Last Friday signalled that time of year again when each Premier League side details the players that they are releasing from the club, putting them on the market as potential targets for free transfers.
Normally compiled of a few fringe and youth players, some big names appeared on this year’s list as Chelsea’s John Terry and Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic have left their respective clubs.
Pep Guardiola has arguably had the biggest clear-out at Manchester City, releasing Willy Caballero, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta – amongst others – to make way for his summer spree.
The Boot Room takes a look at five free agents that could still be in the Premier League next season…
Perhaps one of the biggest names on the Premier League released list last week, Chelsea’s John Terry called time on his Stamford Bridge career after an illustrious 22-year spell in South London.
The Evening Standard have claimed that fellow top-flight side Bournemouth are close to agreeing a £100,000-per-week deal for the 36-year-old that would see him on the South Coast for next season.
Despite his lack of first-team football last year, plus his veteran age, there’s no doubt that Terry is still a fine central defender and would prove to be a reliable, stubborn asset for any top-flight side.
His innate sense of leadership after so many years of captaining Chelsea, allied with his exceptional ability to read the game and clear up any danger in front of goal, would still improve most defences.
The Sun have claimed this morning that Championship outfit Aston Villa are growing their interest in the ex-England man, but it would seem that Terry still has a lot to offer in the top division.
A man that has almost been forgotten about over the past few years, forward Frazier Campbell’s three-year spell at Crystal Palace has come to an end after an indifferent time spent at Selhurst Park.
The 29-year-old struggled to impress much when given rare opportunities at Palace, scoring just eight times in 50 Premier League appearances before being left-out for target man Christian Benteke.
179 minutes of football this season – all of which came from the bench – has seen Campbell lose huge amounts of confidence in his play, but deep down he still possesses the raw talent that he’s always had.
Quick in and around the final third, and with a sharp eye for goal, the former-Sunderland striker just needs a good run of first-team action to build himself back up and become a lethal asset for a side.
The Sun have reported in the past fortnight that newly-promoted Huddersfield Town are looking into bringing him in, and this could be the move that re-invigorates his career in the Premier League.
An integral part of Pep Guardiola’s debut season at Manchester City, Gael Clichy was perhaps a surprise name to see on the released list coming out of the Etihad Stadium last week.
25 appearances in 38 Premier League matches shows the faith that the Spaniard put into Clichy during the season, utilising him in both a traditional left-back slot and as a budding left-wing back.
Still very quick at 31-years-old and with a lot of experience of top-flight football after spells at City and their rivals Arsenal, the French defender would be a good match for many a mid-table side.
He began to thrive towards the end of the season, creating 16 chances whilst developing his attacking play under Guardiola, and he’s always comfortable and disciplined around his own area.
Reports last month from The Sun are suggesting that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are interested in taking him on a free deal to shore up their left-back role, and if true it could be a smart move by the Reds.
Another part of Guardiola’s mass clear-out at the Etihad, Willy Caballero is somebody who can arguably feel hard done by after an exceptional end to the recent campaign for Manchester City.
Always an understudy during his three-year spell in Premier League, the woeful performances of and injury to Claudio Bravo – combined with his own good displays – left him as number one during the run-in.
It was the 35-year-old, along with returning captain Vincent Kompany, that helped City keep things tight at the back during their late push for the top-four and the club is indebted to him in some way.
His safe hands under a high-ball and ability to get down low to shots quickly helped him on his way to keeping three clean sheets in City’s last six league matches, and he’s unfortunate to be released.
Rumours surfacing in the Evening Standard have linked him with a move to Chelsea as an understudy to Thibaut Courtois and, after a solid season, it’s hard to say that he hasn’t justified a stay in the top-flight.
One man who never really managed to find his feet at Goodison Park since his £6 million arrival at Everton in 2013 is Arouna Kone, the tall Ivorian striker that Roberto Martinez brought to the club.
A serious knee injury suffered during his early days has blighted any potential progress in the Toffees’ first-team, and the 33-year-old only managed six goals in 23 league starts during his four-year spell.
