Who doesn’t like freebies? The word “free” always draws the attention of any potential consumer and when those freebies are Premier League-quality players, the prospect seems even more appealing.
Free agents who are capable of performing at the highest level are a scarce commodity and it’s not every day that any club lets talent walk out of the front door for nothing. Yet, every season a few seep out through the cracks after failing to come to an agreement with their paymasters, as ambitions and directions of the individual do not walk hand in hand with those of their previous club’s.
It takes great prudence on the part of both the scouting network as well as the manager to seek them out and convince them to sign on the dotted line.
Here are the five best free agent signings of the Premier league season which made their managers look like geniuses:
5. Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham)
The Greek international midfielder was signed up by Martin Jol to strengthen the midfield and add experience amongst the ranks at Craven Cottage. However, with the swift departures of Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembélé to their London rivals Tottenham, a lot more responsibility was placed upon the shoulders of the experienced Karagounis.
The 36-year-old ended up as one of the most consistent performers for the Cottagers (rated in the top 10 in Opta’s passing accuracy stats), racking up 24 appearances in the Premier league. His contributions were duly recognised by the Fulham fans as they voted him as the second best player in the fans’ player of the season polls.
4. Artur Boruc (Southampton)
Nigel Adkins took a punt on Artur Boruc when he signed up the ex-Celtic and Fiorentina goalkeeper on a free in September. The Southampton defence looked real shaky at the beginning of the season, with neither Kelvin Davis nor Paulo Gazzaniga able to instil any kind of confidence in the backline as the Saints conceded 28 goals in their first 10 games. Although conceding 4 goals on his debut away to West Ham was not the ideal start for the Polish international, he came into his own as the campaign wore on.
With Boruc between the sticks providing some impressive saves and commanding the back line effectively, the Saints finished a comfortable 14th in their first season back in the Premier League. The Polish international has since been awarded with a new contract at the end of the season.
3. Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion)
Nobody except West Brom fans was particularly thrilled when a certain Claudio Yacob signed on the dotted line for the Baggies after being released by Racing Club de Avellaneda. The Argentine midfielder’s signing however proved to be one of the most brilliant pieces of business done in the summer and another brilliant addition to the resume of ex-technical director of the club, Dan Ashworth, before he departed the club for national duties.
The Argentine, in his first season on England, captured the imagination of most, becoming one of the stalwarts for West Brom and forming a formidable partnership with Youssouf Mulumbu in the middle. The Argentine’s ability to do the “dirty work” enabled others around the park in White and Blue stripes to flourish in their own game as the side from the Midlands ostensibly punched above their weight. Yacob thrived on the Premier League stage from the get go, which helped flatten the steep learning curve for Steve Clark who was learning the tricks of the trade himself in his first season as manager in the Premier League. The Argentine was awarded with the club’s player of the month award in the month of March 2013, as the Baggies coasted to an 8th place finish.