For many, starting out at a big club with the biggest transfer budgets and getting to splash the cash on the brightest talents in Football Manager 2022 is the most enjoyable experience in this game.
Others prefer the extra challenge of working on a tight budget, while wheeling and dealing to secure the best value on the transfer market.
For those who belong in the latter group, we’ve rounded up some of the best free agents in Football Manager 2022 that are available at the beginning of a new save.
These players tend to be a little older and are perhaps beyond the peak of their careers, but still have the quality to contribute and succeed at a slightly lower level, if used correctly. Often, they will be players who have a high level of professionalism and/or natural fitness, which enables them to sustain their physical capabilities for longer as they age.
This isn’t always the case though, and you will see that some of the options available are still at the peak of their powers, or even have some room to develop before reaching their full potential.
If you want to sign up any of these players, you’ll have to move quickly though. They are in high demand when the game begins, so the FM22 free agents won’t be free agents for long!
We’ll take a look at the best free transfers in FM22 below.
We also have a separate guide if you’re looking for the best cheap players in Football Manager 2022.
Position: M(C), DM(C)
Wage Demands: £25-35k
One of the best FM22 free transfers is Fernando. Having spent much of his career playing in Russia and then China, many football fans won’t be familiar with this highly technical playmaker. At only 29 years old, Fernando has eight caps for his native Brazil, which tells you all you need to know about his credentials.
A free-kick specialist, Fernando is a creative magician with excellent first touch, passing, technique, flair and vision. He also has solid decision making, is composed under pressure and reads the game very well. If you’re looking for a player who can look after the ball, evade the press and open up defences, then Fernando could be your man.
He’s even got some solid physicals, with decent mobility, and a fair bit of stamina and strength. He’s no slouch out of possession either, as he works hard for a technical player and positions himself well within the team’s defensive shape. He could be a great all-round addition to a possession-based team.
Wage Demands: £12-18k
Simunovic has been a mainstay in the FM22 Celtic defence for the past five years, but saw a reduction in his playing time last season. Now 27 years old, the Bosnian centre back is entering the peak of his career and chose to run down his contract in search of first-team football.
At 6’3”, he’s an imposing figure who excels in aerial battles, with his attributes in heading, aggression, bravery, jumping reach and strength all at an elite level. His defensive instincts aren’t too shabby either, with his marking, tackling and positioning all being decent.
He’s perhaps let down by his lack of footballing intelligence, as relatively low numbers in anticipation, concentration and decision making suggest he’ll often mis-read the game and be prone to lapses of judgement.
An added and underrated quality of Simunovic’s play is that he’s genuinely either footed. Playing in a central position, this could be a real asset when attempting to play out from the back. Surprisingly he is yet to be capped for the Bosnian national team, but if he performs well for a new club, he could well feature internationally soon.
Position: D(C), DM(C)
Wage Demands: £20-30k
Gnagnon is another centre back and great FM 22 free agent, though this one can also play in a deep midfield role in front of the defensive line. The Frenchman made an impressive start to his career at Rennes, featuring regularly in Ligue 1 and earning a £12m move to Sevilla. Unfortunately, he found opportunities hard to come by in Spain and was eventually loaned back to Rennes.
At a youthful 24 years old, Gnagnon is now available for free and he looks like a peach of a player at first glance. His aerial attributes really stand out, with heading, aggression, bravery and jumping all at least 15, but it’s important to note he is a touch under 6’ in height, which is a little low for a centre back if you expect them to dominate in the air.
He makes up for his lack of height with his incredible strength and balance though, which allow him to stay on his feet and outmuscle opposing attackers when challenging for the ball. His high attributes for marking and tackling further indicate that he’s best used in a stopper role, getting tight and imposing himself on the game.
Although he’s no ball-playing defender, his first touch, passing, technique, composure and decisions mean he can look after the ball in deep areas of the pitch too. Just don’t expect any long, diagonal, Hollywood-style passes from him.
It’s rare to see a player of such quality available for free, especially one who still has his best years ahead of him.
