For all the transfers negotiated in Europe's $3 billion summer transfer market, paying nothing for players was always an option.
Dutch club PSV Eindhoven secured a World Cup winner on a free transfer Tuesday. Mario Götze, who scored Germany’s winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, had been without a club since leaving Borussia Dortmund in June. The 28-year-old Götze spent only 609 minutes on the field and hasn’t played a full match since last October.
“I had a lot of offers this summer," Götze said. “But I am a man of feeling and make my own decisions."
Even though the transfer window has closed in Europe's major leagues, free agents remain available to be signed by teams in need of reinforcements. Some are recognizable names whose careers have stalled:
In 2011, he held his own against — and at times outplayed — Barcelona’s star-studded midfield in a Champions League game. Just two years ago, he was in the England squad. Now, Wilshere is without a club after West Ham terminated the former Arsenal central midfielder’s contract two years into a three-year deal. And he’s not happy about it. The 28-year-old Wilshere said he is “convinced that I can still contribute at the very top of the game,” despite a raft of injury issues seemingly taking its toll. “I have been fully fit for a large period of time at the club … training hard every day — but unfortunately have not been given the opportunity to play,” Wilshere wrote on Twitter.
The former England striker has been without a club since March after leaving Trabzonspor in Turkey, and in that time he has served a four-month worldwide ban for breaching betting rules. Recently, he has been training with a non-league side Kidsgrove, in England’s eighth tier, in a bid to keep sharp in the hope of securing a move. Just two years ago, he was scoring for Liverpool in a Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain, and was playing for England as recently as 2017.
A league and cup winner with Inter Milan and Manchester City, the Italy striker became better known for his off-field antics than scoring goals. Blighted by injuries, a return to Italy at AC Milan didn't work out. After a failed stint at Liverpool, he tried resurrecting his career in France at Nice and Marseille. After jumping back and forth between leading sides in the Italian, English and French leagues, Balotelli returned in 2019 to Brescia — the city where he grew up with his adoptive family. The emotional homecoming ended in a fallout with the club.
HATEM BEN ARFA
Referred to in the past as the French Lionel Messi, the former France international has struggled to live up to the lofty billing during a much- travelled and turbulent career. He spent the first half of this year playing in Spain at Valladolid, whose main shareholder is former Brazil striker Ronaldo. It was the eighth club in a third country for the 33-year-old attacking midfielder after stints at Lyon, Newcastle, Hull, Marseille, Nice, Paris Saint-Germain and Rennes. Once regarded as France’s most gifted player, Ben Arfa did not live up to the huge expectations he raised with his exceptional pace and dribbling abilities when he played with Lyon, the club where he was nurtured.
With experience playing in Europe for AC Milan, Chelsea and Villarreal, the 31-year-old striker is reportedly searching for another opportunity outside Brazil. After enduring yet another disappointing season with Sao Paulo, he parted ways with the club on Aug. 19. Internacional, where he shot to fame in 2006, was initially interested in signing him as a replacement for injured Paolo Guerrero but the deal was not completed.
AP Sports Writers Steve Douglas, James Ellingworth, Rob Harris and Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report.
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The Associated Press