Expiring Contracts – Summer 2015’s Top Ten Free Agents
As the summer transfer window looms before us, transfer talk rages. Squads look to strengthen their roster while players look to make a grand, expensive exit. Some of the season’s most exciting stories emerge from the non-playing period of the summer. While transfer fees are bandied about and the whirlwind of speculative “could he, would he” whips about, there are several cheaper options available. Free agency this summer is full of great talents and squad players that could make the move to or around the Premier League. The following series is an analysis of the top ten best free agents of the upcoming transfer window and how they might fit in English football.
#8. Sergio Romero – Sampdoria
The majority of talent who’s contracts are expiring this summer are defenders—in eighth place on this free agent list, Sampdoria goalkeeper Sergio Romero is no different. Out of favor for the last couple of years, the 28-year-old Argentinian has been under contract at Sampdoria since 2011. After performing brilliantly in Holland with AZ, Romero has found a tough time fitting into the Italian side. An unsuccessful loan spell in 2013/14 ushered in a ten-match season in 2014/15. Replaced by in-form Emiliano Viviano, Romero has been watching from the sidelines since New Year’s Day. Sampdoria have made it clear that the keeper will be released at contract’s end, meaning this summer should provide him a fresh start. Over the years, several top sides have expressed an interest in Romero that is now fading fast. Is there still time for career rejuvenation?
For the purpose of this article, I refuse to include Romero’s 2013/14 statistics. The reason? They practically don’t exist. The Argentinian went on loan to AS Monaco and served as back up goalkeeper to Danijel Subasic for all but three matches. Know that it has been recognized, let’s move on.
There is a distinct difference in form for Sampdoria between 2013 and 2015. In each year, the Genoese side scored 48 goals in each season, but conceded 62 and 42 respectively. Knocking 20 goals off the final tally raised their league position from 12th to 7th, earning them a playoff spot in Europe as well.
The aforementioned Viviano started in Romero’s place this past season, but a revamped defense certainly helped as well. De Silvestri, Munoz, Romanogli, and Silvestre all came in and put in a solid 14/15 campaign that led to Sampdoria’s success. Compared to Romero’s 12/13 defense, consisting of such polar opposites (De Silvestri and Simon Poulsen, Mustafi and Gastaldello) in central and wide positions, perhaps some leniency should be given.
Looking at Romero as an individual player, there are attributes to be desired. The Argentinian is a good shot stopper, though the acclaim stops at “good.” Better keepers have played with similarly poor back lines and performed at higher levels. His vision is fair, to say the least. Romero’s claim success percentage is strong, though his distribution once the ball is in his grasp is almost awful. I want to talk about his saves per game record, but last season’s 12 goals in 10 matches makes the argument difficult. Unless…
Coming from the guy that wrote an article about international performances and subsequent market value inflation, Romero represents the exception to the rule. If his league performances were stronger, then perhaps this stats map wouldn’t look so strange. A 57% clean sheet rating? 4 goals conceded in seven matches? 4.5 saves per goal? What is this madness!
Perhaps this sort of performance is achievable on a consistent level. Romero has been the Argentine No. 1 in goal since 2011. Sabella sees something in the 28-year-old goalkeeper. Considering his performance in Holland before making the move to Italy, there’s more than just one sample set to choose from. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem the case after the past few years have served Romero poorly.
Since his exit has been confirmed, there have been links and rumours abound. Perhaps the most interesting lies outside the Premier League: Inter are potentially looking to bring in the Argentinian as a consistent backup for Handanovic. While the offer might be tempting, careers are rarely restarted from the bench. If first-team football is what the goalkeeper wants, perhaps there are some place in England that would serve him well.
For those of you who know my fandom affiliation with Liverpool, this might seem an off-putting addition. Three free agents, three Liverpool links? Friends, I must remind you—Liverpool are in need of many improvements. Coupled with Brendan Rodgers seemingly playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey for transfer targets, it doesn’t surprise me at all Romero is on the Reds’ rumoured list. Think about it: an out-of-form keeper, coming in to replace on-fire Mignolet a la Lovren et Sakho. As a backup, however, Romero may be a good shout. Romero > Jones. Lamppost > Jones. Dead squirrel > Jones.