Wage Demands: £30-45k
Position: D(R), M(C) / WB/M(R)
Dani Alves is the personification of a natural athlete with a great attitude, which has enabled him to prolong his professional career to such an advanced age. A perfectionist with natural fitness of 18, Alves played most of his impressive career with Spanish giants, Barcelona, before leaving for spells at Juventus and then PSG.
He then returned to his native Brazil, playing three further seasons with Sao Paulo. Despite now being 38 years old with a massive 119 caps for Brazil to his name, Alves does not appear to be ready to hang up his boots just yet, and his attributes suggest he still has plenty to offer.
The marauding wing back may not have the electric pace and stamina to get up and down the flanks at the highest level, as he did in his heyday, but he still offers impressive technical attributes on the ball. Great crossing, first touch, passing and technique mean he can deliver real quality from the wide areas, while he still has the flair and vision to create something out of nothing.
His dubious defensive positioning and lack of strength and aerial ability mean he shouldn’t be relied upon to hold down his side of the pitch on his own, especially having lost some of his recovery pace, but his extremely high aggression, bravery and determination show that his commitment cannot be questioned.
Wage Demands: £20-30k
Mangala was very highly rated when his former club, Man City, spent £42m to bring in the defender in 2014. Unfortunately, he never reached the heights expected of him and eventually left for Valencia. Having failed to make a significant impact in Spain either, he was released after two underwhelming seasons.
At only 30 years old, the Frenchman still has plenty to offer though, and could yet be a regular starter at a top club for a few years to come. His resolute personality is one of the best available, as it indicates a high level of professionalism, which bodes well for Mangala maintaining his physical attributes into the twilight years of his career.
His aggression, bravery and determination show that he’s a committed centre back which, combined with strong heading, jumping reach and strength, make him a great option as an aggressive stopper in the defensive line.
Snap him up if you’re looking to tighten things up at the back!
Position: M(R), AM (R/L)
Wage Demands: £15-25k
Gomez will be well known to Spanish football fans, having played out his entire career in his home country, but he may be an unfamiliar name to many of us. The experienced winger has been a loyal servant to Athletic Bilbao, featuring regularly over two spells with the Basque club, either side of three seasons with Alaves.
Already 31 years old, Gomez has been unlucky not to receive recognition at international level, but his professional personality suggests he’ll be able to maintain his ability and performance levels for a few years yet.
The biggest feature of the Spaniard’s game is in his role as a dead ball specialist, who can add goals and assists to any team through the quality of his delivery from set pieces. High attributes in finishing, free kicks, long shots, and technique demonstrate how dangerous he can be when presented with direct free kick opportunities, while his outstanding corners, crossing and passing attributes suggest he will deliver quality crosses from corners and wide free kicks.
In open play, Gomez still has plenty to offer, with decent mobility, intelligent running off the ball and the ability to anticipate play effectively, meaning defenders will have hard time keeping track of his movement in the attacking third. For such an attacking player, he also shows great endeavour and commitment to the cause, with good numbers in his aggression, bravery, determination and work rate.
A very high technique attribute synergises well with his tendencies to use the outside of the foot and to try first time shots, as these are both technically difficult manoeuvres. However, a notable weakness in his game is his decision making, meaning it would be wise to avoid giving him any kind of playmaking role that requires him to dictate play, as he is likely to pick the wrong option at times.
Position: AM(C), AM(R/L)
Wage Demands: £20-30k
Fabian is a classic no.10 in the mould of Argentinian legend, Juan Riquelme. He broke into the Chivas first team in his native Mexico at a young age, and continued to feature regularly for many years before trying his luck in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. After a succession of one-year contracts around the world, he’s available again on the free transfer market.
The 31-year-old has the attributes to be the creative hub of any team. His very high numbers in first touch, passing, technique, composure, decisions, flair and vision make him perfectly suited to be the team’s primary playmaker in advanced areas.
He is also extremely dangerous from range, with great finishing and long shots combined with his high technique and a tendency to shoot with power and curl the ball, meaning you’re bound to see a few goal of the season contenders from the Mexican.
His corner and free kick taking attributes are also solid, and combine well with his other technical attributes to make him a great choice as a team’s chief set piece taker. High agility and decent acceleration and dribbling mean he can turn on a sixpence and evade would-be tacklers, but if defenders do get tight to him he can be easily shoved off the ball, due to his low strength.
