With international football taking centre stage in the upcoming weeks at Euro 2012, many of the top clubs will be looking to recruit the best players from the tournament. However, for the teams lower down the rankings, the summer is an opportunity to find the bargains from across Europe. One of the best places to find such bargains is from the relegated clubs, so WhoScored.com have endeavoured to find just who this summer’s best buys might be.
Bolton’s unfortunate draw at Stoke saw them relegated on the final day of the season, and there are a fair few players in their ranks that will be hoping for a way back into top-flight football. Amongst those is central midfielder Mark Davies, who made a spot in the first eleven at the Reebok Stadium his own this season. His tireless work rate saw him rack up the second most tackles in the Bolton squad, with 78, while he also successfully dribbled past players on 46 occasions, more than any other Bolton player. What is most impressive about his performances is that he had a pass success rate of 87.2% this season. This ranks him 27th overall in the Premier League standings (of players with 20+ appearances) and best in Bolton’s squad. It is particularly remarkable given the fact that Bolton’s pass success rate over the season was 71.8% - the second worst in the Premier League.
Also relegated was Blackburn Rovers’ Junior Hoilett, who is out of contract this summer and has had his name mentioned in the same breath as many other Premier League clubs recently. He is known best for his tricky feet and dribbling ability, which saw him dribble past players 87 times, which was only bettered in the Premier League by Victor Moses. However, Hoilett was more effective in that he scored 7 goals and picked up 5 assists this season, both more than the Wigan winger, and his goal tally came from significantly fewer shots. His conversion rate of 10.9% ranks above the likes of Theo Walcott (10.5%) and Luis Suarez (8.6%). Although he is not yet at the standard of these two players, he will certainly be a great free signing for someone this summer.
Villarreal were unexpectedly and dramatically relegated from Primera this season, taking with them several very good players. Most notable of those is arguably central midfielder Bruno. Outside the ‘big two’ teams in Spain, only Malaga’s Santi Cazorla picked up a higher WhoScored rating this season than Bruno’s 7.36, which owes largely to his 207 interceptions – the second most in La Liga – and his 2274 completed passes, which was only topped by Xavi and Xabi Alonso and is streaks ahead of the next non-Barcelona or -Real Madrid player. He works extremely hard, winning the ball 310 times through his tackles and interceptions this season and could well attract attention as a result; though he might choose to be loyal to the club whose youth system he is a product of.
Borja Valero also stood out for the Yellow Submarine, scoring 5 goals from 51 shots and getting 6 assists from 77 key passes in 35 league appearances. This was his first season as a permanent Villarreal signing and he might be tempted to move on having proved his worth this season.
Lukas Podolski undoubtedly stood out as the best player to go down in the Bundesliga, but having already signed for Arsenal, his availability is of no interest to any other clubs. Meanwhile, Hertha Berlin very nearly made a great escape from the Bundesliga relegation battle, but were eventually felled in a playoff and will thus play in the second tier next season. Brazilian attacker Raffael provided much of Hertha’s offensive threat, picking up 8 goals and 6 assists, whilst he was one of only 4 Bundesliga players to successfully dribble past opposing players more than 100 times. Impressively for an attacking midfielder, he also helped out in defence, making 78 tackles and 46 interceptions – stats that any relegation threatened club would greatly appreciate from their Brazilian playmaker.
Argentine defender Santiago Garcia was on loan from Palermo at Novara this season, and has made something of a name for himself in Italian football, featuring at both centre- and left-back. He made, on average, 5 interceptions per game this season, which is more than any other player in Serie A to have made at least 15 appearances, and is ahead of Lucio, who made 4.1 per game and is renowned as a world-class defender.
Furthermore, only 5 players won more aerial duels per game than Garcia’s 2.5. However, he won an exceptional 78.7% of his battles in the air, which is a significantly better rate than any of the 5 players above him in the aforementioned statistic, and had Garcia played more often at the heart of defence he may well have had even better heading statistics. His 3.5 tackles per game and 7.7 clearances per game are both up there with the best in Serie A as well, and his defensive abilities should not be overlooked this summer. His performances this season may well attract the attentions of some potential suitors, but his return to Palermo after a season of top-flight football would be like a new signing to them.
Garcia’s teammate at Novara, Marco Rigoni, impressed this season with 11 goals, making him Serie A’s top scoring central midfielder, which is an incredible stat for a relegated player in the second-lowest scoring side. His 99 shots and 5 assists go even further to highlighting the goal-threat that he offers, and his WhoScored rating of 7.05 was only let down by the lack of defensive work that he does.
At only 23 years old, Auxerre’s Alain Traore clearly has a bright future ahead of him, and was unlucky to be demoted to Ligue 2 this season. Only Nene and Olivier Giroud scored more left-footed goals than Traore’s 8 this season, though his 9 goals in total came from just 23 shots on target – an impressive rate of over 39%. Per game, he averaged the most shots (2.7) and key passes (1.7) in Auxerre’s squad and the attacking impetus he provides could well be sought after by a number of clubs this summer.