He arrived at the club with bags of potential, having a natural eye for goal and the physicality to brush off defenders as if they’re not there, but it simply hasn’t come to fruition on Merseyside.
Contrary to belief the veteran forward also still has the pace in his locker to hurt defences in the top-flight, and he could be set to become a prime target for the bottom-half sides needing fire-power.
Sky Sports reported in January that Crystal Palace were lining up a loan deal to bring Kone to Selhurst Park – something that wasn’t agreed in the end – but it’s possible they could now re-kindle interest.
Click here for BBC Sport’s comprehensive list of those released from Premier League clubs.
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Valued at £25m, Aston Villa and West Ham could have got Benjamin Pavard in 2016
The Stuttgart defender is wanted by top Premier League sides.
This week has seen Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard linked with a move to the Premier League. The 21-year-old is reportedly a target for both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Bild reported this week that the Bundesliga side will not be considering any offers below €30 million (£26.5million).
It is a fantastic rise up the ranks from the Frenchman. After coming through the youth set-up in France with Lille he headed to Germany in 2016. The youngster helped Stuttgart win promotion back to the Bundesliga where he has now been showcasing his best form. Such form saw Pavard even earn his first French international call-up.
For West Ham and Aston Villa, this progression signals a missed opportunity. Back in December 2015 it was reported by Goal that both West Ham and Aston Villa had made an approach to sign Pavard. The then 19-year-old right-back had caught the eye with Lille. Villa were battling relegation at the time and looked to strengthen their leaky defence. West Ham were looking to add fresh faces to their backline.
Neither side managed to get Pavard. In the end he joined Stuttgart for a fee reported to be in the region of €5 million (£4.5 million) by Le Monde.
Now that fee looks like an absolute bargain for a player who looks destined to be heading to the World Cup with France. Pavard would have been a shrewd addition by either Aston Villa or West Ham – but both sides missed out.
Now it looks as though a fee nearer to £30 million will have to be shelled out if one of the Premier League elite want to get their hands on the 21-year-old.
If only Aston Villa or West Ham had managed to get their man back in 2016.
James Bree must take his opportunity at Aston Villa
The full-back may get a first-team chance now that Neil Taylor joined Aston Villa’s injury list.
Aston Villa take on Bolton Wanderers this weekend and will be wanting to get back to winning ways following their shock defeat at the hands of QPR in midweek. Villa will have to do so however with something of a defensive crisis, in particular at full-back.
Neil Taylor suffered a groin injury in the QPR defeat. He joins fellow full-backs Alan Hutton and Axel Tuanzebe on the treatment table, the pair suffering with hamstring strains.
Aston Villa could of course revert to a three at the back formation. Or this could be the perfect opportunity for James Bree to show what he is capable of.
Villa signed the young defender from Barnsley last January for a fee reported by the Birmingham Mail to be in the region of £3 million. It looked a sharp piece of business for a young defender with bags of potential.
However, his career at Villa Park has so far been mostly bit-part. Bree played just seven times last season after his move and this term has started just once in the Championship.
He was on the bench for the recent QPR game but with so many Villa players missing, surely now is the perfect time to draft him in.
Bree is admittedly more comfortable as a right-back, but he is easily the closest fit and most obvious solution to the left-back shortage.
The 20-year-old is clearly a big talent. However, he has spent too long watching from the bench since the Villa move.
Bree should certainly be given the chance to play at full-back this weekend by Steve Bruce. If Bree gets that chance the youngster needs to make sure he grabs the bull by both horns and reminds Villa just why they shelled out on his precocious talent.
The injuries are undoubtedly a blow, but Bree getting some game time and proving himself to Steve Bruce? That could be the silver lining in this cloudy news.
Aston Villa fans react to Mile Jedinak performance v QPR
The Australian struggled to cope with playing two games in quick succession.
Aston Villa’s automatic promotion hopes took a big hit yesterday, when they found themselves picked apart by QPR at Villa Park.
