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The value of free agents

By Kieran Fitzgerald :  03/04/2009 :  Comments (0) :
It's coming up to the end of another season so naturally people's thoughts start to turn to the summer transfer window. Something I've beening thinking about over the last day or two is the free agent and what he is worth to a club.

Free agents in general have the reputation of being has-beens, troublemakers, egotists, and mercenaries. Yet very decent players like Appiah and Gera have recent popped up on this website as being well worth a punt.

As it always seems to be fairly common knowledge among fans and the media as to who the free agents are, I would presume that the clubs would have a good knowledge also. Yet when you look at the Premier League clubs who actually sign free agents, it always seems to be the clubs towards the bottom of the table that have done so.

The reasons are fairly obvious. Maybe they've recently been promoted and don't have the cash. A dressing room full of Championship players isn't ideal to say the least. Getting in an experienced pro on the free is a double bonus. Ego and age count for less when your club doesn't have the reputation or the odd £20M to spend on players.

Many newly promoted squads contain a number of young or inexperienced players so having experience in the dressing room to provide leadership and advice is priceless in itself. Often, the fear of relegation come March or April has spurred clubs on to sign players they would only turn to in desperation. Sometimes this will work but more often than not it won't.

At the top end of the table, the big four, both by reputation and spending power, have their pick of players so they don't really need to look at free agents during the transfer windows or at any time during the season. They usually have such a strong squad anyway that, unless they get a freakish run of injuries, they don't need to pick up on a free agent anyway come say February or March.

Clubs in the second tier, like Everton, would appear to be a mixed bag. Bolton, when they were doing well under Sam Allardyce, made a huge return on signing free agents, has beens, supposed mercenaries and so on. While we are all aware of big Sam's 'qualities', he did get a lot out of the players and the club did very well.

With Everton under Moyes though, little or no value has been placed on the free agent. If you look at the player transfer section of this website, last summer was the only time when David Moyes brought in any free agents, namely Nash, Castillo and Jacobsen. Moyes's policy of taking in loan signings, the 'look before you buy' idea, is a good one and has worked reasonably well for the club.

Yes, the quality of available loan players is always going to be better than the quality of free agents, but no-one says you can't be as particular with free agents and still pick up the odd gem. You can still offer the same terms, and if a player of absolute quality comes along, just nail him to a long-term contract.

When you think about it, we're the ideal target for a lot of free agents who genuinely feel that they have something to give a club in our position. Pushing for Europe, ambitious but with very limited spending power. Yes, we'll get the usual suspects and I know this sounds arrogant but I think if they had a choice the Appiahs and Geras of this world would prefer to get picked up by Everton than by Hull or Bolton.

I know that quality free agents are both few and far between and probably in very high demand, but they can work for clubs and work very well. With all the talk about what cash Everton does or doesn't have this summer, I for one wil be interested to see what free agents we get linked with and who, if any, we pick up.

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