Long Reads

He plays for who? The most random XI of current players

By no means is this a new phenomenon in the footballing world, yet somehow it remains just as peculiar and intriguing as it did all those years ago, and that is the players out there who have undergone the most random transfers imaginable.

The Turkish, Australian, American and even Russian leagues have evidently benefitted from this phenomenon more than other nations, representing some sort of safe haven for players looking to wind down happily and hang up their boots. And that trend is showing no signs of slowing down.

We’re certainly not talking about a random loan signing that you just wouldn’t believe in, like Burnley’s Jay Rodriguez getting relegated from the Scottish First Division while temporarily on the books at Stirling Albion. Equally, we’re not discussing those players who barely, if ever, kicked a ball for a certain club while on their payroll, like Kieran Trippier, Loris Karius and Adrien Rabiot all spending time in Manchester City’s youth ranks. No. We’re talking about the permanent, and about the here and now.

So, while you’re stuck inside rewatching highlights of Michu’s Swansea career on Youtube, why not take a minute to appreciate just how mental the careers of some of your favourite footballers truly are with this Most Random XI.

Goalkeeper: Brad Jones – Al-Nassr FC

Remember this guy Liverpool fans? There haven’t been many Aussie heroes at Anfield over the years, with Harry Kewell the only name that comes to mind on a positive note in recent memory. But Brad Jones has put a rather forgettable spell on Merseyside behind him by lining out for Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr. Mad.

Right Back: Ritchie De Laet – Royal Antwerp

A fresh faced Ritchie De Laet was born and raised in the Belgian city of Antwerp, so it is only right that he has come full circle, returning to Royal Antwerp with brief stops at Manchester United and Leicester City. His honours include a Reserve Team Player of the Year award with the former, and the small matter of a Premier League title with the latter. His 12 league appearances for the Foxes in that stunning campaign were enough to secure that prestigious winners’ medal, more than Steven Gerrard can ever hope for.

Centre Back: Steven Caulker – Alanyaspor

Sure, we’ve all seen Radamel Falcao and Lukas Podolski finding the back of the net in the Super Lig this season. But Steven Caulker? For Alanyaspor? Yes please. The former Spurs and QPR man was recently enjoying life in Scotland with Dundee, but now lines out alongside former Newcastle man Papiss Cisse in Turkey. With one goal in his first and last senior England international appearance back in 2012, is it time for Harry Maguire and John Stones to step aside in the national team defensive setup?

Centre Back: Adil Rami – PFC Sochi

From winning Ligue 1 and Europa League titles with Lille and Sevilla respectively, to lifting the 2018 World Cup for France, Adil Rami has found a new club in the form of Russian Premier League side PFC Sochi. The 34-year-old hit new lows after being sacked by Marseille for gross misconduct last summer. But he is back in action, and has been joined on the shores of the Black Sea by mystery man Giannelli Imbula, who has finally departed Stoke City after three successive and equally forgettable loan spells at Toulouse, Rayo Vallecano and Lecce.

Left Back: Emiliano Insua – LA Galaxy

Another Reds reject, right? Well, Emiliano Insua has had quite a journey since leaving Anfield. The Argentinian found work at Sporting Lisbon and Atletico Madrid, before spending five years in Germany with Stuttgart. But his European adventure came to an end earlier this year, when LA Galaxy snapped up the 31-year-old. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of former Liverpool defenders giving it a go in MLS, why not take a short trip inland, where you will bump into a certain Danny Wilson at Colorado Rapids.

Centre Midfield: Michael Essien – Sabail FK

Yep, me neither. The Ghanaian powerhouse will be remembered most fondly for his time bossing the midfield at Stamford Bridge. But did you know that – after spells in Greece and Indonesia – a 37-year-old Michael Essien is still running around a football pitch, this time with Azerbaijan outfit Sabail FK. He’s there until the end of the current campaign, and is even helping out with the club’s Under-19 side in a bid to attain his coaching badges.

Centre Midfield: Wes Hoolahan – Newcastle Jets

What team would be complete without the Irish Messi? From Dublin to Down Under, with a quick stop to dazzle some fans in England, Wes Hoolahan is now under the employ of Newcastle Jets in New South Wales, who have only recently appointed former Wales international Carl Robinson as their new boss. And they’ve piled up quite an impressive collection of foreign talents, including the loan signing of Hearts youngster Bobby Burns and ex-Cardiff City man Joe Ledley.

Centre Midfield: Marouane Fellaini – Shandong Luneng Taishan

Perhaps Everton and Manchester United could be doing with the big target man again, but for now, Marouane Fellaini is staying put among all the riches of Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng Taishan. As we know, the Belgian is just one of a number of former Premier League men who are out there doing their bit to progress the game of football. Think Salomon Rondon, Graziano Pelle and Marko Arnautovic. And you’ll even find Nikica Jelavic playing in the second division. Nothing to do with money, of course.

Striker: Hugo Rodallega – Denizlispor

The former Wigan hitman added another wonder goal to his roster recently, when he kitted out for his current club Denizlispor in their Turkish top-flight fixture with Genclerbirligi. The Colombian now finds himself sharing a changing room with former Swansea City man Modou Barrow. Still, not as impressive as Istanbul Basaksehir, whose latest squad boasted Martin Skrtel, Demba Ba, Gael Clichy, Gokhan Inler, Robinho and Eljero Elia.

Striker: Gary Hooper – Wellington Phoenix

A cult hero at both Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, a spritely Gary Hooper is still scoring goals, this time on the other side of the world for New Zealand outfit Wellington Phoenix. The 32-year-old represents one half on an English strikeforce linking up in the capital, alongside former Man City man David Ball, whose closest taste of action for the Sky Blues came in the form of a spot on the bench for their heartbreaking 4-3 derby defeat to their noisy neighbours in 2009.

Striker: Adam le Fondre – Sydney FC

Another English Football League all star at another A-League side, Sydney FC frontman Adam le Fondre remains a dangerous threat in front of goal. The January 2013 Premier League Player of the Month netted 16 goals last season to help his side to the league title, beating off competition from none other than Perth Glory’s Andy Keogh, who has since moved on to pastures new with Indian club NorthEast United.

About the author


Peter Lynch

Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Stirling, huge Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan, currently working as a freelancer.

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