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The Premier League free transfer list is well known for throwing up some shock departures at the end of every season, as well as signalling the end of many a distinguished player’s career. It also provided the marching orders for players who, for whatever reason, have failed to adapt to life in the Premier League. This season was no different.
Here are 10 talking points from this season’s free transfer list, as well as my team created solely out of players on that list.
1) Nicklas Bendtner – Released from Arsenal
Everyone’s favourite Danish striker has, after somehow lasting nine years, finally been released from Arsenal. Bendtner’s time at Arsenal was a litany of wasted opportunities, lengthy injuries and the very occasional last-minute winner. He notched up just over 100 appearances for the club, going out on loan three times and failing to make an impact at any club. The strange thing is Bendtner’s astonishingly potent national record – he has scored 24 goals in 56 appearances for Denmark; why he could not repeat this at club level is a mystery to many. Luckily, however, he was quoted back in January as saying that a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid was certain. Now, without a price tag to hold back the Spanish giants, his big move to Spain must be just around the corner…
2) Ashely Cole, Samuel Eto’o and Frank Lampard – All released from Chelsea
Releasing these three players clearly demonstrates an enormous loss of experience within the Chelsea camp – between these three players they have amassed 322 international caps. It also shows Jose Mourinho’s desire to create a new Chelsea in his own image – whilst there is no doubt that these three players still have much to offer, Mourinho will now be looking to youthful new players to provide the steel backbone that characterised his early Chelsea sides. Lampard’s loss in particular will be keenly felt by the Chelsea fans – a stalwart of their midfield since 2001, it is hard to imagine a Chelsea side without him. Whilst he may not have the stamina to play 90 minutes every week now, he could be relied on to put in a dominant performance in the big games – he will leave a hole in the squad that Mourinho will be desperate to fill. With Lampard, the ultimate decision on his future will be made following the World Cup. Reports currently link him to the newly established New York City FC where he’d join David Villa, wherever it may be Lampard won’t be short of options with many potential suitors already surfacing.
3) Mark Schwarzer and Hilario – Both released from Chelsea
Although the two goalkeepers are not the biggest names on this list, they perhaps represent a shift in policy in regards to Thibault Courtouis, another goalkeeper currently on loan at Athletico Madrid. He has made it clear that he wants his future sorted this summer – does the removal of two keepers from the Chelsea squad show that they are keeping him at the Bridge after the World Cup to fight for the number 1 spot with Petr Cech? Only time will tell.
4) Julian Speroni – Released from Crystal Palace
After receiving the Player of the Year award at Palace, many would assume that the 35 year old would commit to another season at the club. However, the parties were unable to agree on a deal and the keeper, who was widely regarded as one of the most impressive performers last term, has been moved on. Early reports indicate that a number of London clubs, including QPR and even Arsenal are contemplating a short-term deal.
5) 15 players – All released from Fulham
Fulham used an astounding 39 different players during the last Premier League season – it is therefore of little surprise to see so many players leaving the club, both in preparation for life in the Championship and as a consequence of no longer being able to afford to keep a Premier League squad. Notable releases include Damien Duff and John Arne Riise – whilst both could have brought much needed experience to the youthful Fulham line-up in the Championship, their wage-demands were simply too high for the club to contemplate. Top scorer and Captain Steve Sidwell has also left the club and looks set to secure a move to a Premier League club after an impressive season in an otherwise dismal Fulham team.
6) Matty Fryatt – Released from Hull
Just days after leading the line for Hull City in the FA Cup final, Fryatt now finds himself without a club. It also means that Hull are left with just two recognised out and out strikers in their squad – this, coupled with the fact that Steve Bruce has released 13 players in all could indicate a summer of strengthening after successfully remaining in the top flight. For Fryatt, a return to Championship football seems likely, with Sheffield Wednesday, at whom he has spent time on loan previously, reportedly keen in securing his services.
7) Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic – All released from Manchester United
This truly is the end of an era for Manchester United. Although Giggs is taking up the assistant manager position, the loss of these players will be felt throughout the club. Ferdinand and Vidic formed one of the most solid defensive partnerships ever seen in the modern game and between them won almost every prize in club football. Giggs’ departure from the playing staff finally brings to a close the playing careers of the so-called ‘Class of ‘92’ – whilst he does not leave Manchester United at a high point, the many years of joy he brought to United fans around the world will never be forgotten. Replacing these players is an unenviable task, but one that new manager Louis van Gaal must face up to.
8) Heurelho Gomes – Released from Tottenham Hotspur
Although the loveable Gomes has not played for Spurs in their first team for a couple of seasons now, the comedy gold he provided when he did play means his departure must be highlighted. After becoming something of a cult-figure with the White Hart Lane fans when he signed in 2008, Gomes made clanger after clanger and was soon dropped. If you are ever in need of a laugh, a YouTube compilation of Gomes’ worst mistakes, simply entitled ‘The Worst of Gomes’ should quickly provide you with such material.
9) Joe Cole – Released from West Ham
The story of Joe Cole’s latter career is a question of what could have been. After making an ill-advised but financially prudent move to Liverpool in 2010, Cole has become almost the forgotten man of the Premier League, making just 57 appearances in 4 years (albeit with a loan spell to Lille in the middle). At 32, his best days are certainly behind him, yet he may be worth a punt on a short-term deal for a newly-promoted club if he can stay injury free. Failing that, he could be tempted to America to play in the MLS.
10) Shola Ameobi – Released from Newcastle United
The longest serving Newcastle player has, after 14 years of service, been moved on. In 313 games for the Magpies, Ameobi, a workmanlike attacker rather than a prolific goal scorer, could only manage 53 goals. Despite this, he was well-regarded by many Newcastle fans and he leaves with the prospect of a World Cup in Brazil to look forward to, where he will be hoping to lead the line for Nigeria.
My released player team: Julian Speroni, Liam Ridgewell, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Craig Gardner, Ryan Giggs, Shola Ameobi, Nicklas Bendtner.