At the end of every season Premier League clubs have a clearout of players deemed surplus to requirements, as well as those they simply cannot afford any longer. Relegated teams are often forced to rid themselves of their more expensive players, due to the loss in cash that comes with demotion to the second tier. However, the conclusion of the past season sees a large number of players parting company with their clubs, with one or both of the involved parties refusing to extend the current deal. The likes of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou have left the Premier League on free transfers after their Champions League victory with Chelsea, while Danny Murphy has moved to relegated Blackburn from Fulham.
There remain, however, a great deal of quality footballers who are currently ‘unattached’ to a club having completed last season in the top flight, and are currently looking for a new adventure. WhoScored.com has thus decided to assemble a ‘best eleven’ from the many players who were released by their club after the conclusion of the 2011/12 season, and are still yet to find themselves a new home.
With a dearth of goalkeepers released from their contracts this summer, Craig Gordon is the best of the few that remain available. Given that in only 2007 Sunderland broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper by signing Gordon for £9million, he could well prove a great purchase for another Premier League side. He undeniably has injury problems, though, that restricted him – along with the performances of Sunderland’s other stoppers – to only one appearance this season, although in that game he produced a fairly astute performance. He made 4 saves and 4 ‘good claims’ from crosses, facing under a barrage of attack from a desperate, relegation-threatened Bolton side, on his way to an impressive 6.91 WhoScored rating. If he can prove his fitness, he should win himself a contract elsewhere.
At only 29 years old, Jose Bosingwa still has a good few years left in him, and having been released by Chelsea, could prove an exceptional signing for any number of clubs from around the world. He is a two-time Champions League winner that featured 11 times in Chelsea’s successful European run this season, as well as 27 times in the Premier League. Often highlighted as a defensively weak and therefore targeted full-back, Bosingwa’s defensive stats suggest otherwise. Despite starting only 24 of the 38 league games last season, he made more interceptions than any other Chelsea player, with 65, as well as the third most tackles, with 61. Put into context, his interception tally is only 2 fewer than the very impressive Kyle Walker, who made 10 more appearances than Bosingwa.
At left-back in our XI is Bolton’s Paul Robinson, who spent the second half of the season on loan at Leeds, but has not signed permanently for a club since then. In the first half of the season, he was a solid and consistent member of Bolton’s team, averaging 2.7 tackles per game – the second most in the squad over the season. He also managed to get forward with some regularity, putting in 5 key passes, picking up an assist in the process.
Centre-back pairing of Zak Whitbread and Daniel Gabbidon have also both been released by their respective clubs. Whitbread featured consistently for Norwich between December and April, picking up 18 appearances, in which he stood out in particular for his ability in the air, averaging 2 aerial duel wins per game, and winning 72% of all of his battles for headers. This will have no doubt contributed to, but does not completely account for, his 8.8 clearances per game – a statistic which was only bettered by 5 Premier League players overall.
Gabbidon, meanwhile, made 17 appearances this season on his way to a WhoScored rating of 6.39. He averaged an impressive 2.3 'aerial duel wins' per game and a huge 11.1 clearances per game, which, out of all players in the Premier League, was only topped by Ryan Shawcross's 13.4 clearances per game. He also made 1.9 interceptions per game, which was the 3rd most in the QPR squad, whilst he also blocked 16 shots in playing his part in protecting QPR’s goal.
In front of the back four sits Paul Scharner, recently released by West Brom due to disagreements over, he says, his desire to play in central defence rather than midfield - his rating of 6.36 this season is good enough for him to find a way into our midfield but not our defence! The Austrian got 3 goals and 2 assists for his side this season – only 3 players scored more at WBA – whilst also completing an impressive 84.8% of his passes, which was better than any other West Brom player. Alongside Scharner in midfield is Salif Diao, who has found first team opportunities hard to come by at Stoke in the past season. He made only 6 appearances in the league, but maintained a very impressive 87% pass success rate over those games, which is significantly better than any other player in the Stoke squad, who as a whole averaged the lowest pass success rate in the Premier League, with just 69.5%.
Completing the midfield trio is the much more attack-minded Akos Buzsaky, who failed to impress sufficiently to remain at QPR next season, where big changes are clearly being made. Buzsaky scored 2 goals and picked up 2 assists in his 18 Premier League appearances, the majority of which came from central midfield. He is not scared to shoot from range, having had 22 of his 36 shots from outside the box, with both of his goals coming from range; one of which was from a direct free-kick. However, Buzsaky will now have to find himself a new team, with his performance against Everton, when he had 10 shots but failed to score any of them, possibly partly responsible for his fate.
A front three of Ivan Klasnic, Louis Saha and Hugo Rodallega is by no means a weak attack line, but with a combined total of just 14 Premier League goals between them, their release from their clubs is not all that surprising. Klasnic, however, accounts for 8 of those goals, and was Bolton’s top scorer this season. Those goals came from just 45 shots, so he can boast a conversion rate of 17.7%, which is even better than the league’s top marksman, Robin van Persie, who scored 17.2% of his chances, as did Wayne Rooney. Klasnic was arguably very unlucky not to start ahead of David N’Gog up front, though he is likely to find himself a new team before too long.
Louis Saha’s January move to Tottenham looked like a match made in heaven as, after only one goal in 18 games for Everton this season, he scored twice and set up another on his full debut for the London outfit. However, in his time at Spurs, he completed 90 minutes just once and scored only 4 goals, with injuries seemingly getting the better of him. This, along with a chance conversion rate of just 5.9%, undoubtedly justifies his release.
Last but not least is Colombian and former Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega, who is one of the few players to have a worse conversion rate this season than Saha Rodallega scored just 3.6% of his chances, which is only marginally better than Emile Heskey (who has also been released but, unsurprisingly, does not make our Free-Transfer XI). Rodallega did, however, also pick up 4 assists in the league from just 22 key passes, and should find himself a home at another team in the top flight in time for next season.