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Bundesliga bargain basement: The five best free transfers

August 14, 2019

With the season just days away, most Bundesliga clubs are fine-tuning their squads. But with World Cup, Champions League and Premier League winners available, might a few clubs be tempted to take a punt on a freebie?

Mario Balotelli
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Ehrenzeller

Mario Balotelli

Why always him? The Italian international's pedigree and ability has rarely been in doubt but at 29, he's never been able to settle at a club long enough to really live up to his early billing.

After a typically eventful five month spell at Marseille that included a debut goal, a famous on-pitch Instagram selfie and goals in each of his first five home games, he left the French side at the end of the season. Balotelli had joined Marseille in January after falling out with Nice coach Patrick Vieira following a preseason where he turned up out of shape and missed early matches thanks to a suspension imposed by a court.

But it was at Nice, under current Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, where Balotelli played arguably the best football of his career in 2016-17, leading the Riviera club to their highest finish for decades and Champions League qualification. BVB only have one genuine No.9 in Paco Alacer, so might Favre be tempted to ignore the red flags and try to reignite his former charge?

Could work for: Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Schalke   

Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring in the Champions League last year
Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring in the Champions League last seasonImage: Reuters/P. Noble

Another 29-year-old who has played for Liverpool, Manchester City and his country at major tournaments but finds himself out of work — and another striker whose ability is not the source of his issues. The silky England man, like Balotelli, has a strong goals-per-minute ratio in high-profile competitions but Sturridge's career has been constantly undermined by injury.

After losing his position as Jürgen Klopp's back-up striker to Divock Origi, Sturridge's fitness record means he is really only capable of functioning as a high-level understudy, something Bayern Munich have lacked for most of Robert Lewandowski's spell at the club.

Could work for: Bayern MunichBorussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim

Timothee Kolodziejczak

Timothee Kolodziejczak
A rare glimpse of Timothee Kolodziejczak in a Gladbach shirtImage: Reuters/R. Orlowski

A French center back, Kolodziejczak managed a grand total of eight minutes of Bundesliga action after joining Borussia Mönchengladbach for about €5 million ($5.5 million) from Sevilla in January 2017.

The 27-year-old was a regular when the Spanish outfit won the Europa League in 2015 and 2016 before his move to Germany. Since then, it's all gone downhill, with a permanent move to Mexican side Tigres and a loan to Saint Etienne failing to revive a stalled career. Might a side short at the back be willing to give him a second try?

Could work for: Augsburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Paderborn

Franck Ribery

It would feel wrong to many to see the French winger pull on a Bundesliga shirt other than Bayern Munich's, but with the Bavarians looking to turn over a new leaf, it is a possibility. Clubs in Russia, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia are thought to be in the hunt for the 36-year-old's signature but having been settled in Germany for 12 years, the right offer to stay just might prove tempting.

Though his age has reduced his effectiveness and durability, there were times last season when the nine-time Bundesliga winner showed he's still got something to give. Even into his late 30s, he's not a man many Bundesliga defenders would want to see coming off the bench with 20 minutes left.

Could work for: Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Werder Bremen

Fernando Llorente

Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring against Borussia Dortmund
Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring against Borussia Dortmund last seasonImage: Reuters/D. Klein

Three months after bundling in the goal that took Spurs to the semifinal of the Champions League, and two after coming off the bench in the final, Llorente found himself released by the North London club. A World Cup and Euros winner with Spain, the big target man has also turned out for Juventus, Atheltic Bilbao and Sevilla.

At 34, his mobility is not what it was but the Spaniard is a wily, physical and awkward opponent and has been known to make an impact off the bench.

Could work for: Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim, Augsburg

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