Out of contract XI: The best free agents in world football

  • There are a host of famous names who are still without a club in October
  • Top players formerly of Manchester United, Real Madrid and others find themselves as free agents
  • A strong team could be made up of those footballers currently unemployed

David De Gea is among those without a club after the summer window
David De Gea is among those without a club after the summer window / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

If you were in charge of a brand new professional football club, but somehow had absolutely no money to spend on transfers, what might your team look like?

Well, fortunately, there are plenty of top players still available on the free-agent market despite the summer transfer window having come and gone, with some surprising names still without a club in October.

There have been players released by Manchester United, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund who are still unemployed, waiting for the perfect opportunity to arrive so they can get back on the pitch.

Here is the best starting XI made up of free agents.

GK: David de Gea

David De Gea
Somehow the Spaniard is still a free agent / Will Palmer/Allstar/GettyImages

David de Gea's 12-year Man Utd career came to a bitterly disappointing end over the summer period, but there were bound to be plenty of opportunities for the 45-cap Spain international goalkeeper, right?

Not quite. De Gea was briefly linked with moves to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich over the summer but is thought to be waiting for the chance to be a Champions League club's number one. That was unlikely to be the case in either Madrid or Munich, but his astronomical wages mean he may have been priced out of a move elsewhere.

The former Premier League champion has rejected Saudi Arabian advances, but his options are growing more limited by the week. So much so, in fact, that De Gea is said to be considering retirement.

RB: Almamy Toure

Almamy Toure
Toure was released by Eintracht Frankfurt during the summer / Hiroki Watanabe/GettyImages

While traditionally a centre-back, Almamy Toure has readily played as a right-back. The 27-year-old was released by Eintracht Frankfurt this summer having joined the Bundesliga side from Monaco back in 2019.

The Mali international has plenty of experience despite never being a guaranteed starter at Frankfurt, scoring three goals and providing six assists across 81 games for the German side. Toure won the Europa League back in 2022 and also claimed Ligue 1 with Monaco at the beginning of his career.

CB: Phil Jones

Phil Jones
Jones left Old Trafford with De Gea over the summer / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Unfortunately for Phil Jones, he has been seen more frequently in social media memes than on the pitch in recent years. Much like former teammate De Gea, the centre-back also enjoyed 12 years at Old Trafford, although he has only played 13 senior games since 2019.

Jones appears to be more interested in pursuing his coaching career than his playing one, but the former Blackburn Rovers centre-back could certainly do a job lower down the football pyramid.

CB: Jerome Boateng

Jerome Boateng
Boateng has been linked with a return to Bayern Munich / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Jerome Boateng, the 2014 World Cup winner, was linked with a move to familiar surroundings this week. The defender had been mooted with a return to Bayern Munich, the club he represented 363 times during a decade in Bavaria.

However, Boateng's open court case concerning the alleged assault of a former partner came under scrutiny from Bayern supporters ahead of a potential move, with the German champions deciding against signing the 35-year-old due to the fear of backlash from fans.

LB: Nico Schulz

Nico Schulz
Schulz struggled at Borussia Dortmund following his 2019 move / Christof Koepsel/GettyImages

Another German defender still without an employer is Nico Schulz, formerly of Borussia Dortmund. The Black and Yellows signed the left-back for £22m back in 2019, but he struggled to make a significant impact at Signal Iduna Park.

The 12-cap Germany international left Dortmund at the end of last season having not made a single appearance during the 2022/23 campaign. However, the 30-year-old does have plenty of experience, with 162 Bundesliga outings to his name.

CM: Matty Longstaff

Matty Longstaff
Longstaff left his brother Sean behind after being released by Newcastle / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages

Matty Longstaff was the unlucky sibling at Newcastle United. The midfielder came through the club's academy with brother Sean, announcing himself with a fantastic strike during a 1-0 win over Manchester United back in 2019.

However, unlike his brother who is thriving for the Champions League side, Matty Longstaff has been released by his boyhood club. The 23-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan at Colchester United and is now facing an uncertain future.

CM: Jean-Philippe Gbamin

UEFA Europa League group H"Trabzonspor v Ferencvarosi"
Gbamin struggled with injuries at Goodison Park / ANP/GettyImages

Jean-Philippe Gbamin was supposed to be the heir to Idrissa Gueye at Goodison Park when he left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2019. However, fast forward four years, and Gueye is back in Everton's midfield, while Gbamin is unemployed.

Injuries plagued Gbamin's time at Everton with the Ivory Coast international only managing eight appearances for the Toffees. Having spent last season on loan at Turkish side Trabzonspor, featuring on 24 occasions, the holding midfielder didn't do enough to convince them of a permanent deal.

RW: Karim Bellarabi

Karim Bellarabi
Bellarabi waved goodbye to the Leverkusen fans at the end of the season / Lars Baron/GettyImages

It was an emotional departure for Karim Bellarabi at Bayer Leverkusen last season, waving farewell to the club he represented 290 times over a 12-year period. The winger scored 57 goals and registered 66 assists during a successful stint in western Germany.

Despite being only 33 years old, Bellarabi is yet to find a new club, perhaps owing to the fact that he was seldom used by Xabi Alonso at the BayArena last season.

AM: Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard
Lingard is currently training in Saudi Arabia with Al Ettifaq / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Currently training with Steven Gerrard's Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, Jesse Lingard could be about to make a permanent move the the Saudi Pro League. The England international finally left Man Utd in the summer of 2022, making an underwhelming move to Nottingham Forest.

Despite a successful loan stint at West Ham United back in the second half of the 2020/21 season, Lingard has been unable to revive his career in England. Only 30 years old, he could be offered a fresh start in Asia.

LW: Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard
Hazard's move to Real Madrid never worked out / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

If you said back in the mid-2010s that Eden Hazard would be a largely unwanted free agent in 2023, people would have given you some odd looks in the pub. The once unplayable Chelsea winger failed to live up to expectations upon his move to Real Madrid quite spectacularly and is now without a club.

There had been rumours suggesting that Hazard is considering retirement already, but it's believed that the Belgian wants to continue his playing career in some capacity. Despite some significant fitness concerns, surely there are a few clubs crying out for someone of Hazard's quality.

ST: Helder Costa

Helder Costa
Helder Costa used to play for Wolves and Leeds / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

Prolific strikers are hard to come by and incredibly valuable, perhaps explaining why there are not many available as free agents. As a result, Helder Costa, who is traditionally a winger, will have to lead the line.

The Portugal and Angola international has an impressive CV, racking up game time at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Benfica, Monaco, Valencia and Leeds United. The latter terminated Costa's contract at the end of last season, but his pace and dribbling ability alone could make him a good fit for a number of sides across Europe.