Free bargains or freeloaders? With some notable names out of contract, Neil Cameron considers the players looking for a new home
WHAT do you get for nothing these days? In footballing terms, actually, you can get quite a lot.
Certainly that is the case this summer because there are more than a few players who boast a good Premier League pedigree just waiting to be snapped up for no fee at all, after the contracts being allowed to run out by their previous clubs.
All chairman would need to do then is fork out a small fortune on their signing on fee, wages and cut to the agent, or agents as is often the case. Even free transfers can run into millions.
Newcastle United got Demba Ba for zilch last year. The worst-case scenario is that he leaves this summer after some sterling work for a fee of “only” £7million. That’s pretty good business in anyone’s book and the perfect example of how to work the system.
Of course, not all Bosmans work out for the best.
Winston Bogarde played two games for Chelsea and yet was happy to sit out his four-year contract, worth £40,000 a week, knowing he would never get a game. Even for a fee of nothing, the London club was done.
But this is the pre-season for bargain hunters, for managers who like getting value for (no) money; so Kenny Dalglish should look away now. There are genuine quality players available who would not cost anything in terms of their actual transfer, a few gambles and one or two you would only think about on a game-to-game basis.
And then there is Michael Owen, a man who should actually pay back some of the money he’s earned from his clubs, Newcastle United for example, given the amount of time he actually spent on the pitch.
Stoke City are apparently going to offer him a deal. Has Tony Pulis been asleep for the past six years?
Anyway, let’s start at the top.
Two of Chelsea’s Champions League winners, Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba, can be picked up for nothing.
Or nothing plus £200,000 a week, which is what Drogba will apparently earn from a move to China.
Kalou is not everyone’s cup of tea and, indeed, for his all six years at Stamford Bridge he has flattered to deceive. But despite never playing as a first-choice goalscorer, he managed 36 goals from 156 appearances and is only 26.
That is surely worth a look at for any top-ten Premier League manager.
Actually, make that three Champions League winners as Chelsea also allowed right-back Jose Bosingwa’s contract to run out. He’s perhaps not the most thrilling Bosman in history, but bad players don’t have a European Cup medal in their possession.
With the obvious exception of David May of course.
Sunderland have been linked with West Brom’s Keith Andrews, the one Ireland player who showed up against Croatia last Sunday. Roy Keane he is not, but the midfielder has a wealth of experience, scores goals and is one of those ‘first on the team-sheet’ guys.
Same can be said for Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett, a genuinely decent winger, box-to-box midfielder Mohamed Diame of Wigan who when on form is easily a Premier League player and Hugo Rodallega, never prolific for Wigan, but has tons of natural ability.
Then we look into the category of good player, lousy fitness record, but wouldn’t cost anything.
When fit, Louis Saha is a terrific striker.
It would almost be worth a decent signing on fee for those good three months of the season he gives you. No manager would eat into his transfer budget to sign a player who has managed less then 100 games for Everton in four years before moving to Tottenham, but another pay-for-play deal would be tempting to most.
Sunderland owner Ellis Short didn’t enjoy watching Craig Gordon walking out of Sunderland for nothing having cost, at a rough estimate, £17million in wages and his original fee, and you get the impression another club will jump at the chance to sign him, dodgy fitness record or not.
And with all due respect to Steve Bruce, he’s better than Hull City.
Ledley King might retire, or he might go somewhere else and show, for 15 games, that he’s the best centre-half in the country.
If only he had two knees. Even one would see all manner of clubs beating a patch to his door.
Former Scotland international James McFadden has hardly kicked a ball for a year, however, he played in Everton’s draw at Old Trafford on a day when he looked like his old, flamboyant self.
Of the rest, the entire Bolton team seem to be Bosmans, with Martin Petrov the one most managers would consider.
Danny Murphy might be 35 now, but he was by some distance the best player on the park when Sunderland visited Fulham on the penultimate weekend of the season.
Even Stoke cult hero Rory Delap would cost nothing for those who like all their goals to be scored directly from throw-ins.
So for Alan Pardew, Martin O’Neill and the rest, the words ‘free’ and ‘market’ put together does not necessarily mean a money nightmare, as it does in the Euro Zone right now.
And if you really want to take a gamble, then how about Owen Hargreaves, with his five appearances in four years for both Manchester clubs?
But even a fee of no money at all seems to be too much for him; I bet he still gets a club.