June 30th is a very important date for football clubs. The financial year is closed then and any expiring contracts have their last date on that day. A number of players become free agents and in today’s inflated market, bagging a free agent bargain is the kind of marginal gain that separates smart clubs from money-wasters.
Here are the top five free agents still on the market as the new season edges closer –
Zaha looked like a player who would spend his career at Crystal Palace. After leaving United to engineer a homecoming, he gained legend status at the club.
However, this summer was finally the one where his ambition outgrew Palace’s reality. The wide forward chose to run down his contract with his favourite club to seek a new challenge, preferably at a higher level.
So far, that move hasn’t materialised. Although there has been a lot of interest in his services, no concrete offers have been forthcoming.
There has been reported interest from many clubs across the continent and beyond. The likes of Napoli, AS Roma, Paris Saint-Germain, and clubs in Saudi Arabia have registered an interest.
In Zaha’s case, the free agency might be stretching longer due to too many offers instead of not having any. The Ivorian will choose his next club carefully as at 30, it could be his last big contract with an elite club.
Balancing money with the potential to fill his trophy cabinet is a crucial decision and one that he won’t take lightly. Expect him to rock up at his new club before the competitive part of the season begins. However, he is missing crucial pre-season minutes with any prospective new club by dithering so far.
21 goals and four assists in 30 league appearances in France. How can a player so prolific still be without a club? That’s because those stats of Moussa Dembele are from the 2021/22 season.
Dembele had the world at his feet at the end of the 2021/22 season, being targeted by elite Premier League sides. Fast forward to the 2022/23 season, and an output of just three goals in 23 appearances, totalling 866 minutes had him on the outside looking in at Lyon.
Alexandre Lacazette tore apart the league, scoring 27 goals, and Bradley Barcola’s breakout left Dembele dispensable.
If he had made a bet on himself on continuing his previous season’s form and earning a big move with a huge salary on a free transfer, it backfired spectacularly.
His saving grace might come from a move to Saudi Arabia, where Steven Gerrard’s side Al Ettifaq are reportedly interested. Still, it is a huge fall from grace for a forward who had the world at his feet just 2 years ago.
Unlike Dembele, Kamada had his breakthrough at the perfect time. 16 goals and seven assists in 47 appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt meant that he was a man in demand when free agency rolled in.
His still being a free agent is more down to the unpredictabilities of the transfer market than anything else.
He looked certain to join AC Milan at one stage, but it petered out. Links to Borussia Dortmund were strong, and now links to AS Roma and Atletico Madrid have emerged.
It is a certainty that Kamada will not be without a club when the season starts. However, like Zaha, he is missing crucial fitness and training sessions with a prospective new club.
Wilfried Zaha’s compatriot has been a serviceable, not spectacular player for Lille in the past five seasons. He is a good bet to finish in double figures for combined goals and assists, having done so in three of his five years at Lille.
The problem with Bamba is two-fold.
Firstly, his bad seasons have been REALLY bad. One goal and two assists in 31 appearances in the 2021/22 season while playing as the primary left-winger is an unforgivable return.
Secondly, his lack of consistency has turned off big clubs from making a move for him. His performances have shifted between promising and frustrating.
Aged just 27, if a manager/club manages to unlock his full potential, they will have a bargain buy on their hands. However, his career so far suggests that he is just not the type of player who can be relied upon to bring the goods when it matters.
Unfortunately for him, even the rumours mill has been silent. It remains to be seen where he ends up next and if this ordeal makes him a better and more driven player.
David de Gea
The free agent who wasn’t to be. De Gea’s contract at Manchester United looked to be done for a long time before the club finally decided to cut the cord.
Erik ten Hag had been publicly backing him but eventually, his unsuitability and error-prone ways led to United making the hard decision.
However, that does not mean De Gea is a bad goalkeeper. Even last season, when he looked at his worst, there were games where he kept his team in it single-handedly.
Still an able shot-stopper, he should find a home as a backup at an elite club, or join the Saudi brigade for one last big payday.