An XI of free agents with Premier League title winner’s medals, including Villa and Everton targets

Matt Stead
Premier League players David de Gea, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Willian
A composite image of David de Gea, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Willian

Aston Villa, Everton and Fulham have all been heavily linked with members of this free agent XI with past Premier League title-winning experience.


As disastrously as Man Utd handled it
, the conclusion was both correct and long overdue. The transition from more than a decade of De Gea to his successor could have included the Spaniard playing a reduced role to aid a seamless handover but the clean break should ultimately suit all parties.

Andre Onana, now expected to pick up the gloves at Old Trafford, will arrive with certainty over his position in the pecking order. Man Utd can move on properly into a new era. De Gea avoids the ignominy of being benched as he embraces the next stage of his career. Although he would likely welcome slightly more varied interest than unnamed Saudi clubs waving a wage under his nose not much bigger than that which he received for the last four of his 12 years with the Red Devils.


RIGHT-BACK: Juan Cuadrado
“At this moment, I still have the passion and I like to compete. Besides, Ronaldo is down there and he doesn’t want me!” said Cuadrado last week as he pontificated over a future which does not include a Saudi sojourn after his Juventus release.

“I am very relaxed, thinking of what is best, asking God for help with these decisions. My agent Andrey Martinez was in Europe and has just arrived to talk to me about various situations. Obviously, there are options and we’ll analyse which is the best,” the Colombian added, hoping there is a club out there tempted by a haul of six league championships which he kicked off at Chelsea in 2015.


CENTRE-HALF: Eliaquim Mangala
It would have taken a brave man to confiscate the medal Mangala took home for his efforts towards Manchester City’s Invincibles season. The centre-half played nine games for Pep Guardiola’s side – eight wins, one draw and five clean sheets – before joining Everton on loan in January 2018, losing 5-1 to Arsenal on his debut and knackering his knee in the first half of his second game.

The former most expensive defender in British football history just wanted “to find a club as quickly as possible” in October. He remains a free agent.


It feels like the tide of opinion on Jones turned long ago as many came to accept his reputation as an inelegant, floundering meme lord was unwarranted, considering his only crime was to try and prevent the concession of goals by any means necessary.

The 31-year-old was essentially a predecessor to Harry Maguire – a player somehow only 13 months younger – as an ultra-committed but ultimately flawed defender who seemed to attract calamity and was ill-suited to the absolute elite level. But there is undoubtedly still talent there to be moulded.

READ MOREPhil Jones gave ‘everything’ to Man Utd and deserves better than memes and mockery


LEFT-BACK: Ashley Young
Everton are said to have offered Young a lucrative contract as Sean Dyche scours the market for cost-efficient, low-blocking ultra professionals. Luton are also thought to be in the running for a player perhaps unfortunate to have been outgrown by Unai Emery’s upwardly mobile Aston Villa.


It is not for the want of trying on Fulham’s part that Willian is currently without employment. The Brazilian joined Marco Silva’s newly-promoted Cottagers on a one-year deal in 2022 and proceeded to sweep the entirety of his previous spell in London under the carpet, scoring five goals and assisting six to exorcise any demons lingering from his Arsenal experience.

The 34-year-old rejected the offer of a renewal on terms that were not thought to be an adequate enough improvement on those he signed before. But Fulham have come back with something closer to £100,000 a week which should get pen to paper again.


It is quite phenomenal work for Drinkwater to have been on the books at Man Utd between 2009 and 2012 and Chelsea from 2017 to 2022, yet for the England midfielder’s only Premier League title to have been won with Leicester. N’Golo Kante carried the 33-year-old both to a title and to a £35m Stamford Bridge transfer but the move was an unmitigated disaster.

Drinkwater himself described his post-Leicester career as “a shambles” and that advertisement has somehow not tempted anyone into taking a chance on a player let go by the Blues for nothing over a year ago.


CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Not the most durable engine room, this. But Oxlade-Chamberlain at least earned a fond farewell from Liverpool, who appreciated his six-year, 146-game, five-trophy contribution to their rise under Jurgen Klopp.

The 29-year-old wisely preserved his most present season for the one in which the Reds were finally crowned champions of England again. Oxlade-Chamberlain started 17 Premier League games in 2019/20, his 1,490 minutes helping just push Liverpool over the line by a meagre 18 points. Aston Villa are thought to be in the running for a signature which ought to be in demand.


LEFT-WINGER: Eden Hazard
“After three complicated years, I just want to spend time with my family, go on vacation, like everyone. We’ve read a lot of stuff in the last few days, and a lot of nonsense,” said Hazard as speculation mounted about a possible retirement plan upon his release by Real Madrid a year before the expiration of his contract.

The Belgian added that he still felt “capable of being a professional footballer” despite that injury-wrecked spell in Spain, but there is no indication as to what other path he could feasibly take. Inter Miami is an apparent option, presumably until he realises they’ve sacked Phil Neville.

Man Utd legend Phil Neville watches his team play
Inter Miami manager Phil Neville


There was no shortage of effort or aggro from Diego Costa at Wolves but the cheap mid-30s tribute act predictably failed to replicate the goal threat he exuded with Chelsea. After contemplating whether to keep him around for Julen Lopetegui’s profligate revolution the decision was made to put Costa back on the market and as yet there have been no takers.


CENTRE-FORWARD: Stevan Jovetic
Unable to prevent Hertha’s relegation from the Bundesliga despite scoring his penalty in the eventual play-off final shoot-out defeat to Eintracht Braunschweig, Jovetic did nevertheless complete his Florin Raducioiu set of goals in Europe’s top five leagues. But he is missing titles in Spain, Italy, Germany and France, only remembering to pick one up outside of Serbia during his time at Manchester City.


Bench: Asmir Begovic; Benjamin Mendy; Nani; Daniel Sturridge; Loic Remy

READ MOREMan Utd, Spurs have no Premier League title winners with Brighton ahead of Arsenal