We are a few months into the season now and we can see which teams may struggle and which teams may surprise. However, it is easy to forget that whilst we may praise and criticize our club’s players, we forget those that are still looking for a club this year. So I decided to look at the top 6 free agents still on the market.
PaulinhoEmbed from Getty Images
Paulinho has always been a very solid attacking midfielder, however, his career has been less than consistent. He first made a name for himself in Brazil as he shone for the likes of Bragantino and Corinthians in his early career. Eventually, he got his big-money move to the Premier League when Tottenham around £17 million to acquire him.
He went on to play 2 seasons at White Hart lane but never really seemed to find his footing. In 2015 he made a big-money move to Chinese Side Guangzhou Evergrande for a measly £14 million. Although this was solely a monetary move for Paulinho, he shone in China and attracted the attention of European suitors.
Most notably Barcelona. In 2017 Barcelona spent a big £41 million to get the Brazilian. His consistent performance earned him a place as a starter in the squad and Paulinho received praise for his performances throughout the season; becoming one of Barcelona’s key players as they won the domestic double.
Despite becoming a favourite at Barcelona, he was sent back on loan to Guangzhou Evergrande the next year and eventually resigned for them permanently. In 2021 he was released from his contract after mutual agreement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He then went and joined Al Ahli but only lasted 3 months before he terminated his contract with the club, citing “inability to provide the desired addition to the team” as the reason.
Paulinho is at the back end of his career at age 33, I can’t see any high-level clubs trying to acquire this free agent in the near future, so I think he is likely to either return to Brazil or seek one final paycheck in the Middle East.
Jack WilshereEmbed from Getty Images
Jack Wilshere was one of the most promising prospects in English football. However, he struggled with numerous injuries and would be off the pitch for months at a time, once missing over 17 months with an ankle injury.
Wilshere played for Arsenal for the majority of his career. He became a first-team regular at a very young age and became one of Wenger’s favourite players. However, injuries forced him to miss large parts of the seasons and his career began to derail. He made a loan move to Bournemouth in 2016/17 where he once again failed to excite fans, so he was released from his contract.
He then bounced around signing for West Ham United mid-season before once again being released. He most recently joined Bournemouth in January 2018 where he made 17 appearances and scored two goals in all competitions before being released at the end of the season.
He has recently been making appearances on Sky Sports as a pundit, but at only 29 he still has at least a couple of years left in him. I struggle to believe any top division club will take the risk with his injury history. However, I think a Championship contender or possibly a lesser league like the SPFL could certainly do worse than signing Wilshere on a free.
Eliaquim MangalaEmbed from Getty Images
Mangala has always been a solid defender but never anything more, he seemed to go above his level and fell back down. He began his career at Standard Liege and helped lead them to a Belgian Cup title. His impressive performances earned the Frenchman a move to Portuguese champions Porto in 2011.
After a couple of impressive years at Porto, he managed to get a £31 million move to Premier League giants Manchester City. With the like of Otamendi and Kompany to compete with he never managed to hold down a first-team role. After only 2 years Mangala made his first loan move to the Spanish side Valencia and then the year after joined Everton on loan.
He was eventually released by Manchester City and joined Valencia on a free in 2019. Sadly Mangala only stayed at the Spanish club for 2 years before once again being released and will likely be seen as one of the biggest busts in Manchester City’s transfer history.
Despite boasting numerous trophies, his inconsistent performances are unlikely to receive many big suitors. I could definitely still see the 30-year-old joining a club in Europe’s top 5 leagues, but they would likely be mid-table if not a relegation fighter.
Matteo MusacchioEmbed from Getty Images
Musacchio has always been a very impressive defender and been a regular in the first team wherever he plays. The Argentinian spent most of his professional career with Villarreal after signing as a 19-year-old from River Plate, going on to appear in 249 competitive matches and score seven goals over seven La Liga seasons.
In 2017 he joined Italian side AC Milan. Following Leonardo Bonucci’s departure to Juventus and Mattia Caldara’s two long-term injuries, Musacchio became a starter, oftentimes partnering up with the team’s newly-appointed captain Alessio Romagnoli.
In January 2021 Lazio signed Musacchio on a free transfer, but he failed to ever make a direct impact on the team and was released this summer.
With an impressive resume and solid defensive ability, I think Musacchio won’t struggle to find clubs willing to invest in him. Granted they are unlikely to be at the same level as AC Milan but he is still able to perform at a high level.
Dani AlvesEmbed from Getty Images
Dani Alves is by far the most successful player on this list winning 40 trophies, 1 Olympic gold medal and boasting some of the biggest clubs in the world on his resume. The Brazilian began his career at the Brazilian side EC Bahia before signing for Sevilla in 2003 for around £500,000. Over the next 5 years, he cemented himself as one of the top defenders in football and earned a hefty £32 million move to Barcelona in 2008.
After spending around 8 years at Camp Nou he finally parted ways and left for Juventus at the end of his contract in 2016. He would only stay in Italy for 1 year before once again moving to PSG. Even at 36, he was still a starter for one of the best teams in Europe.
In 2019 he signed for Brazilian side Sao Paulo. A lifelong supporter of São Paulo, Alves had previously on numerous occasions declared his wish of playing for the club. On 10 September 2021, Alves’ representatives communicated to São Paulo that he would no longer return to training and subsequently play for the club following a dispute over unpaid image rights. His contract was terminated six days later
At age 38 it is highly unlikely that any club of stature will be looking to sign him. I could see Alves making a publicity return at another Brazilian club, however, I think his career is winding down and I would not be surprised if he announced retirement within the next year.
Andy CarrollEmbed from Getty Images
Once touted as a top prospect in Premier League football, many pundits would argue he is likely one of the biggest flops in Premier League transfer history. Having begun his career at his hometown club of Newcastle United he soon became a solid striker, fan favourite and attracted the intention of Liverpool.
Liverpool quickly splashed out around £35 million and immediately handed him the number 9 jersey previously worn by club favourite Fernando Torres. The transfer made Carroll the eighth overall most expensive footballer at the time, and also the most expensive British footballer of all time. Carroll failed to deliver at Liverpool and produced a measly 11 goals in 58 appearances for the reds.
Within a year he was sent on loan to West Ham United before the Hammers paid £16 million to bring him over permanently in 2013. He enjoyed slightly more success in London where he 142 appearances and scored 34 goals. He then re-joined his Newcastle United in 2019 on a free and after more poor performances was released this summer.
The 32-year-old never lived up to his hype and has only scored a total of 80 goals across his career. I think he will struggle to achieve interest from any Premier League club, however, I could see him either joining the Championship or SPFL or even look for a final paycheck in Asia or the Middle East.