It’s no secret that a lot of Major League Soccer fans keep an eye on the comings and goings of the English Premier League. Whether you are really old and like Manchester United, really young and like Tottenham, really humorless and like Liverpool, really evil and like Manchester City, or really don’t actually pay all that much attention to it and like Chelsea, you’re probably aware that it’s that time of the year when England’s top flight clubs release the players that aren’t in their plans for the forthcoming season.
Usually this list includes a few names that might raise some eyebrows from MLS fans in the USA, as “free” is a transfer fee that just about any team can afford. Most of the time, these players are too old, perpetually injured, or demanding far too high of a wage package to be seriously considered by MLS teams, but that never stops people from speculation anyway. Naturally, we here at Total MLS love a little bit of speculation, so here are a few players that caught our eye that might be a good fit for your favorite team.
He’s the Reggae Boyz captain, garnering 33 caps for his island nation. Mr. Mariappa has also been a part of two Premier League sides, Reading and Crystal Palace, since the 2012/13 campaign. He is useful at both CB and RB, and has featured more in the former rather than the latter for Winfried Schafer’s Jamaica. To his credit, he faced a massive dry spell with the Jamaican national team through 2013 (Schafer’s first year), but has played himself back into favor so much that he has now captained the team four times in the past calendar year. Houston, NYCFC, and RBNY are just a small swath of teams that could use an experienced utility defender like Mariappa. At 29, he’s not anywhere near retirement and capable of playing his best soccer in the right setting, and given his struggles for playing time at Palace, a move back to the Western Hemisphere might be beneficial for all parties.
Our second 29 year-old on this list, he’s a potent Premier League striker who’s had a recent career blighted by injuries. The good news is that Fletcher is up for a ten-plus goal season up until the point those injuries set in. It has also been over a calendar year since his last injury-related absence, which is quite a long spell for the Scotsman. But any MLS side that would care to take him on would get his obvious talents in and around the 18 with the caveat that his spells in and around that 18 may not at all last that long.
If there is any player worth taking a punt on this list, it is Gaston Ramirez. He is only 25, an Uruguayan international, and a FIFA 15 career mode legend. At one point he was transferred from Bologna to Southampton (upon their promotion to the Premier League) for a shade over £11 million. Since then he’s lost about 60% of his market value. However, his spotty appearance record at club level is due to a more colorful injury history than even Steven Fletcher’s. It’s safe to say that if you can name a random part of the leg Gaston has probably injured it, and spent substantial spells away as a result, the most recent being 60 days. So, it’s not risk-free to take on who, three seasons ago, was one of the post promising prospects in the English top flight.
He seems like a gun for hire, but isn’t quite that at all. This man from Benin hasn’t had star-spangled seasons in the Premier League since his best showing in 2012/13, when he tallied eight goals and twelve assists. But he is capable of the spectacular and is versatile on either flank or even as a target. Wages will be everything with Sessegnon, however. At the age of 32 he is on the slow-rolling backside of a productive career. Throwing a DP contract at the former West Brom and Sunderland striker wouldn’t make much sense whatsoever, but maybe tempering a sizable sum like that of Shaun Wright-Phillips may be more suitable.
Probably one of the more recognizable names on the list due to his past associations with Arsenal, Tottenham, and Real Madrid. The man has a bit of a reputation as a mercenary, and the journeyman has had issues with a number of managers, boardrooms, agents, teammates, and probably kitmen all over England.
So why would his availability be of interest to a Major League Soccer franchise? Well, he’s a project to be sure, somewhere underneath the angst, age, and arrogance is a fine goalscorer that might benefit from a significant change of scenery. At 32 years old, he’s a bit past the “reclamation project” window of his career, and he’s probably not worth the investment and gamble that a player 4 years younger might be. I’d put the chances of this one happening somewhere below Houston winning the Supporters’ Shield this year, as his wage demands are notoriously pricey.
What if I told you that there was a creative attacking midfielder who cut his teeth which such clubs as Barcelona, PSG, Rangers, Real Sociedad, Everton, and Arsenal who tallied 50 goals and 43 assists in a very successful Premier League career that was available for free? Would you be interested? Of course you would. Obviously, Arteta isn’t a young man any longer though, and at 34 years of age he would only be a very short-term solution for any MLS team interested in adding him this summer, but attacking prowess isn’t often cheap and proven creators aren’t always easy to come by in MLS. Given his age, it’s pretty unlikely that Arteta would demand a DP level contract. Would anyone be interested? NYCFC likes older players of a certain pedigree. Chicago needs offensive help. Philadelphia? How about DC United? Probably not. I’d be surprised to see a team take the plunge on him, but I’d certainly tune in to watch and see how it goes if they did.