough for the Free Agent XI.

    Reto Ziegler, at the age of 28, has a long list of clubs to his name. Fans of Tottenham Hotspur may remember the full-back as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, who came to White Hart Lane in 2004 before going out on loan to Hamburg after 23 Premier League appearances.

    Loans (and more top-flight outings) were to come at Wigan Athletic before a loan and eventual move to Sampdoria in 2007. Juventus picked up the Switzerland international in 2011 but farmed him out to Fenerbahce, Lokomotiv Moscow and Sassuolo in a string of short-term loan deals.

    Last season, Ziegler made 17 appearances in Serie A for Sassuolo and in August it was announced that his contract with Juve had been terminated by mutual consent, as seen on Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football-Italia.net).

    Substitute:

    Released by West Ham at the end of the 2013/14 season, George McCartney has 193 top-flight games to his name with the Hammers and Sunderland. He may be 33 but McCartney would bring valuable experience to any side.

CB: Joseph Yobo

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    A leader of the Nigeria team across three World Cups, Joseph Yobo retired from international duty with the Super Eagles following last summer's tournament in Brazil.

    As seen on KickOffNigeria.com (h/t ESPNFC.com) the 34-year-old made his decision to retire so he could concentrate on club football and Yobo is likely to have a few more years ahead of him in the game. 

    He clocked up 249 appearances in the Premier League for Everton—the defender signing for the club in 2003, following a successful loan. Seven years followed at Goodison before Yobo went to Fenerbahce and then signed a permanent deal with the Turkish side in 2012.

    Last term, Yobo joined Premier League strugglers Norwich on loan, where he made eight appearances.

    He was released by Fenerbahce in August.

    Substitute: 

    Diego Lugano's lack of pace may have been exposed during last season's loan spell with West Bromwich Albion but, as we saw during the World Cup, the Uruguay captain still has it. His knees may be creaking but Lugano is a great off-the-bench option with a wealth of experience, if defensive injuries have rocked your side.

RB: Marc Bertran

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    Last season, Marc Bertran played his final campaign in a Osasuna shirt after three years at the club.

    In 2013/14, the right-back made 29 appearances in La Liga, in which he chalked up three assists and took points from Barcelona (0-0), Real Madrid (2-2) and league winners Atletico Madrid (3-0).

    He was released upon Los Rojillos' relegation to the Segunda Division and remains unattached.

    Previously of Espanyol, Cadiz and Tenerife, the 32-year-old may have one final move to make before retiring.

    Substitute:

    Capped 36 times by Morocco, 30-year-old Michael Chretien Basser was released by Bursaspor in July. Prior to joining the Turkish outfit, the full-back racked up 274 appearances for AS Nancy. 

DM: Landry N'Guemo

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    Cameroon international Landry N'Guemo was released by Bordeaux in July, after making 83 appearances for Les Girondins (in all competitions).

    Celtic fans will recognize the 28-year-old, who played 43 times for the Glasgow club in the Scottish Premiership and in Europe, while on loan from Nancy during the 2009/10 season.

    Upon N'Guemo's arrival at Celtic Park, the Daily Mail's Stephen Mcgowan wrote:

    Celtic have first option on this £1.5m-rated combative, technically adept midfielder and they may have to utilise it sooner than first suspected. At that price, N'Guemo looks a bargain. The midfielder plays with his back to goal, but needs just one touch to swivel in an instant, raise his head, find space and pass the ball. Usually forward and usually to great effect.

    It sounds simple, but not every Celtic midfielder in recent seasons has mastered the art.

    Last term, N'Guemo made 29 outings for Bordeaux and represented Volker Finke's Indomitable Lions at the 2014 World Cup.

    Substitute:

    Benoit Cheyrou began the current Ligue 1 campaign with Marseille. However, his contract was terminated at a tribunal on October 31, as seen on Goal.com.

    The 33-year-old was involved in 33 games (in all competitions) for L'OM last term, where he scored two and set up two.

LW: Simao

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    Simao Sabrosa may have one last move to make before deciding to hang up his boots for good.

    Released by Espanyol at the end of the 2013/14 La Liga campaign, take one look at the 35-year-old's CV and it's easy to see why a Premier League club would still be willing to take a punt.

    A hero at Benfica between 2001—2007, Simao also played for Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Besiktas, before arriving at Espanyol in 2012.

    With 85 caps and 22 goals for his country, the former Portugal captain—who has won the Primeira Liga, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and Turkish Cup (among others) at club level—would bring plenty of winning experience to any team.

    Age may not be on Simao's side, but he managed to clock up 34 La Liga appearances last term with Espanyol. Has he still got it? We'd like to find out.

    Substitute:

    This may be the first time that Matthew Etherington and Simao Sabrosa have been paired in the same sentence, but that's exactly who comes in as a sub in the Free Agent XI.

    Etherington is without a club after being released by Stoke City but, with Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United both former employers, the 33-year-old knows what it takes to play in the English top flight.

CM: Vladimir Koman

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    Vladimir Koman is without employment, having been released by FC Krasnodar at the end of the 2013/14 Russian Premier League season.

