The winter transfer window is well known for it’s ability to scare teams into some panic moves, so anybody signing a free agent after the window shuts is surely in desperation mode.
There are a few moves that could still make sense if you’ve lost a player late in the window or suddenly have an injury crisis, while good players will suddenly be willing to play anywhere to put themselves into the shop window for the summer.
Here’s a look at 10 out of contract players who could still make an impact at a good level:
Ezequiel Garay – Argentina – CB – 34
The former Valencia man was struggling with a long term injury towards last summer which may explain why he wasn’t picked up then, but it’s surprising to see that he’s still without a club at this stage in the season.
He was consistently linked with Liverpool when they were looking for a new CB and it appears he is over his injury now, but match fitness will be a concern after going so long without a club.
Most of his pace is gone but he’s still a high level defender with the experience and leadership to help tighten up a backline, while he’s a menace from set pieces too.
A return to South America probably makes the most sense for him at this point, but you do have to wonder if someone like West Brom could take a punt if they can make space for him.
Ahmed Musa – Nigeria – Forward – 28
Speaking of West Brom, Musa has been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League with The Baggies, and reports even indicate that he’s expected to sign with them over the next couple of days.
You can tell something has gone wrong in his career when he’s struggling to find a club during his prime years, but he’s also coming off a spell playing in Saudi Arabia so it’s easy to imagine that he has an inflated view of how much he should be earning in Europe’s top leagues.
He is blisteringly quick so that instantly gives the opposition something to think about, but the goals have dried up in recent years so any team who does sign him will be hoping he somehow hits an incredible run of form at the right time.
Jozo Simunovic – Croatia – Centre back – 26
It was a surprise when Celtic parted ways with the big Croatian defender in the summer, and they certainly went on to regret that decision as their defence turned into an absolute shambles as the season went on.
He’s not perfect and he does have some concentration issues, but he’s still at an age when he can improve and he’s a solid defender who’s also tall and physical.
He would be a good signing for most English Championship clubs or perhaps for a mid table side outwith one of the top five leagues, while Celtic could still do much worse than bringing him back in.
Gianelli Imbula – DR Congo – 28
Imbula was once a huge money signing for Stoke in the Premier League and it was fairly easy to see why.
He was excellent on the ball and had the physicality to dominate the midfield and drift past players, while he was also good for a screamer ever now and then so you’re almost describing the perfect midfielder here.
Obviously he’s not living up to that billing just now as he finds himself without a club after a failed spell in Russia, so it could be about someone finding the way to unlock some passion and belief in Imbula so he can live up to that early potential.
He’s been linked with clubs in Greece and Scotland in recent days, but nothing appears to be close.
Bojan Krkic – Spain – Striker – 30
It’s so easy to forget that Bojan was supposed to go on to be Barcelona’s great next number 9 when he initially broke through, but it never really looked like he believed in himself to reach that level.
His confidence continued to suffer as he kept moving to giant clubs (AC Milan, Roma and Ajax) but he struggled to become the main starter, so it’s easy to see why he continued to drift down the ladder.
He had some nice moments with Stoke before a few more failed loan spells and an insignificant spell in MLS, so he finds himself without a club going into the second half of the season.
There’s still time for him to get picked up by another MLS side but his next move is mightily important, as there’s not much time left for him to turn things round and establish himself as a star somewhere for his final prime years.
Lasse Schone – Denmark – Midfield – 34
It was only a couple of years ago when Schone was playing a key role for Ajax in their run to the Champions League semi finals, but a move to Serie A with Genoa didn’t work out.
He’s always been capable of playing anywhere across the midfield but at his age he could be a passenger in the wider areas, so it would make the most sense to deploy him as a static 10 or as someone who would control the game from a deeper position.
He’s technically brilliant and his free kick taking ability could cause all kinds of problems, so he would be a great pickup for anyone who needs a bit of experience and creativity in the side.
Ezequiel Schelotto – Italy/Argentina – Right back – 31
Schelotto would never be the kind of player to get fans queueing up to watch him, but it’s easy to underestimate the usefulness of a fullback who won’t stop running and is fully committed in every game.
There’s a reason that he’s become a cult favourite at various clubs in his career as his physicality and effort will always be appreciated, so he could be a good signing for any team that needs some experience and energy in the full back position.
He’s still only 31 so he has a few years left in him, so a return to Italy or Portugal could make sense after successful spells there in the past.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – French – Centre-back – 31
Newcastle do get some credit for plucking the occasional gem from Ligue 1 and allowing them to flourish in the Premier League, but they’ve also ruined their fair share of French talents.
Yanga-Mbiwa appeared to be destined for the top level when he was central to the Montpellier side that stunned France by winning Ligue 1 back in 2012, but he irritated the infamous Loulou Nicollin by refusing to sign a deal and he was promptly shipped off to Newcastle so they could recover some kind of fee for him.
It was a dreadful move that didn’t work out for him, while spells at Roma and Lyon did prove to be more productive but it also felt like he was never a long term option for either side.
A return to Montpellier was touted but never came through but he’s a solid defender who could still improve a lot of mid table sides around Europe, yet he may have to drop into a second tier somewhere to get some game time in the second half of the season.
Ravel Morrison – Jamaica – Midfield – 28
Everyone has heard the story of how talented Ravel Morrison is, but it’s something that has never been shown on a consistent basis at a good level.
His next club will be his 13th of his career so immediately alarm bells are ringing, but you would hope that he would get a chance to settle down somewhere and actually establish himself in the team.
There have to be teams out there who are looking for a talisman – he might need to drop down a level to find it, but he could also work his way back up the ladder if he truly lights it up somewhere.
Sadly that appears to be unlikely, but it would be good to see him get one final good chance to prove himself.
Yohan Cabaye – France – Midfield – 35
It’s understandable why Yohan Cabaye left Newcastle for PSG in 2013, but it still feels like he made the wrong choice and his career never truly recovered.
He struggled to establish himself as a regular started and he eventually returned to the Premier League for three years with Crystal Palace, while he’s been a free agent this season after a spell with St Etienne.
He should still have one final move in him and he’s got the quality to dominate possession from the centre of the pitch, so there are plenty of teams out there who would improve by giving him a chance.
Diego Costa – Spain – Striker – 32
Possibly the biggest name who’s available on a free transfer just now, it’s almost impossible to know what Diego Costa would bring you at this point.
In a way that’s part of the fun, there’s still every reason to believe he can terrorise defences, give you a proper focal point up front and he’ll pitch in with a few goals.
The problem is deep down you really know that he’ll miss more games than he’ll start due to injuries and the inevitable red cards that will follow, so he’s one of those players that you really hope gets signed up… just not for your team.