It's been a good year for free transfers - several have been snapped up already, from the likes of David Vaughan to Jay Bothroyd finding Premier League employment on the cheap. However, there are still a few players who have gone unclaimed - bafflingly, in some cases. Here are 5 players who could be ideal for certain clubs wishing to progress in the division....
5. Boudewijn Zenden
When Zenden initially signed for Sunderland, there were more than a few people who assumed that the Dutchman would simply phone it in, uncaring for the plight of an unassuming North-East club. However, Zenden proved to be a fine servant on Wearside, adding some intelligence, technique, and know-how to an otherwise workmanlike Sunderland midfield. Also famous for his Maths-teacher-dancing in an attempt to keep up with Asamoah Gyan. As long as he sticks to football, his age won't be too much of a problem.
He'd be perfect for: Wigan, who could do with a touch of composure and class to their team.
Everyone's favourite metalhead goalkeeper, Hahnemann has curiously been unable to find a new club since being released by Wolves. He visibly declined in his last season and was replaced by Wayne Hennessey, but is still a solid goalkeeper, and again, another player who was at the World Cup just a year ago.
He'd be perfect for: Swansea, who having lost Dorus de Vries are without a solid, proven goalkeeper. Hahnemann could probably attract a number of offers from clubs of slightly higher reputation to sit on their bench as their trusty no.2, but as a notorious thrill-seeker, a No.1 spot at the relegation favourites would suit him down to the ground.
And here, we have a player who did not shine in West Ham's relegation campaign. The England international's failure to attract any serious offers thus far shows how far his stock has fallen - it's remarkable to think that just a year ago he was starting for England at the World Cup. Nonetheless, Upson is probably a fine choice to add some experience to a settled team, and is probably worth a bet that he might do well at a club that's not so much of a basket case as West Ham. After all, it's hard to look good when you're lining up in a defence that includes Julien Faubert.
He'd be perfect for: Q.P.R., who need experience from wherever they can get it, and competition with Jay Bothroyd for the ‘most dubious use of the phrase "England International" award.'
‘Der Hammer' is one of a small group of players that looked good in what was otherwise a dreadful season for West Ham last year, and if he hadn't missed most of the first half of the season through injury, they might've stayed up. As it is, he's available for free, and is a fine all-rounder with one of the most ferocious shots in the league. His wages won't be cheap, but nor will they be astronomical - think of him as a cut-price version of the aforementioned Barton.
He'd be perfect for: Take your pick. Bolton, Blackburn, Aston Villa, and Wolves are all teams that could do with his creativity and goals from midfield.
1. Joey Barton
The big one, clearly. There may be reservations about the Morrissey-loving, Nietzche-quoting, occasionally violent and outspoken midfielder, not the least of which will be his fairly hefty wages, but Barton is still a highly effective and consistent player who brings work-rate, goals, an excellent passing and crossing ability, and steel to any team. Not technically a free transfer, as he is still owned by Newcastle, but the club have indicated that they're prepared to let him move without a fee after his latest Twitter outburst. A bargain and no mistake.
He'd be perfect for: Aston Villa, who could do with a touch of guts, glory, and goals in their midfield.