Whilst the January transfer window provides ample opportunity for clubs to strengthen their squad ahead of a crucial second half of the season, some may opt to make some unorthodox moves following the deadline, with plenty of free agents on offer.
Given the potential fear of Premier League clubs over Financial Fair Play breaches after Everton were put to the sword in the form of a ten-point deduction earlier in the campaign, we may yet see more clubs than ever choose bargain deals over splashing the cash on headline stars. It speaks volumes that the Premier League’s highest spenders were Crystal Palace, who splashed out a combined £30m to sign Adam Wharton and Daniel Munoz. What’s more, the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal didn’t spend a single penny.
With clubs perhaps in search of bargain deals to comply with the Profit and Sustainability Rules, we’ve listed the best players in each position who are still without a club after the January transfer window.
David de Gea, Kiko Casilla
The one that instantly stands out here is David de Gea. Since leaving Manchester United last summer after over a decade at Old Trafford, the shot-stopper has been without a club. That doesn’t mean he’s been short on options, however.
According to The Athletic, De Gea rejected a move to Nottingham Forest at the end of the January transfer window, which comes after potential moves to Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab failed to materialise. Once a Premier League Golden Glove winner, it now seems as though De Gea is happy to sit back and wait for the right move to come his way.
Meanwhile, fellow Spaniard Kiko Casilla has now been a free agent since leaving Getafe in July of last year. Having once played for Real Madrid, it’s been some fall from grace. With the rumour mill yet to speed up regarding his future, the 37-year-old could yet choose retirement in the near future if clubs fail to make an approach throughout the rest of the campaign.
Damian Suarez, Ibrahima Mbaye
With right-backs more popular than ever in the modern game, Damian Suarez and Ibrahima Mbaye will be hoping to see their time as free agents come to an end sooner rather than later. Suarez has been without a club since an emotional farewell at Getafe on 31st January following 13 years at the La Liga club, and now looks set to sign for Brazilian club Botafogo.
Former Inter full-back Ibrahima Mbaye, meanwhile, has been without a club since leaving CFR Cluj in January of last year. At 29-years-old, it remains to be seen just where Mbaye’s next club will be.
Phil Jones, Mamadou Sakho
In a surprising turn of events, the man who once helped Roma rise from their ruins to shock Barcelona in the Champions League was briefly without a club. Konstantinos Manolas left Sharjah FC on 16th January and failed to find a club over the rest of the month. He has now signed for Salernitana however to put a swift end to his position as a free agent.
Phil Jones, in contrast, isn’t any closer to finding a new club after leaving Manchester United following over a decade at the club. The 31-year-old was linked with a move to Greek side Aris last year, but a move failed to materialise. Now months later, even with plenty of experience to offer, Jones remains sidelined.
Once a Liverpool centre-back, Mamadou Sakho’s career has gone downhill ever since leaving Anfield. Now a free agent after dramatically leaving Montpellier following a tussle and subsequent falling-out with manager Michel Der Zakarian, all has been quiet on what the Frenchman’s next move will be. With plenty of experience to offer, Sakho could be one to keep an eye on if any clubs eye a bargain deal in the remainder of the season.
Nico Schulz, Dalbert
After four years at Borussia Dortmund, Nico Schulz found himself without a club last summer and has failed to find a fresh move since. Still a free agent, it doesn’t seem as though the 30-year-old is any closer to finding a new club, despite his place in one of Germany’s best sides not so long ago. He will be hoping to make his return sooner rather than later after suffering a dramatic fall from Germany’s first division to without a club entirely.
It’s the same case for Dalbert, who left Internacional in Brazil at the start of January. Despite carrying an impressive CV containing spells at Fiorentina, Inter and OGC Nice, the Brazilian remains a free agent and seemingly unlikely to end that status any time soon, with transfer rumours still silent regarding his future.
Yann M’Vila, Ovie Ejaria
In the headlines in recent months for his desire to complete a return to Sunderland, Yann M’Vila remains without a club after leaving Olympiacos last summer. The Black Cats were linked with a move for their former loanee in January but failed to turn any interest into a serious move.
M’Vila previously said: “There is only one club for which I would have agreed to return to the lower division for, it is Sunderland, to help them return to the Premier League. I had an extraordinary year there.” However, he is now thought to be closing in on a move to West Brom.
Ovie Ejaria, having once found his feet at Reading, was released in December 2023 and has since failed to find a fresh move. The former Liverpool youngster was unfortunate to suffer a release amid Reading’s financial problems and is yet to be linked with a move elsewhere.
Anwar El Ghazi, Carlos Vela, Helder Costa
After leaving Mainz back in November in controversial fashion having posted a pro-Palestine message on social media which resulted in contract termination, Anwar El Ghazi remains without a club. The fallout from his Mainz spell spilled over to the courtroom, with the winger taking legal action against his former club for wrongful dismissal.
Carlos Vela, in a more orderly manner, bowed out of LAFC and MLS at the beginning of January, having enjoyed an impressive six years in America. He could yet make a shock move to tarnish his LAFC legacy, however, with earlier reports suggesting that the winger was considering a move to city rivals LA Galaxy.
Elsewhere, Helder Costa is also looking for his next club after leaving Leeds United in October 2023 following a loan spell at Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ittihad. Unlike Vela, reports are yet to link the winger with an end to his free-agent status in the near future.
Jese, Amin Younes, Junior Hoilett
Once a Real Madrid player, Jese is now a free agent after leaving Coritiba FC at the beginning of January. Given the fact that his CV contains Paris Saint-Germain, Real Betis, Sporting CP and the Premier League in the form of Stoke City, Jese could yet find another move, even though he’s now 30 years old.
Amin Younes, meanwhile, is in danger of suffering a career of what might have been. The winger left Al-Ettifaq last summer, having previously played for Ajax, Borussia Monchengladbach, Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt, failing to ever really make his mark. Now, he’s without a club altogether.
Junior Hoilett is in the same boat. The former Queens Park Rangers man has been a free agent since leaving Vancouver Whitecaps at the start of January and could yet edge towards retirement at 33 years old.
Diego Costa, Dwight Gayle, Jurgen Locadia
Likely signalling a sigh of relief around the world of football even though he’s now 35 years old, Diego Costa is currently a free agent, having left Botafogo at the beginning of the new year. According to Fabrizio Romano, however, defences may not have long before they’re forced to deal with the former Chelsea man once more, with a move to Brazilian side Palmeiras reportedly lined up.
Dwight Gayle has also been linked with a return to action after being released by Stoke City in January. The former Crystal Palace striker has been at the centre of Derby County rumours, as well as Celtic and Rangers, but currently remains a free agent.
Then there’s the case of Jurgen Locadia – once in the Premier League with Brighton & Hove Albion and now without a club. The forward was released by CZ Mighty Lions at the start of January and is still without a club. At 30 years old, a player who once had potential is now at a crossroads.