    The central midfielder began his career with Hungarian side Szombathelyi Haladas, before getting a move to Serie A with Sampdoria in 2005. After 44 appearances for Samp and subsequent loan spells with Avellino and Bari, Koman switched to Monaco in 2012, where he went on to make 17 appearances in Ligue 2.

    The Hungary international, who has represented his country at every level from under-17 upwards, made 27 appearances for Krasnodar between 2012—2014, before being released by manager Aleh Konanaw over the summer.

    Last season, the 25-year-old represented Hungary in international friendlies against the Czech Republic, Finland and Denmark, bagging an assist in the latter in a 2-2 draw.

    Substitute:

    Argentine midfielder Gustavo Colman, now a free agent after six years with Turkish club Trabzonspor, still has a market value of €4 million, according to Transfermarkt

    The recently turned 29-year-old played for Beerschot AC, before signing for the Super Lig side in 2008.

RW: Chris Eagles

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    Cut adrift by Bolton Wanderers following the 2013/14 season, Chris Eagles is still without a club.

    He hasn't played since February, but the winger could possibly still fill in for a number of sides in the lower reaches of the Premier League.

    The 28-year-old began his senior career with Manchester United, after coming up through the ranks at Old Trafford. Eagles failed to make it out of the "promising talent" category and in 2008 he was sold to Burnley, following loan spells at Watford, Sheffield Wednesday and N.E.C. Nijmegen.

    Three years at Turf Moor were followed by three years with Bolton, where Eagles got to experience the Premier League with a third club, bagging 34 top-flight appearances before dropping down to the Championship in May 2012.

    Eagles finished the 2012/13 season as Bolton's top goalscorer (12) and with the number of top assists (12). In total, he scored 19 goals in his time with the club.

    Substitute:

    Capped 37 times by Romania, Banel Nicolita was released by Saint-Etienne in July, after a season-long loan with FC Nantes.

    Hampered by injuries in recent seasons, the 29-year-old is known mostly for his time with Steaua Bucharest, where he made over 250 appearances.

AM: Cristian

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    Cristian Baroni clocked up 200 appearances for Fenerbahce in his five years at the Sukru Saracoglu, winning two Super Lig titles, two Turkish Cups and two Turkish Super Cups.

    Last term, he turned in 17 league games and played in three Champions League qualifiers, in which he scored against Red Bull Salzburg. 

    The midfielder was released—along with Joseph Yobo—over the summer, after restrictions were brought in on foreign players, which state that Turkish Super Lig clubs can only have 8 foreigners in their squads, as seen on ESPNFC.com.

    At 31, Cristian's best days are behind him, but he's one of the "best" attacking midfielders available for the Free Agent XI.

    Substitute:

    Guly do Prado gets his place on the bench, following his July exit from Southampton.

    The 32-year-old, who scored 23 goals in his 117 games for the Saints, is probably never going to play in the Premier League again. However, every team needs its cult hero. 

CF: Juan Agudelo

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    Juan Agudelo is the youngest player in the Free Agent XI by some distance, and times have been rough for the 21-year-old since leaving New England Revolution in January 2014.

    Stoke City signed Agudelo from the Major League Soccer side and farmed him out on loan in the Eredivisie with FC Utrecht. However, the Potters were forced to release him over the summer, when they were unable to secure a work permit, as seen on ESPNFC.com

    The U.S. international impressed during his time at Utrecht, yet he hasn't played since leaving the club.

    A recent trial with Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers proved unsuccessful when manager Kenny Jackett told the club's official website:

    Juan is not a player that we are going to pursue. He has been here on trial and we thank him for coming here and training and hope he enjoyed his time with us. But both parties will now move on.

    We felt that match fitness was the key for Juan.

    If fitness and work permit issues can be cleared up, Agudelo could turn out to be a first-choice striker in the Premier League.

    For now, he remains in limbo. 

    Substitute:

    From one of the youngest free agents, to one of the oldest: former Bolton, Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen is currently training with the Trotters in a bid to maintain his fitness, as reported by Gerard Brand in the Daily Mail.

    The 36-year-old made 30 appearances last season for Club Brugge, perhaps he has one last stop left in him.

CF: Yakubu

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    We are rolling back the years (and scraping the barrel, somewhat) with Yakubu Aiyegbeni up front in this team.

    The 31-year-old was released by Al-Rayyan in May, following 14 appearances and four goals for the Qatari side. This followed an 18-month stint with Guangzhou R&F, where the Nigerian registered 25 goals in 45 games.

    Yakubu made over 250 outings in the Premier League with four different clubs—Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers, with an impressive strike rate of 95 goals in the top flight.

    Recently named by the Daily Mail's Adam Shergold as the 46th best-ever striker to grace the Premier League, Yakubu gets the nod.

    Substitute:

    Not technically a free agent at the moment, Nicolas Anelka could be out of contract when his short-term deal with Mumbai City expires on December 31st.

    The 35-year-old, who was sacked by West Bromwich Albion this season for "gross misconduct," as seen on BBC Sport, comes with baggage. Trouble is, he also normally comes with goals.