Fabian is unlikely to contribute much to the defensive phases of play, as he has a low work ethic, takes up poor defensive positions and can’t/won’t commit to making any tackles. His low determination also means he’s more likely to down tools when things aren’t going his way.
Having a specialist player like this in your team can be an exciting prospect, but always requires careful tactical management to ensure his defensive shortcomings are sufficiently accounted for.
Wage Demands: £20-30k
Moreira is an experienced international who, bar two seasons in the MLS, has played his entire career in South America, firstly in his native Paraguay and then for River Plate in the Argentinian Premier Division. At 31 years old, he’s perhaps looking at one last big contract before hanging up his boots.
Although he perhaps lacks the overall quality to perform at an elite level, Moreira is still a great, all-round wing back with an outstanding work ethic that will see him getting up and down his flank to great effect. His off the ball movement, ability to read the game and speed off the mark should see him making great runs into the final third, while his crossing, passing, technique and vision suggest he’ll be able to deliver some dangerous balls from out wide.
Defensively, Moreira is a little lacking with his marking and positioning both being average at best, while his poor heading, jumping reach and strength mean he’ll regularly get beaten in the air. However, it’s tough to find wing backs who are equally strong in defence as they are going forward, so this is the price you pay for the attacking quality that South American provides.
A balanced personality and only 11 in natural fitness represents a slight risk if you choose to pick up Moreira, as it’s unclear whether he has the right attitude to prolong his career deep into his thirties. Perhaps a short-term contract is your best bet here.
Wage Demands: £15-22k
The mercurial Englishman has delighted and disappointed in equal measure over his career. His goal scoring exploits at Newcastle earned him a big money move to Liverpool and saw him break into the national team, but he couldn’t reproduce his form with The Reds and eventually left for West Ham, before returning to Newcastle.
A series of injuries have held him back but, at 32 years old, he still has undoubted quality and can bully even the best centre backs in the game.
At 6’4”, with extremely high attributes in heading, aggression, bravery, jumping reach and strength, Carroll is an absolute beast in the air. If you’re looking for a classic target man who can compete for long balls, hold up play and get on the end of crosses, he’s most certainly a great candidate.
There’s more to Carroll’s game than that though. His first touch, technique, composure and teamwork means he can effectively link up play with the midfield or play in his strike partner, while his work rate, determination and, to a lesser extent, stamina mean he’ll put in a shift right to the end.
Getting the best out of an aging Carroll will hinge on keeping him fit, but, if he’s looked after in training, he could still be a key player for lots of teams.
Position: M(C), DM(C), AM(C)
Wage Demands: £45-65k
Paulinho is perhaps the highest quality and most well-rounded free agent on the list.
Capped more than fifty times for his native Brazil, the experienced midfielder has been involved in several big money transfers during his career. He first left his home country to join Spurs for £17m, before moving to Guangzhou in China. In desperate need of a midfielder with some steel, Barcelona then came calling and signed the Brazilian for £35m, before he returned to China for a similar fee.
He’s now available on the free transfer market and, at only 32 years old, still has an amazing set of attributes. Perhaps thanks to his high natural fitness, he’s been able to maintain his physical attributes remarkably well. Everything but his jumping reach is at least 14, which suggests he can still compete physically at the highest level.
As you’d imagine in a more experienced player, his mental attributes are also top notch.
Most notably, his anticipation and off the ball movement are particularly high, so you can expect some clever attacking runs, which will compliment his tendency to arrive late in the opponent’s box. Although he may not excel in one particular area, all his other mental attributes are good or very good, making Paulinho an intelligent, creative, hardworking and committed midfielder – the full package.
Technically, he’s equally well-rounded.
He can pass, tackle and score, bring the ball under control and even win his headers very effectively. This combination of technical, mental and physical abilities makes the Brazilian a strong candidate for the box-to-box midfielder role, but you could really give him almost any role and he would be able to perform it to a high level.
On my save, a lot of big clubs went in for him and he ended up going to Man Utd. Act fast or miss out.