Predicting the Next Moves for Football's Top Free Agents

Daniel Sturridge needs a new team
Daniel Sturridge needs a new team / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The summer transfer window has come and gone, meaning teams across Europe can no longer buy players to improve their squad. If they want help, they will have to turn to the free agent market.

At this point in the season, you're rarely going to find a superstar who hasn't found a new team, but there are usually plenty of solid players who could be offer some firepower off the bench or give a struggling side a boost, and this year's free agent class is no exception.

Let's take a look at what could be next for ten of the biggest names still on the market.

1. Mario Götze

Gotze has left Dortmund again
Gotze has left Dortmund again / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Shall we just take the easy way out and link Mario Götze with Liverpool again? Jürgen Klopp likes him lol.

How about Bayer Leverkusen? The German side are looking for some extra help after Kai Havertz's move to Chelsea, and someone with Götze's experience could be key. Leverkusen are down towards the relegation zone after three games.

Götze has worked with Leverkusen boss Peter Bosz in the past in a tricky spell in Dortmund, so the stars could align on this one.

2. Danny Welbeck

Welbeck is no longer with Watford
Welbeck is no longer with Watford / Pool/Getty Images

29-year-old Danny Welbeck's frustrating spell with Watford has come to an abrupt end, and now he's looking for his third club in just over a year.

A drop down to the Championship might be best as he looks to rebuild his reputation, but one top-flight side who should consider the Englishman is Crystal Palace.

The Eagles again look to be far too relient on Wilfried Zaha for goals, and as we saw in the 4-0 loss to Chelsea, when the Ivorian isn't on it, Palace have very little to offer. Welbeck would at least be an alternative.

Roy Hodgson also loved him for England...

3. Jack Wilshere

West Ham terminated Wilshere's contract
West Ham terminated Wilshere's contract / Stephen Pond/Getty Images

It's been yet another year of frustration for midfielder Jack Wilshere. Once seen as the future of English football, the 28-year-old's injury struggles have contributed to West Ham's decision to terminate his contract.

It wouldn't come as a surprise to see Premier League strugglers like Burnley or Sheffield United make a move for Wilshere, but what he needs is a change of scenery, and he could find that at Rangers.

It's not as if Rangers particularly need Wilshere, but Steven Gerrard's side would be able to give him a platform away from the English spotlight, which might help him rediscover some form in peace.

4. Nathaniel Clyne

Clyne is training with Crystal Palace
Clyne is training with Crystal Palace / Michael Steele/Getty Images

Nathaniel Clyne is already in talks with Crystal Palace over a new contract, and it's a move which makes a whole lot of sense.

Not only have you got the sentimental factor - Clyne is a Palace academy graduate - but the Eagles' squad is crying out for some cover at right-back. Young Nathan Ferguson is injured and Martin Kelly is coming back from his own issue, leaving Joel Ward as the only player capable of regular minutes.

Clyne has already played for Palace as a trialist and looks to have proved his fitness, so it could be a matter of time before this one gets done.

5. Alexandre Pato

Pato is a free agent again
Pato is a free agent again / Miguel Schincariol/Getty Images

After terminating his contract with São Paulo in August, Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato is looking for a new job.

He's likely to stay in Brazil - Internacional have been heavily linked with him - but if Pato did fancy one last hurrah in Europe, perhaps AC Milan might be keen?

Zlatan Ibrahimović is still the undisputed starter at San Siro, with Rafael Leão his deputy, but there's no depth behind that. Milan had to turn to 18-year-old Lorenzo Colombo while Ibrahimović was sidelined with COVID-19, so maybe a cheap deal for the 'Duck' could work.

6. Ezequiel Garay

Valencia cut ties with a lot of their players
Valencia cut ties with a lot of their players / David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images

Part of the exodus at Valencia, 33-year-old centre-back Ezequiel Garay finds himself on the hunt for a new employer this summer.

Rumours of a move to Real Sociedad have circulated, but let's try something outside the box. How about a move to West Ham?

David Moyes' desire to add a new centre-back was clear in the summer transfer window. They were trying up until the last minute, when Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori pulled out of a move.

Garay might not be the dream signing, but he's one of very few options for the Hammers now. He wouldn't be a starter but could offer another option for the rest of the season.

7. Hatem Ben Arfa

Ben Arfa recently left Real Valladolid
Ben Arfa recently left Real Valladolid / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

A cult hero in the Premier League, French trickster Hatem Ben Arfa recently walked away from Real Valladolid after just six months with the club.

The heart longs for a return to Newcastle, but that's probably not going to happen. Instead, could be worth a gamble for Fulham? The Cottagers are crying out for some top-flight experience, and Ben Arfa comes with plenty of that.

His infamous attitude issues might not please Scott Parker, but Fulham need all the magic (however fleeting) they can find these days.

8. Mario Mandžukić

Could Mandzukic return to Italy?
Could Mandzukic return to Italy? / Simon Holmes/Getty Images

Now a free agent following his departure from Qatari side Al-Duhail, Mario Mandžukić can expect to attract interest from all over the world.

Wolves could be an intriguing option, with Nuno Espírito Santo's side yet to start firing, but a move to Antonio Conte's Inter makes the most sense.

Conte's search for a new target man is well-known. He tried and failed to land Olivier Giroud but would surely be happy to settle for Mandžukić, who is a proven winner with a versatile skill set that would fit in well at Inter.

9. Daniel Sturridge

Sturridge has been a free agent since March
Sturridge has been a free agent since March / VI-Images/Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge's brief spell in Turkey went about as poorly as you could imagine. He terminated his contract back in March and is still on the hunt for his next move.

A return to England looks to be on the card, but the ultimate return to Aston Villa could be best for everyone involved.

Villa are on the hunt for some more fire power after losing Wesley until 2021. Summer signing Ollie Watkins has hit the ground running, but he's backed up by 22-year-old Keinan Davis, who still has work to do before he'll be trusted as a starting Premier League striker.

A Birmingham-born boy, D-Studge was in Villa's academy as a child.

10. Shinji Kagawa

Kagawa spent time in Spain's second tier
Kagawa spent time in Spain's second tier / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Since leaving Borussia Dortmund back in 2010, it's been a real rollercoaster for Shinji Kagawa, who was most recently released by Spanish second-tier side Real Zaragoza after just one season with the club.

With several impressive years with Dortmund and a solid spell with Manchester United under his belt, Kagawa shouldn't struggle to find a side who will take him on.

Someone like West Brom or Southampton might benefit from his talents, but he may prefer a return to Germany, where Schalke are crying out for someone with his creativity to come save them from their fall from grace.

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