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High-level free-agents Charlotte FC should look at this winter window

By Ryan Donahue


Jesse Lingard (Photo courtesy of Craig Brough/Reuters)


Now that the holidays are over and 2024 has arrived the January transfer window has officially opened. With the upcoming MLS season opener rapidly approaching, Charlotte FC will likely look to bring in fresh recruits as part of the club's planning for the 2024 season. Charlotte FC is looking to strengthen the central defense, attacking midfield, and winger positions. 


Charlotte FC has looked for value by signing out-of-contract players in the past (e.g., Brecht Dejaegere, Scott Arfield, and Ashley Westwood). With more value options available this winter, Charlotte FC could opt to sign a player or two on free transfers again. Here are a few players out-of-contract at the positions Charlotte has reportedly been looking to reinforce.


Jesse Lingard (Center attacking midfielder)


The former Manchester United and Nottingham Forest attacking midfielder is currently out of contract after failing trials at Al Ettifaq and is currently training as a free agent in Dubai. Lingard has struggled in recent years to lock down his long-term future and a move to MLS might make sense for the English midfielder and provide a new lease on his career.


The signing of Lingard makes sense from Charlotte’s side as well. As a seasoned Premier League veteran who has scored 29 goals and contributed with 17 assists across a Premier League career in which he capped 182 appearances, Lingard has also been a player in some of England’s top sides.


Lingard is a dynamic attacking midfielder who can move in between pockets of space with quick passing and sharp dribbling making him a fitting suitor to fill an attacking role if Świderski departs. Lingard can also operate on both wings making him a versatile option to impose on the opposition's defense.


Since he is out of contract he could make a low-cost addition to enhance Dean Smith’s offense.


Others available:

  • Shaylon (out of contract with Atlético Clube Goianiense)

  • Hyoran (out of contract with Atlético Mineiro)

  • Luke Freeman (out of contract with Luton Town)


Shkodran Mustafi (Center back)


The 2014 German World Cup Winner finds himself out of contract after being dropped in the summer by Spanish side Levante.


Before joining Levante, Mustafi featured in some of Europe’s biggest teams including the 2014 World Cup-winning Germany where he featured in three of the tournament fixtures as part of 20 total caps. At club level, Mustafi is most notable for his long career with Arsenal where he featured across five seasons with the Gunners including the team that won the FA cup in 2017 and 2020. 


Mustafi at 31 years of age is a highly experienced center back who in 2022 picked up a muscle injury that forced him to miss a large duration of his season with Levante, before this spell he maintained a relatively low injury record throughout his career. With Charlotte visibly needing more experience across its back line the addition of Mustafi could provide some sustainability at the back.


Others available:

  • Miles Robinson (out of contract with Atlanta United)

  • Teenage Hadebe (out of contract with Houston Dynamo)

  • Donovan Pines (out of contract with DC United)


Helder Costa (Winger)


After stints in Saudi Arabia and at Leeds United, the versatile Angola winger finds himself again on the move and could look to target MLS if he is not able to lock down a club in Europe.


Costa is a seasoned veteran in Europe who has spent seasons in the Premier League, La Liga, and the Championship before moving to the Saudi Pro League where he featured in 18 games and contributed with three goals and an assist and capped off the season by winning the Saudi Arabian Championship with Al-Ittihad. At age 29, Costa is in his prime and is available on a free transfer making him a value candidate who could help reinforce Charlotte's winger position.


Others available:

  • Anwar El Ghazi (out of contract with FSV Mainz)

  • Matías Pelligrini (out of contract with New York City FC)

  • Tariqe Fosu (out of contract with Brentford)


While it remains to be seen who exactly Charlotte will target to strengthen Dean Smith’s side it is likely that the club will look for reinforcements as they prepare for their third season.