AS the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic begin to bite for most Premier League clubs, the free-agent market will appeal more than ever during this transfer window.
Backed by Roman Abramovich’s billions, Chelsea have continued to spend with abandon, but most sides will be operating with pinched recruitment budgets ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Here, we’ve picked out five free agents who could offer real value for Premier League clubs looking for discount reinforcements.
Outside of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, few players in Europe can match Cavani’s decade-long record of guaranteeing goals at the highest level.
This summer, the Uruguayan striker’s seven-year association with Paris Saint-Germain has come to an end, a spell which comprised of exactly 200 goals in just 301 appearances.
At 33 years old and coming off the least active campaign of his career – hip, calf and groin injuries restricted him to just 14 Ligue 1 appearances in 2019-20 – many of the continent’s biggest sides who’ve tracked Cavani for years will have misgivings about taking a gamble on him now.
But there are plenty of top clubs who could use a striker of his vast experience, and, even at 33, there are few attacking units that would not be improved by Cavani’s presence.
Cavani rejects offer to join Juventus due to loyalty to Napoli pic.twitter.com/buX1P5UZGO
— Omar Momani (@omomani) August 26, 2020
With seven Premier League goals and 14 assists in the 2018-19 season, almost out of nowhere (he’d never recorded more than five league goals or assists in a single season since joining Bournemouth in League One in 2013), Bournemouth wide man Fraser developed into a coveted creative player.
Linked with Arsenal among others, the diminutive Scotland international looked capable of either securing Bournemouth’s top-flight status long term or earning a significant windfall for the club.
A year on, though, neither has proved to be true. Bournemouth succumbed to the drop last season, and Fraser, who was unable to recapture the form he showed the previous term, is now a free agent after his contract expired.
Though interest in the 26-year-old among the Premier League’s elite has quietened, with Newcastle United reportedly close to securing his services, Fraser still represents a low-risk and relatively low-cost option with plenty of potential upside.
Sturridge’s talent has never been in question. The 26-cap England striker has scored 112 goals in 322 career games, and he combines pace, inventiveness and unerring finishing technique to form the arsenal of the complete centre-forward.
But his horrific luck with injuries is the reason the former Liverpool and Chelsea star is without a club at 31 years of age and has only twice in his career made 30-plus all-competitions appearances in a season.
Now that a short stay in Turkey with Trabzonspor has come to an end, Sturridge has set his sights on a Premier League return.
Happy 31st Birthday @DanielSturridge!
⚽️ 67 goals
Champions League 2019
Here’s his first 50 goals for #lfc.
What a player pic.twitter.com/ypIdazhkbN
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) August 31, 2020
These ought to be Gotze’s prime years. The man who scored the winning goal in extra time of the 2014 World Cup final is still only 28, yet in the last seven years he has seldom shown the kind of form that convinced Bayern Munich to trigger the €38m release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract on the eve of the two rivals’ Champions League final showdown in 2013.
It was discovered in 2017, after he’d returned to Dortmund, that a metabolic disorder had plagued Gotze in recent years, explaining his weight gain and the lethargy of his performances.
Despite the downward arc his career has traced since his big-money Bayern move, there is time yet for Gotze to manifest a positive third act in his career. There is less zip to his play now than there was in his prime as a 20-year-old BVB starlet, but he remains a creative, intelligent and versatile attacker.
Former Juventus and Bayern Munich powerhouse Mandzukic doesn’t promise goals by the bucketload in the same way as Cavani, but he too is a potential key free-agent pick-up for any side in search of experience at the sharp end of their attack.
The 34-year-old World Cup finalist is unattached after a brief spell with Qatari side Al-Duhail came to an end in July.
Mandzukic has never been an especially prolific scorer – having never, for example, scored 20 league goals in a season – but his 6ft 3in frame, work rate, intelligent movement and link play have made him key to two Bundesliga titles, four Serie A crowns and a Champions League triumph, among many other major honours.
“I believe I've got a lot to give to the Premier League and I would say that's my first choice,” he told Sky Sports. “I do feel I have unfinished business so I would like to go back and play there.”