From Yaya Touré to Hatem Ben Arfa: the free agents looking for a home | Paul Doyle

The former Manchester City player believes he can carry on until he turns 42, while Football League clubs could be tempted to take a punt on Victor Anichebe

Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert named their first Cameroon squad this week after being appointed as the country’s managerial dream duo this month. Meanwhile, Ruud van Nistelrooy is running PSV’s youth team and Alessandro Nesta is in charge of Perugia. When Yaya Touré reaches the current age of all those former players – 42 – he will hang up his boots. Until then, Touré is available for hire.

That, at any rate, was what his agent, Dimitri Seluk, indicated this summer, claiming that was partly why Touré wore the No 42 shirt during his time at Manchester City. Eight glorious years those were, during which Touré established himself as one of the greatest midfielders ever to illuminate the Premier League, along with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, both of whom accepted managerial jobs before even starting their fifth decade. Quitters.

Seluk spouts large quantities of bilge, in fairness. But let us hope that he and his client get their wish on this one because who would not want to see a talent like Touré, just 35, defy the years? Seluk even suggested his man could carry on influencing matches at the very top for at least another three seasons, a claim not especially well supported by the evidence of the Ivorian’s last season at City.

Apparently Seluk has so far been unable to convert elite clubs to his faith in Touré’s imperishability because no Premier League side has seen fit to employ him this summer, not even the endlessly gullible West Ham. No other European club has been won over yet, either, with reports in Spain claiming this week that Barcelona have politely declined. But, of course, there is still time because Touré is not contracted to anyone so can join whenever suits. He is perhaps the most tempting of the array of free agents that could yet enhance your club’s squad.

Or how about Hatem Ben Arfa? Now there is a player who did arouse West Ham’s interest, only for the club to be rebuffed, reportedly, because Ben Arfa hoped to secure a move to Lyon as the replacement for Nabil Fekir. But Lyon may not lose their talisman, after all, so the 31-year-old must be considering other options as he seeks another fresh start in his career, his time at Paris Saint-Germain having ended unhappily, as did stints at some other clubs.

Hatem Ben Arfa.
Hatem Ben Arfa. Photograph: Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images

His last competitive action for PSG before becoming embroiled in a dispute with the club was as an 88th-minute substitute in March 2017. He may come with baggage but his talent is special and there will no doubt be many managers who think they can help him fulfil it, as Claude Puel did after picking him up for free when he was released by Newcastle in 2015. The brilliance he showcased at Nice over the following year led PSG to sign him and, although it has hardly been seen since, it still lurks in there somewhere.

Claudio Marchisio is not blessed with Ben Arfa’s gifts but his consistency during more than a decade with Juventus may make him a safer investment even at 32. The winner of seven titles with Juventus made 20 appearances for the Italian club last season and could offer a wealth of savviness to someone as a free agent. An alternative central midfielder might be Stephen Ireland, who is a year younger than the Italian and, well, has a point to prove.

Another former Stoke City enigma, Philipp Wollscheid, is also on the market. The defender is 29 but his career has taken a curious downturn after an initially promising start at Stoke following a £2.5m move from Mainz in 2015. He left Stoke on loan a year later but spells at Wolfsburg and Metz did not work out and he was last seen in action for Warriors Saar in the German futsal championship.

Philipp Wollscheid.
Philipp Wollscheid. Photograph: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Another former Stoke defender, Glen Johnson, turns 34 this week and has no club. The same goes for Jan Kirchhoff, the former Bayern Munich centre-back or defensive midfielder who helped save Sunderland from relegation two years ago before being struck down by a knee injury. He impressed Bolton enough during a trial last season to be offered a deal until the end of the campaign but that was not renewed so, at 27, he is free to offer his services to others.

So are a pair of former West Brom midfielders, Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob. And so is the former West Brom, Sunderland and Everton striker Victor Anichebe, 30, who can take calls after a stint playing in the Chinese second tier. There are lower-league English clubs who could do worse than look at him.


Paul Doyle

The GuardianTramp

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