With the European season’s over; the transfer window will soon be upon us. The end of the season also signals the replenishing of the free agency, because a lot of players are released from their contracts. There is something like 80 EPL players out of contract looking for their next club. Some of these players will be good pickups. Others should be avoided at all costs. So where does MLS come into this?
Picking up a player on a free is good business and prevents the clubs wasting transfer funds, especially if the player is injury prone or too old to warrant a big money signing.
So, here is a short list of player’s who are free agents, the club they are or were under contract with and a verdict on wether a move to MLS would be good or not.
DIDIER DROGBA, Striker, 37, Chelsea = Good Option
A true legend of the Premier League, Drogba has finished his second spell at Chelsea in style, doing the double with the League Cup and the Premier League. However, one season was all it was meant to be and he is off on his travels again. He has previously spent time in China and Turkey but a move to North America would be a whole new experience for him. He has expressed interest in making the move to MLS. I did write about this possibility four years ago so maybe my prediction will come true?
He could join up with long-time former teammate Frank Lampard at New York City, who have limited forward options. Nemic hasn’t impressed and Villa cannot do it all on his own. Shelton is still raw and will take time to fully breakout. He could also look at New York Red Bulls, missing a veteran striker since the retirement of Thierry Henry last season. A partnership of BWP and Drogba would be a force to be reckoned with for sure.
Therefore bringing someone like Drogba in would be both a huge coup and a good option, as a rotation starter or a bench option. He may not be as quick as he used to be, but he still possess that natural strikers instinct and brute strength. He might have one season or two left in him and despite his age, could work wonders in MLS.
Playing for 90
JOEY BARTON, Midfielder, 32, QPR = Good Option
A true marmite player. You either love him, or hate him. Sorry for that ‘British-ism’; basically ‘Marmite’ is something people either ‘love’ or ‘hate’. No middle ground. It is also a common metaphor, and hence why I have used it. Barton is like this because for all the off-field issues and general ability to make people hate him, he is a born leader and a determined player with no fear at all. I am a big fan of his and would love to see him bossing the field in MLS regardless of which team it was.
He could fit into any MLS midfield, top or bottom of the league. He was relegated with QPR and is used to tough battles, but has also played more sophisticated soccer with French side Marseille so is very adaptable. Portland are a tough team, he would be at home there. He could toughen up New York City FC, or join fellow Premier League alumni Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane at LA Galaxy.
He might however be eyeing a move back to France, having excelled during his time there. If not, a move to Spain or somewhere else in Europe can’t be ruled out either. It is most likely he would want to stay in England and preferably in the Premier League – whether teams are willing to take a risk on him is another matter. He has in my eyes gone from the ‘reckless thug’ perception to a classic, skilled but gritty player, of which few are still around in the modern game. His involvement as a political commentator also helped expand his image, not to mention his philosophical tweets. Now more enigmatic than ever, his future movements are difficult to plot.
MATHIEU FLAMINI, Midfielder, 31, Arsenal = Good Option
He apparently has a year left on his contract, but could be released in order to find a new club hence why he is on this list, just to clarify. The combative French midfielder has found his first team spot now occupied by the exciting young talent Francis Coquelin. Despite this, he has remained a fantastic worker and shown his adaptability in a variety of positions.
I think it would be a good move for him to try his luck in MLS, he is still a good player and would be a real asset to any team in the league – perhaps a slightly more attractive option compared to Barton, also coming with much less controversy. Flamini has 3 French caps, the last coming in 2008 so international commitments would not be an issue, as the Red Bulls unwittingly found out with Tim Cahill and his taxing Australian involvement.
He is a favorite of Wenger’s to throw into the game no matter what the situation is, but a move away seems the most likely option. He could return to his homeland France, or try his luck elsewhere in Europe – he won’t be a free agent for long. But moving to MLS would be a great move. Perhaps the Arsenal-Red Bull link would influence his decision?
MICAH RICHARDS, Defender, 26, Manchester City = Good Option
Having been wasted at Manchester City, the English defender is a real athlete and a talented individual, who still has a lot to offer but nowhere to offer it. A move to MLS would be great, but perhaps he wants to give the Premier League another go.
Built like a tank, Richards is a City youth-product, but has spent the season on loan at Fiorentina in a bid to restart his stalling career. He was a member of the Team GB football team at the 2012 London Olympics, but has not played for England since 2012 either. Since making his debut in 2006 he has amassed just 13 caps which I think is hugely underwhelming and he should have been given the chance to get many more. Indeed, on my various Football Manager game saves around 2008 to 2010, he is always getting around 70+ caps for England.
Back in the real world, he is strongly linked with a move to West Brom rather than an MLS move, but I think he should go to MLS. It is something new, he would suit any team and he would certainly be given first team minutes, one of the stipulations he has about moving. Maybe City would negotiate him to go to New York City FC? So in short, he is a great pick-up for any team who has a lot of talent having not been able to showcase it. Whether he opts for MLS is another question.
The View from Avalon
OGUCHI ONYEWU, Defender, 33, Charlton Athletic = Good and Bad
While not a Premier League side, (although hopefully will be in the near future) Championship side Charlton Athletic took a chance on Onyewu, signing him on a free after he was released by fellow Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. However, he has not exactly impressed and is now a free agent having been let go from The Valley.
As a US international (or at least he used to be) with over 60 caps, he should find a home in MLS with Europe no longer working for him. He has previously played for AC Milan, famously beating Ibrahimovic in a training ground bust-up; and also played for Newcastle, Sporting Lisbon, Standard Liege and Malaga in a well-travelled European career. He has been heavily linked to New York City, spending the week on trial there but is another player who could fit into any team in the league, if they were willing to take the risk.
The few Charlton games in which I went and saw him play were mixed. He looked incredibly slow, but possessed incredible physical strength, a key asset needed in the Championship. He was still struggling for fitness, having been plagued by injuries throughout his career, most notably to his knee.
That makes signing Onyewu a big risk, because his fitness is a big issue as well as having had limited minutes this season. I like the guy, and was initally excited to see him at Charlton but it didn’t work out, and I am not sure it will work out anywhere else. That is why I am on the fence with this one.
For the right team and the right money, on a short term contract, he could still do the business and then his movements from there on can be decided much more easily. If he does sign and takes up a roster space and getting injured again, a career in MLS might be too much. Decisions, decisions for Oguchi.
CARLTON COLE, Striker, 31, West Ham = Bad Option
He joined from Chelsea back in 2006 but has had an up and down career with the Hammers. His contract expires on June 30 and is one of a number of players not retained by West Ham. He has been capped 7 times by England but few would ever consider him a top player. He is injury prone and not the fastest, although as an impact sub and especially on set-pieces he does redeem himself somewhat.
He was heavily linked with a move to West Brom, and would probably prefer to remain in the Premier League. I think he isn’t up to scratch and the league can do better. The Rapids are taking a gamble with Kevin Doyle, who hadn’t played much, with mixed loan spells at QPR and Crystal Palace.
Cole comes with a lot of baggage, having been involved in numerous Twitter feuds and being fined for them. So teams should pass on Cole and look elsewhere if they are looking to pick up a new striker.
So, there we have it. Some may be seen in MLS in the near future, others may not. That is the beauty of the transfer window and free agency, nobody really knows what’s going to happen, even the players themselves.