Worth the Buy? Not particularly.
Likelihood of Transfer: Moderate.
When I saw this, I actually laughed. The current keepers of mention at Old Trafford are David de Gea, arguably the best keeper in the Premier League, and Victor Valdes, a decorated, older version of de Gea. There is legitimately no reason for this to even be a rumour. None at all.
Worth the Buy? No.
Likelihood of Transfer: Almost Zero.
Who Would Romero Most Benefit?
The Swans popped into my head on accident, really. It’s hard to remember that Fabianski isn’t a great keeper anymore. Some will argue he never was. Masked by a solid defense and a steady amount of possession, Swansea could use an upgrade in goal. Romero would fit well here because the defense, led by veteran Ashley Williams, would do well to protect him. The development of Ki Sung-Yueng into a proper defensive midfielder isn’t a laughing matter, either. If Romero wants to revitalize his career, Wales would be the best UK destination for him. The question, however, would be whether Swansea will focus on rebuilding their attack or replacing Fabianski. Bafetembi Gomis performed well enough after Wilfied Bony’s departure, but there’s also a shout for a better striking option to play in front of Sygurdsson. If they focus on both ends, Romero would definitely be the cheaper side. A free transfer and a running wage of ~£17,000/week at Sampdoria would mean Swansea could afford a pay raise as temptation. Offer the Argentinian £25,000/week and be done with it.
Worth the Buy? Yes.
Likelihood of Transfer: Moderate.
A bit low on the table for a consistent Argentinian international, but the Black Cats have got to something about a goalkeeper. To be fair, they also have to do something in almost every other area on the pitch, but picking up a guy like Sergio Romero would be a fantastic signing. Again, the wages here are important—smaller clubs needed smaller wages, and Romero is one of the lowest paid Sampdoria players. Pantillimon just isn’t doing the job anymore, and Romero needs a career kickstart. If he can come in, force 15 less conceded goals, then Sunderland will climb three or four spots up the table.
Worth the Buy? Yes.
Likelihood of Transfer: Low to Moderate.
Somehow, Hugo Lloris is still at Spurs. I’m not sure who’s paying potential suitors to turn a blind eye away from the French international. Soon, though, Lloris is going to go. When that time comes, it’s slim picken’s in North London. Brad Friedel is older than super old, Jonathan Miles isn’t a starter, and Michel Vorm still needs another year or two before he’s starter-worthy. In a situation where the inevitable sale of Lloris inches closer and closer, an option for quick, cheap replacement would be Sergio Romero. The biggest argument here would be: why not use some of the Lloris money for another quality keeper? My response: Daniel Levy.
Worth the Buy? Perhaps.
Likelihood of Transfer: Low to Moderate.
Pantilimon not doing a job anymore!? He’s been absolutely first class this season!?…ha ha
Keepers that have a terrible defense have more opportunities to save shots. That’s why “statistically” Robert Green wss one of the top keepers in the league last year. Except, of course, that QPR were relegated. Same story with Sunderland.
Fabianski not a top keeper??? He was voted as goal keeper number 1 in LMA European team of the year, placed in a team along with the likes of ronaldo, bale etc
If you look at his statistics. Save per shot or crosses collected etc he probably is one of the best. Let’s not forget he only narrowly missed out on golden glove to joe hart by one goal in the final game of season. If you compare fabianski stats to joe harts you will see that fabs are better.
Understand swans defence are solid but compared to Man Citys talent they not.
OPTA stats rated Pantillimon as the best keeper in the Premier league this season. ..just saying. …….SUNDERLAND are always with a safe pair of hands. …..it’s the only position that we get right every season. ….our keepers have literally kept us up for the past 3 seasons. Do your research! !!!
If I used stats, I could make a case for every keeper being the best keeper. The fallacy of statistics: that study from a few weeks ago that stated Lovren was one of the world’s best? Based entire on crap stats. Panty isn’t horrendous, mate. But Romero is an upgrade, without question.
aston villa? might be worth them taking a punt on zambrano too if vlaar leaves
Almost zero chance of joining United?