Bargain Bucket: The best free transfers and loans of the window

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The old saying is that the best things in life are free, and previous seasons’ loan stints for Romelu Lukaku and Daniel Sturridge have taught us that the saying holds its weight in the Premier League as well.

So when it comes to loans and free transfers, which Premier League clubs have done well in this summer’s window?

[ RELATED: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup ]

Well for starters you have to wonder what’s in the water at Sunderland that kept them from signing three legit players to contracts (or at least transferring them and getting some dough before they skipped town on frees). A trio of solid Premier Leaguers have left the Stadium of Light for other PL locales, including Craig Gardner (West Brom), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City) and Jack Colback (Newcastle United).

Queens Park Rangers gets on our list twice as recipients of Rio Ferdinand, who’s worth a look just for leadership (granted the Loftus Road club isn’t brimming with inexprience) and a great loan deal for Juve’s Mauricio Isla.

Bonus points from some low-risk, high-reward moves, including striker Bafe Gomis joining up –and potentially replacing — Wilfried Bony on a free, Everton rolling the dice on Christian Atsu and Frank Lampard’s intra-ownership group move from NYCFC to Manchester City.

As for the best, here are our top five bargains of the window so far:

5. Didier Drogba, free to Chelsea
When you can bring in a club legend with this much UEFA Champions League experience, at little to no risk to your pocketbook, you do it. The reception he received on Saturday at Stamford Bridge says it all.

source: Getty Images4. Ryan Bertrand, loan from Chelsea to Southampton
The goodness of this move is more a product of desperation after the Saints sold a wealth of talented backs, but Bertrand is a low-cost fix while they develop their academy.

3. Philippe Senderos, free from Valencia to Aston Villa
A welcome addition to the Premier League, Senderos has already helped Brad Guzan and Aston Villa to its first consecutive clean sheets to start a season since 1999.

2. Saphir Taider, loan from Inter Milan to Southampton
Watch out for this kid, who has a chance to be absolutely magical. And considering he came the other way on loan in exchange for getting rid of misfit Dani Osvaldo… there’s a bit of a double bonus here.

1. Bacary Sagna, free from Arsenal to Manchester City
Say what you will about his age, but adding a world class outside back to its ranks is a brilliant move for loaded City. When it comes time to make a run for the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League title, this move will ring out.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.