Written by Manutd_analysis
This summer managers around Europe had the chance to snap up some elite talent on free transfers. The names that come directly to mind are top players such as Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Ander Herrera, and Diego Godin. These players went to some of the best clubs in the world, but even smaller teams had the chance to bolster their squads without having to break their budget on transfer fees. Balotelli, Ribery, Sturridge, Babel, and Kompany are good examples of that. However, there’s still a fair share of players who ran down their contracts without finding new clubs. These men are all on the decline and desperately need a place to revive their careers.
Hatem Ben Arfa
In Ben Arfa, Newcastle had one of the most talented dribblers in Europe on their hands. While the start of his career (in Lyon and Marseille) had been rocky and plagued by fights with teammates and club staff, he had still shown more than once that his talent was something very special. Therefore you can’t really blame Alan Pardew for giving the young french maverick a chance to prove himself in the Premier League. While the league hit him hard with its infamous physicality, there were still glimpses here and there of his otherworldly talent. Unfortunately, those moments turned out to be the exception rather than the rule, and after a couple of seasons, it became clear that the golden patches never would turn into consistent long-term form. After reaching an all-time low at Hull, where he seemingly gave up on football, it was clear that he needed to leave England behind him. In the picture came Nice, a team where players of unfulfilled potential such as Balotelli and Sneijder had managed to turn their careers around.
At this club, he had the season of his life, with a personal record of both goals and assists. Not only had Ben Arfa finally managed to produce more points statistically than ever before, but he charmed France with his exquisite footwork and amazing skillset. This short-lived fairy-tale came to an abrupt end, however, as PSG decided to swallow him and store him in their freeze-box of unused talent. That decision might have cost him his career, but Rennes were eventually willing to take a gamble on him, which partly paid off, but in reality, his performances started to resemble more of the Newcastle days. Hatem Ben Arfa is now 32 years old, has a history of injuries, bad attitude and a seemingly shaky mentality. On the other hand, this is a player with a real x-factor, capable of going through spells of world-class and who will certainly get the fans in the arena on their feet. Any mid-tier La Liga or Ligue 1 club lacking a skillful attacker
Any mid-tier La Liga or Ligue 1 club lacking a skillful attacker or simply in need of something different should keep their eyes on Ben Arfa. It might not pay off, but if it does, you have a real game-changer on your hands.
Juventus legend Marchisio became the epitome of the modern, classy central midfielder. Paired with greats as Pirlo, he was the embodiment of Juventus and proudly represented them for more than a decade. While he is capable of scoring, creating goal-chances and defending, these are not the areas where he excels the most. He is rather the glue that holds the team-parts together, while his excellent passing keeps the team ticking. His performances for Juventus and Italy might have gone rather unnoticed since he is the type of player who works in the quiet, but team-mates and coaches know the value of having a calm player like him in their presence.
Maybe best described as a mix between Toni Kroos and Blaise Matuidi, this is a player that seems rare today, and a younger version of him would surely be chased by the elite of Europe. Unfortunately, age seems to have taken a toll on him, and at 33 he might no longer be able to handle the tempo of the top leagues. Injuries cut his time at Zenit short, and Claudio has now been without a club for months, as retirement seems close. With that being said, I firmly believe he could finish his career with one or two seasons in the MLS or CSL, and then return back to his beloved Juve for a coaching role. One stumbling block in any potential move could be the fact that Marchisio has had a troubling knee-injury for over a year now and that could take some time to recover fully.
At 33 years of age, Fredy Guarin has entered the new season without a club. Most famous for his time at Inter, where he made himself a name with a physical but creative style of play, Guarin has spent the last couple of years in China. He is a versatile player, with experience in every position in the midfield. With his strength and physicality, he can fill in as a holding midfielder, while his creativity and sharpshooting makes him dangerous in a more advanced role. These traits helped to link him with Premier League clubs such as Chelsea, while he just a year ago announced that he still hoped for a move to Manchester United. That seems very unlikely now, however, but it’s not entirely impossible that a top club in Europe signs him for a rotational purpose, as he is able to fill in on most areas of the pitch. But the most likely scenario for Guarin is a few seasons at a South American club before he hangs up his boots. The Colombian was most recently linked with a move to Flamengo, and right now that seems like the right choice.
Once upon a time, Wilfried Bony was a decent Premier League striker representing clubs like Swansea, Stoke and Manchester City. Being unusually strong while having a talent for scoring made him an exciting player at Vitesse, where he absolutely dominated the Eredivisie. After he outgrew the dutch league, Swansea snapped him up and brought him to the English top tier. Here he fit in perfectly, and with his strength and finishing, he quickly became a success. For Man City, he seemed like the perfect complement to Sergio Aguero, which led them to break what was then the transfer record for an African player. As for so many players before him, however, leaving the comfort of a smaller club to take the giant step into a title-challenging team proved to be the wrong decision, and he struggled for minutes and failed to rediscover his old form.
After leaving City, things went even worse, and neither his time in Stoke or back at Swansea was rememberable for anything other than injuries and bench-warming. Now at 30, Bony is at a crucial time in his career. While he’s obviously a talented and competent striker, there has been five years of decline, and his career is at stake. Valued at approximately 5.5million, the Ivorian is a bargain for anyone willing to take the risk and sign him on a free transfer. Here, he has two options; he could either sign for a mid-table French, Spanish or English club as a back-up striker or hope to revitalize his career in Turkey, Russia or even China. Premier League clubs like Brighton and West Ham were linked with him this summer, while there is reported interest from Italian and Turkish clubs.
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