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Four free transfers thriving in Europe’s top five leagues this season

There’s a number of free agents who have proven to be brilliant business across Europe’s top five leagues this season.

We look at four free agents thriving at new clubs in 2023/24.

Marcus Thuram (Inter Milan)

Inter Milan’s capture of Marcus Thuram continued the club’s recent history of eye-catching free transfer deals, with the Italian side beating competition from across Europe to sign the striker from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Thuram has been an instant hit in Serie A, the division where his father, Lilian, starred during decorated spells at Parma and Juventus.

The France international has formed an electric partnership with Lautaro Martinez that has fired Inter to the top of the table, with Simone Inzaghi’s side having lost just one of their opening 20 league games.

Thuram has scored eight goals and laid on a league-leading seven assists, working in fine understanding with Martinez, who leads the race for the Capocannoniere award with 18 goals. Having led the Bundesliga for non-penalty xG and non-penalty xG per 90 last season, he tops both metrics once again for Inter in Serie A.

Alejandro Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen)

Bayer Leverkusen’s rise under Xabi Alonso has been one of the stories of the season and Alejandro Grimaldo has been a central part of the side’s success.

A free transfer signing from Benfica in the summer, Grimaldo has been one of the Bundesliga’s best players during a campaign full of creative threat from wing-back. Grimaldo provided two assists in Leverkusen’s comeback win against RB Leipzig at the weekend to maintain the club’s unbeaten start to the Bundesliga campaign.

He now has eight goals and seven assists for Alonso’s side in the league alone, an astonishing rate of production. Coupled with Jeremie Frimpong’s own returns on the opposite flank, Leverkusen have created one of the most effective wing-back partnerships in world football.

He’s been brilliant business for Leverkusen, who are chasing a maiden German top-flight crown.

Isco (Real Betis)

Isco’s career appeared to be fading over the last two seasons, but the midfielder is enjoying a renaissance in the colours of Real Betis this season. After an underwhelming end to his time at Real Madrid, his career stalled at Sevilla last season before a bust-up with former football director Monchi brought an end to his time with the club.

Released as a free agent, Isco turned down offers from the Saudi Pro League and several European leagues to remain in La Liga.

He signed for Sevilla’s cross-town rivals, Real Betis, in a reunion with former Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini. After Isco’s star first rose under the guidance of Pellegrini, he is sparkling again under the Chilean.

Fitter, sharper and still elegantly classy in the final third, the 31-year-old leads La Liga for key passes (62), shot-creating actions (107), and passes into the penalty area (42), while sitting among the division’s best for successful take-ons (5th), progressive carries (8th), and shots (8th).

The twinkle toes of the Spanish schemer are leading Betis’ challenge for European football, even if recent results have slowed. Isco has long been a fabulous footballer to watch and it’s been a pleasure watching him recapture his love for the game this season.

Ilkay Gundogan (Barcelona)

Ilkay Gundogan’s trophy-laden career at Manchester City came to an end last summer, with the club’s treble-winning captain unable to agree terms on the length of a potential extension.

Barcelona capitalised to offer Gundogan a new challenge and the German midfielder has stamped his class on the Catalan’s midfield. Despite the Spanish champions struggling to find consistency in their performances, Gundogan has excelled creatively.

He ranks fourth in La Liga for key passes (45), fourth for shot-creating actions (81) and fifth for through balls (11).

Gundogan delivered some memorable moments last season, scoring twice in the 2-1 FA Cup final win over Manchester United and captaining City to Champions League success in Istanbul. His challenge now will be to lead his new side out of a challenging period and towards silverware.

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