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Free agents left in limbo

The transfer window is officially open for business and for the dozens of players who fall into the 'unwanted' category, an uncertain summer lies ahead.

While lavish moves for stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain may hog the headlines in the weeks and months ahead, spare a thought for those footballers who have effectively been made redundant by their employers.

Sharing condolences with some of the multi-millionaires on this summer's star-studded free transfer list may be a little challenging, but a fall from grace is made no easier when you are forced to take it in the full glare of the public spotlight.

So without wishing to rub salt into the wounds of those who find their careers at a crossroads, here is our guide to the footballers hoping someone else is willing to give them a lifeline after being let go by their previous employer.

Florent Malouda

Pros: A glut of trophies at Chelsea.
Cons: Question marks over his attitude in recent years.

Chelsea put the 2012 Champions League winner into hibernation when he refused to leave the club last summer and he saw out the final year of his contract playing with the reserves. Questions have been raised about the application and desire he showed to return to the first-team fold, which may not stand him in good stead as he seeks another employer.

Verdict: A move back to France may be his best option as many Premier League clubs will view the winger, who cost Chelsea £13 million in 2007, as damaged goods.


Pros: 2007 World Player of the Year.
Cons: Has been out of form and injured for far too long.

The Brazilian is not on the free transfer list yet, but he is asking Real Madrid to let him leave for nothing in a bid to salvage his collapsing career. Are the Spanish giants ready to write off the €68.5 million they paid to sign him from AC Milan? It would be a gesture that suggests they believe the 31-year-old has no more to offer.

Verdict: Kaka's vast wage demands would rule most clubs out of the running for his signature. For that reason, he may be stuck at Real Madrid for another year at least.

Mark Schwarzer

Pros: A proven Premier League performer.
Cons: Nearing the end of his career at 40.

The Australian came close to a move to Arsenal a couple of years ago, but his star has taken a dive after Fulham opted to allow him to leave on a free transfer. He was on relatively big wages at Craven Cottage, but Sunderland could do worse than recruiting this veteran as they look to fill the void left by Simon Mignolet.

Verdict: Schwarzer still has something to offer as he looks ahead to next summer's World Cup finals with Australia and he is worth a one-year deal.

Mathieu Flamini

Pros: A couple of decent seasons at Arsenal.
Cons: Not classy enough for the top sides in Europe.

Flamini walked out on Arsenal after securing a more lucrative contract with AC Milan in 2008 but he failed to set the world alight in Italy and is up for grabs on a free now, after talks to extend his Milan stay stalled.

Verdict: Aston Villa have been linked with a move for Flamini and that shows how far his reputation has fallen. He was never a great player, but swapping Arsenal for Milan halted his rise, rather than accelerating it.

Roque Santa Cruz

Pros: A track record of playing at the top level.
Cons: Has looked ineffective in recent years.

Manchester City paid a whopping £17.5 million to sign the Paraguay striker in 2009, but he was one of the big flops of the Mark Hughes era at the club and they have been forced to write off that fee without any return on their investment this summer. He scored for Malaga in the Champions League last season, but would be a risky signing.

Verdict: His reputation in Spain is less tarnished than it is in England, so it may be that he finds a club in La Liga.

Nicolas Anelka

Pros: Goals aplenty in the Premier League.
Cons: A surly reputation, fading abilities.

The much-travelled Anelka is back on the look-out for new employers after ending his brief and unsuccessful stint with Juventus and it remains to be seen whether any Premier League club would take the striker. QPR wanted him in January, but will there be anyone willing to give him yet another signing-on fee?

Verdict: A move to his French homeland may be more profitable than trying to revive his Premier League career.

William Gallas

Pros: Experience with Arsenal and Chelsea.
Cons: A long way past his best.

Gallas was a liability in many of the games he played for Tottenham last season and those alarming displays will have done little to boost his hopes of securing a new contract elsewhere this summer. At his best, this Frenchman was a class act, but those days are well behind him.

Verdict: A side in need of top flight experience may view Gallas as a decent option, but the 35-year-old has indicated he is not up to the job at Premier League level any more.

Yossi Benayoun

Pros: Remains a classy footballer when at his best.
Cons: Has been in the comfort zone too long earning big money at Liverpool and Chelsea.

Following lucrative contracts at Liverpool and Chelsea, there have been suggestions that Benayoun would be heading to America's MLS for a bumper payday this summer. However, he has been offered another crack in the Premier League by West Brom boss Steve Clarke if he proves his fitness.

Verdict: A fit and firing Benayoun could be useful to West Brom, but it remains to be seen if he can hit the heights for a full season.

David Bentley

Pros: Not a great deal.
Cons: Lack of fitness, form and motivation.

Where to start with Bentley? Tottenham paid £15 million to sign the winger from Blackburn in 2008, amid rumours that he also demanded a high signing-on fee. He has not played for Spurs for the last two years and did little in a loan spell at Blackburn to suggest he is worth a fresh chance elsewhere.

Verdict: Bentley seems less than motivated to kick start his career and it will need a brave manager to take him on.

Simon Davies

Pros: International and Premier League pedigree.
Cons: Injury issues have damaged him of late.

Back in the days when Davies was a rising star at Tottenham, he was being compared favourably to compatriot Ryan Giggs and earning plaudits aplenty, but those days are a distant memory now. He has not kicked a ball in anger since March 2012, which says much about his fragile frame.

Verdict: Injury has played a part in his decline, so Davies would be a risky signing this summer. He may be forced to look at the Championship for a new club.

Richard Dunne

Pros: A defensive giant at his best.
Cons: He has barely played over the past 18 months.

Republic of Ireland great Dunne may be edging towards the end of his career, yet he could have a final Premier League season left in his aching bones if a top-flight manager is willing to gamble on his dubious fitness record. He may also be a valuable asset for a team with eyes on promotion from the Championship.

Verdict: Dunne may be offered pay-as-you-play deals given his injury problems, but he is a decent bet for a club looking for a defensive bargain.


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