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Best Free Transfers of 2017

With another batch of players out of contract this summer, we've taken a look at the best free agents on the market.

Image of Mario Balotelli Free Transfer 2017

It's that time of the year again, when football supporters the world over debate about who their team should and shouldn't sign. Too young, too old, too expensive - "we don't need another holding midfielder","he's a crock - avoid him!". It's an annual occurrence that passes the time until the new season comes along.

While transfer budgets are endlessly picked apart - the one thing we can all agree on is a free transfer is always worth a look. Save money, improve the squad and put the cash towards that rumoured marquee signing. As the summer transfer window approaches and contracts expire, we’ve taken a look at some of the best 'free agents' out there this year.

WHO IS AVAILABLE ON A FREE TRANSFER?

Santi Cazorla - 32 - Arsenal
Jesús Navas - 31 - Manchester City
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 35 - Manchester United
Yaya Touré - 34 - Manchester City
Mario Balotelli - 26 - OGC Nice
Hasan Ali Kaldirim - 27 - Fenerbahce
Gaël Clichy - 31 - Manchester City
Pablo Zabaleta - 32 - Manchester City
Lucas Leiva - 30 - Liverpool
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting - 28 - FC Schalke 04
Adrián - 30 - West Ham United
Benoît Costil - 29 - Stade Rennais
Evgen Khacheridi - 29 - Dynamo Kyiv
Rachid Ghezzal - 25 - Olympique Lyon
Fernando Torres - 33 - Atlético Madrid

The list above from transfermarkt highlights some of best free agents of summer 2017 — ranked from top to bottom based on market value. At first glance, we can see there are some big fish to be caught. In some cases, the lack of a transfer fee will be more than made up for with wages and goal bonuses (*cough* Zlatan). Let's take a look at who could provide the best 'value'.

SANTI CAZORLA

The diminutive playmaker has been a big miss for Arsenal this season. Cazorla's ankle injury in October coincided with a big drop off in form for the Gunners. While the injury was initially thought to be fairly minor, Cazorla was soon ruled out for another three months. In late March, an under pressure Arsene Wenger then announced the midfielder would play no further part in Arsenal's season. The two-footed technical ability the Spaniard possesses has most certainly been a big miss for Arsenal this season. That lack of craft and guile has put added pressure on Arsenal's forward players such as Alexis Sanchez. At 32-years-old, Cazorla may be entering the twilight years of his career - but many would expect him to still perform at the top level for at least a couple of years. His lengthy lay off may put suitors off, but his talent, creativity and experience means he's clearly worth the risk. Arsenal would surely want to hold onto him?

PABLO ZABALETA

A fan's favourite at Manchester City, Pablo Zabaleta has seen his playing time dwindle under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola. The Argentinian has been a staple selection for Man City for several years, often sharing the right-back slot with another soon-to-be free agent, Bacary Sagna. More recently however, Zabaleta has also seen his position filled by Jesús Navas (another free agent!), and it has been confirmed he'll be allowed to leave Manchester this summer. The 32-year-old is most lauded for his overlapping forward tendencies and tough tackling defensive capabilities - qualities which saw him voted Manchester City's Player of the Year for the 2012/13 season. A player that wears his heart on his sleeve - Zabaleta is likely to be much sought after this summer, with West Ham already rumoured to be making moves.

 

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LUCAS LEIVA

Having spent a decade at Liverpool, Lucas has seen plenty of players come and go through the Anfield doors. Signed in July 2007, the Brazilian midfielder has seen opportunities become limited during the 16/17 season, with Liverpool's dovetailing attacking midfielders the focus of their play. The robust Liverpool player celebrated his 30th birthday in January, and has clearly reached a crossroads in his career. Despite being labelled as a box-to-box midfielder in his early days at Gremio, Lucas' qualities are less so about flair, skill and attacking prowess, and more so about hard-tackling tenacity, stamina and tactical intelligence. After signing him in 2007, could Rafa Benitez see Lucas' experience and composure as the perfect, cost effective addition to his newly promoted Newcastle side? Watch this space.

 

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MARIO BALOTELLI

The enigma that is Mario Balotelli. The talent is there, but the application is often found wanting. At just 26-years-old it is remarkable to list the clubs the Italian has already played for. After starting out at Inter Milan, Balotelli then moved to Manchester City, AC Milan, Liverpool and has most recently been seen plying his trade in Ligue 1 for Nice. The Italian has notched a respectable goal tally during his time in France, averaging over a goal every other game. The fact Nice signed him for free on a one year contract last summer, highlights the level of risk many clubs aren't willing to take on. Despite being a talented, powerful, skillful and versatile striker, Balotelli's workrate and mentality has been called into question on countless occasions - too many to list here! He is now entering the prime of his career and is yet to find a stable home. His talent will tempt many, but his history and wage demands will also put many clubs off. This one could rumble on.

 

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CHARLIE TAYLOR

Charlie Taylor has seen his stock rise quickly this season. The Leeds United left-back has caught the eye of several Premier League sides and his signature is likely to be keenly fought for over this summer. At 23-years-old, the Englishman offers an abundance of potential.

As he is under 24-years-old, Leeds will be owed a compensation fee. West Brom have reportedly offered £3.5m as compensation but if it goes to tribunal it could run a lot higher (Just look at £8m for Danny Ings' move to Liverpool). Considering the premium put on young English talent, acquiring him via this method would still seem to be a lot cheaper than a standard transfer.

However, his attitude has recently been questioned by current Leeds manager Gary Monk. After refusing to play in the last game of season at Wigan on the advice of his agent, Monk labelled the left-back as ‘naive’ and the club have since fined the defender two weeks wages. With fractured relationships, it’s clear Taylor will be on his way out of Elland Road this summer.

WHO ELSE IS AVAILABLE ON A FREE TRANSFER?

The list doesn't end there however. There are plenty of other notable players entering the last days of their contract. Could Real Madrid defender Pepe end up at Manchester United? Will Antonio Conte snap up Roma veteran Daniele De Rossi, and add some more experience to his title winning Chelsea side? There are some useful squad additions to be had from the Premier League. Charlie Adam (Stoke), George Boyd (Burnley), Vurnon Anita (Newcastle), Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace) and Adrian (West Ham) could all end up at pastures new. Who do you want your club to sign? Let us know in the comments below/

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With a keen eye for design, Andrew loves critiquing the latest releases and creating stylish concepts. A lover of old school boots, you won't see him stepping onto the pitch in any outrageous colours.