The London side won 3-1, with goals from Ryan Manning, Jake Bidwell and Luke Freeman doing the damage. Aston Villa struggled throughout the game and one player who came in for a lot of the stick was midfielder Mile Jedinak.
Well, it was not so much him, but the way he was used by manager Steve Bruce. Many fans at Villa Park were surprised to see the Australian in the starting line-up. He had just played 90 minutes in the 4-1 with against Wolves and put in an excellent performance.
Aston Villa fans however felt he should have been given a subsequent rest.
At 33-years-old Jedinak’s fitness is not what it once was and Villa fans would have preferred to see Icelandic international Birkir Bjarnason line up instead.
Jedinak was clearly in the side to try and alleviate the aerial threat posed by QPR but he struggled to do so in the game. Throughout the game Jedinak lost plenty of aerial battles and his performance was not well received by Aston Villa fans.
He even slipped into the Aston Villa defence during the game, which did not see him improve his display.
Jedinak is a top player but, at 33, asking him to play twice in the space of a few days seemed to be a mistake from Bruce.
With Cardiff and Wolves also playing and winning last night, it will hopefully not prove a costly mistake from the Aston Villa boss.
Here is what the Aston Villa fans had to think about the decision to play Jedinak…
Said it before and will say it again, Jedinak just doesn’t work in this kind of game…useless at home unless it’s in a derby where you have to be gritty…should have made a couple of changes from Saturday #avfc
— Richard Franks (@richardpfranks) March 13, 2018
Bjarnason over Jedinak on Saturday thank youuuuu
— Jake (@NooneAVFC) March 13, 2018
He should have made changes. Jedinak and Hourihane looked knackered. #AVFC
— Steve (@steve81_steve) March 13, 2018
BB over Jedinak but I don’t rate Lansbury at all
— James Lloyd (@LloydyAVFC) March 13, 2018
Only reason Bruce had stuck with Jedinak was because he could win the long balls which he hardly did.
Should had gone with Bjarnasson or even Lansbury. Villa just never turned up what so ever! #AVFC
— Brad Worledge (@bradworledge_) March 13, 2018
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but yeah, we should have made changes. Jedinak in particular was a weird one. For automatic now we have to win every game. Nothing else will be enough. Feel so beaten tonight, it’s the hope that kills you – but this team could do it still. #avfc
— Alex Berwick (@Alex_Berwick) March 13, 2018
Think it’s telling that after Saturday’s draining encounter, Wolves made four changes tonight. Bruce couldn’t expect a performance from the same 11 and should have made changes. At the very least, Birkir should have been in for Jedinak. #AVFC
— Jupiter Janus (@BraddersOak) March 13, 2018
A massive problem we had tonight was Jedinak was so concerned with Smith in the air he left massive space in the midfield. #avfc
— Adam Bevan (@Adam_Bevan_Avfc) March 13, 2018
Yeah the Taylor one was forced tbf but still bizarre what happened! Will be same excuse if we lose after this fucking pointless international break too! Not sure how jedinak played 90mins i love the bloke but his role is irrelevant once we go 1 goal down never mind 2
— Jordan Spencer (@JordAvfc) March 13, 2018
Bruce got that completely wrong tonight. We could all see that he should’ve changed it up tonight, Jedinak was knackered on Saturday so don’t know why he started. Changes should have been made after half an hour, not waiting until the bloody 80th minute to bring Bjarnason on.
— Aston Villa Daily (@AVFC_Daily) March 13, 2018
One of those nights unfortunately. Just didn’t click in the final third and got caught out twice on the counter. Think we needed a bit of rotation, the likes of Jedinak looked very leggy after 15 minutes. Bruce admitted he was wrong to keep the same team and I have to agree. ??
— G_AVFC (@AVFC_G) March 14, 2018
I wouldn’t of played jedinak night, for all the slack o gave him for starting Saturday he done a job then, but asking an 89 year old to play CDM twice in 72 hours is madness #avfc
— Matthew Sabin (@MattBrumSabin9) March 14, 2018
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