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10 free agents Championship clubs can target now including 61-cap England star

Mirror Football looks at a handful of players who have recently seen their contracts at second tier clubs expire and are now available to sign on free transfers

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Erling Haaland’s first Man City interview!

The transfer window is officially open and the number of deals expected to be confirmed is likely to ramp up over the coming weeks.

Manchester City got the ball rolling on Monday by officially confirming the blockbuster signing of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

The 21-year-old arrives at the Premier League champions as one of world football’s most coveted forwards. Lower down the pyramid clubs in the EFL are likely to be mostly shopping in the loan or free agent market, as they continue to re-align their finances following the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, we look at 10 players that have recently left Championship clubs and are available on a free.

Joe Rothwell

Joe Rothwell has left Blackburn Rovers after four years

Midfielder Rothwell spent four years at Blackburn Rovers prior to his departure this month.

He caught the eye with 10 assists last season and has 30 or more appearances in each of the last four campaigns.

He has tentatively been linked with Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United and there will surely be a queue of second tier clubs looking to make a move for him.

Gary Cahill

Gary Cahill left Bournemouth after aiding their promotion to the Premier League

One of the most experienced players around, centre-half Cahill was perhaps a surprise release by promoted Bournemouth when their retained list was put out.

Now aged 36, Cahill boasts no fewer than 61 caps for England – the last of which came in 2018. He was a key part of the Cherries’ side in the early stages of last season helping them to a 15-game unbeaten run at the start of the campaign. He then fell out of the side and his last outing would prove to be a 1-0 win at Barnsley in January when he was sent off late on.

Having shown a clear ability to still cut it, Cahill could well prove an astute signing for a second tier club.

Ben Mee

Ben Mee, who was captain at Burnley, has departed Turf Moor

Mee ended his 11-year stay at Burnley following their relegation from the Premier League.

After arriving in 2011 he went on to become club captain and a modern day hero. Injury saw him miss the run-in as the Clarets’ ultimately fell short in their safety mission although he was part of the coaching staff put in place following Sean Dyche’s departure.

Although he hasn’t played since March he is still only 32 and would represent a significant coup for any Championship team.

Aden Flint

Aden Flint has left Championship side Cardiff

Another centre-half available on a free, and one with an enviable record when it comes to putting the ball in the net as well as helping keep it out.

Flint, 32, once scored 14 league goals in a season at Bristol City and whilst he has not been able to live up to that kind of form every year he does often chip in with his fair share each campaign. He’s just left Cardiff after three seasons, scoring six times last term. He has been heavily linked with a move to Stoke but that deal has yet to be confirmed, leaving the door ajar still for other sides to potentially nip in and lure him.

Sol Bamba

Sol Bamba, now 37, is without a club after leaving Middlesbrough

Veteran defender Bamba is without a club after departing Middlesbrough at the end of last season.

He spent just one season on Teesside, following ex-boss Neil Warnock there after a long spell at Cardiff. Now 37, Bamba’s next move is uncertain but speaking to the Athletic recently he says he would have to weigh up all the options with his family before deciding where he goes next.

“I think it’s important as well, especially at my age and my stage of my career now, to be considerate of that because if I do the move just for me and the kids won’t be happy, it’s going to affect my football and the way I train because I know it’s not a happy home.”

Charlie Austin

Charlie Austin has left QPR for a second time

Austin made a homecoming last summer, joining QPR for a second time after a goal-laden spell between 2013 and 2016.

But he could not replicate that scoring form this time around, scoring just five in 34 last season – and failing to trigger an extension to his Rangers’ contract.

Aged 32, he is still capable of producing special moments and a fresh start now awaits him.

Andre Gray

Despite paying a club record fee for Andre Gray, Watford have released him

Like Austin, Gray flattered to deceive at QPR last season although he did manage 10 goals during his season-long loan stint.

However, his parent club Watford raised a few eyebrows when they decided to release him for free this summer. He joined for a club record fee back in 2017 but notched just 19 times for them.

Aged 30, he is sure to pick up a Championship club this summer.

Tom Ince

Tom Ince played under his dad Paul in the second half of last season at Reading

Son of former England star Paul, Tom Ince impressed under the stewardship of his dad whilst on loan at Reading in the second half of last season.

He impressed in his 15 appearances, playing his part as the Royals got the job done and ensured Championship safety. Many believe a permanent move to Berkshire now beckons but there are bound to be a few other clubs interested in the 30-year-old.

Luke Freeman

Luke Freeman joined Sheffield United as a club record signing but leaves on a free after three disappointing years

Midfielder Freeman joined Sheffield United as their club-record signing in the summer of 2019 fresh from their promotion into the Premier League. But his miserable three-year stay at Bramall Lane is now over after his contract was allowed to run down. Freeman played just 15 games and was loaned out twice, first to Nottingham Forest in 2020-21 and then Millwall back in January.

But he played just once for the Lions and is now looking for a much-needed fresh start.

Sam Johnstone

Sam Johnstone allowed his West Brom deal to run down

England goalkeeper Johnstone, who has three senior caps, has left West Bromwich Albion after he allowed his contract to run down. The 29-year-old was linked with a big-money move to the Premier League last summer and again in January but opted to stay put at the Hawthorns.

Once it became clear Johnstone was intent on leaving, Baggies’ boss Steve Bruce dropped him and said: “Sam’s been a great servant to this club but we have to accept that he’s decided not to sign his contract and we wish him the best of luck.”

Whilst Johnstone is highly likely to earn a move to the Premier League he would not necessarily be guaranteed game time unlike at a second tier club.

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