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Thursday January 17 2013
La Liga’s free transfer XI

Why spend when you can snap up a smart free transfer signing? David Cartlidge looks at some of the best that have contracts expiring this summer.

Goalkeeper

Dani Hernandez: The Real Valladolid stopper has taken in slightly more games than Jaime this season, offering a more secure presence in the Pucela's defence. At 26, Hernandez still has much to learn but on a free transfer he’d offer competition for most teams.

Defence

Jose Casado: The lively full-back from Rayo Vallecano has been a regular this season and it's not difficult to see why as he embodies the all-action approach of his team. Feisty in his defending, he rampages forward to join the attack as often as possible.

Fernando Amorebieta: One of the more well known players on the free market. Amorebieta's strong in the tackle and has ability on the ball coming out of defence, using his passing range to benefit the team. He played a key part in Athletic Bilbao's magic 2011-12 and would be an excellent signing.

Ricardo Carvalho: The Portuguese centre-back has been around for awhile now, and with injuries mounting up it seemed his time was coming to an end. However, he's returned and provided a soothing presence in an erratic Real Madrid defence. Still has a year or so left.

Roberto Lago: Part of a small group of full-backs in La Liga who are equally adept in both defence and attack, Lago has experience and intelligence in his game offering a solid presence in a key area. A solid signing for a team pushing for European places.

Midfield

Joan Verdu: Espanyol's attacking midfielder is at the centre of everything good they produce. Whether it's starting attacks, creating goals or scoring them, Verdu's been a decisive presence carrying a whole team on his back. Interest should be very high from around Europe.

Jose Canas: Real Betis' march up the table has been largely due to Benat and Ruben Castro, but behind them are some true gems. One of them is Canas; an energetic, eager, tough defensive midfielder. He breaks up play and releases the ball intelligently, but can also gallop forward to join the attack. Swansea, however, look to have him tied up - Michael Laudrup clearly knows his players.

Javi Fuego: Like Canas, the tigerish Javi Fuego operates in the deepest recesses of midfield. Fuego's quick, decisive in the tackle and covers an enormous amount of ground. How bigger clubs didn't pick him up for under €500,000 last summer is a mystery. Valencia are very keen, and want some grit in their midfield.

Oscar Gonzalez: One of the best players in La Liga this season, and available for nothing. Oscar to date has scored eight goals and managed four assists. His ability not only to link midfield and attack, but also form a key part of the former and support the latter, has made him a key force in Real Valladolid's impressive debut season. Frank Lampard-esque in his functions for the team.

Roberto Trashorras: Yet another Rayo Vallecano player in the list, and the one player on their squad most unique. In the middle of Rayo's electric system sits Trashorras, pinging the ball around the field, seeking out those buzzing around him. Similar to Benat, he dictates games and when he gets going so does his team. Formed in La Masia, and it shows.

Attack

Fernando Llorente: How did it come to this for Athletic Bilbao? We might never truly know, but what do know is that 'El Rey Leon' certainly is leaving. A powerful forward who can hold up play, play with back to goal and dominate in the penalty area with his aerial ability. People sometimes forget he's capable of being mobile too. He has experience, plus time to improve. His wages will be high, but so are the potential gains. Juventus look genuine favourites, but Llorente still has a fondness for England.

Bench

Adrian: Real Betis' goalkeeper only came on the scene this season but has impressed often. Inexperienced, but a confident stopper.

Nelson: The Portuguese full-back is a pure athlete and if focused, a superb competitor. Quick, powerful and capable of the spectacular.

Omar Ramos: Just 24, the midfielder has taken to La Liga superbly as the likes of Oscar and Patrick Ebert have taken the limelight. He runs with the ball well at his feet, has intelligence in his passing game and works extremely hard. A hidden gem not to be ignored.

Manuel Iturra: The Chilean returned from a loan spell in Segunda to become a key part of Malaga's slimline squad. A defensive midfielder, he's quick into the tackle but also of mind when in possession.

Piti: He has been sensational this season, and although he's been excellent since first joining Rayo Vallecano, he's been on another level this campaign. A left winger who likes to cut in, he's quick, skilful and packs a stunning shot. He may be 31, but there is plenty of life left in the man who along with Leo Baptistao gets the Vallecas crowd on their feet.

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