Numerous stars across Europe are out of contract at the end of this month and whilst plans are in place that allows clubs to offer short term contracts until the end of the delayed seasons, there are plenty of players whose long-term futures are up in the air. Everyone loves a bargain, and over the years, there have been plenty of high profile switches on cut-price deals, including plenty who are now plying their trade in the Premier League! So, with more exciting free transfers possibly on the horizon, we’ve decided to have a look back at some of the best of years gone by.
James Milner - Manchester City to Liverpool
James Milner cost Manchester City £26m in 2010, so it was a real surprise to see the versatile midfielder leave the Etihad for rivals Liverpool for nothing five years later. The move has proved to be an excellent piece of business by the Reds, with Milner one of a few stars still in and around the first-team squad following Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield arrival.
Robert Lewandowski - Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich have had a habit of pinching Borussia Dortmund’s best players over the last 10 years, and they managed to snap up the services of Robert Lewandowski on a free in 2014. The prolific striker has continued to star in the Bundesliga, helping Bayern rule German football over the last six years.
Paul Pogba - Manchester United to Juventus
Paul Pogba left Old Trafford for Juventus in 2012 after failing to break into Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. The move proved to be a great one for the Italian giants, who benefitted from his services for four years before receiving an £89m fee for the Frenchman to head back to Manchester!
Sol Campbell - Tottenham to Arsenal
One of the most high profile transfers in Premier League history came in 2001 when Sol Campbell swapped Tottenham for Arsenal in a free transfer. He turned down the chance to become Spurs’ highest earner to link up with Arsene Wenger at Highbury, where he’d help the Gunners win a league and cup double in his first season.
Henrik Larsson - Celtic to Barcelona
Henrik Larsson remains a Celtic legend to this day, however, his decision to leave Celtic Park for Barcelona in 2004 left many Hoops supporters devastated. He scored against his former side shortly after and helped Barcelona win the 2006 Champions League Final against Arsenal with a brilliant cameo off the bench.
Esteban Cambiasso - Real Madrid to Inter Milan
Real Madrid’s midfield was bursting with quality in 2004, so much so that Esteban Cambiasso was allowed to leave the Bernabeu for nothing! He joined Inter Milan and spent a decade at the San Siro, playing a key role in Inter’s dominance during his time in Italy. Cambiasso helped Inter win five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias and a Champions League, not bad!
Esteban Cambiasso - Inter Milan to Leicester City
Esteban Cambiasso somehow makes the list twice! Following his impressive stint with Inter Milan, he again left on a free transfer, this time joining Leicester City. The midfielder’s brilliant end of campaign form helped the Foxes win seven of their last nine games and remain in the Premier League. If it wasn’t for Cambiasso’s heroics the year before, many believe the 2015/16 title win would never have happened!
Steve McManaman - Liverpool to Real Madrid
One of the first high-profile Bosman transfers to go through came in 1999 and involved Steve McManaman. The midfielder signed a lucrative pre-contract agreement with Real Madrid during his final months at Liverpool and went on to star in Spain. McManaman won two Champions League titles and two domestic titles before returning to England in 2003 with Manchester City.
Andrea Pirlo - AC Milan to Juventus
One of the biggest free transfers to occur in Italy came in 2011 when AC Milan allowed one of the best midfielders of all time to leave the San Siro for nothing. Andrea Pirlo would go on to join Juventus and star in Turin during his five-year stay, winning four league titles.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United
Signing a 34-year-old striker on a free transfer on wages of £200,000 per week looks a risky piece of business on paper, however, when it’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there’s nothing to worry about! The powerful striker swapped Paris for Manchester in 2016 and helped the Red Devils win the Europa League and League Cup during his two-year stay. He scored for fun at Old Trafford and became a real fan favourite.
Christian Fuchs - Schalke to Leicester City
Leicester City somehow managed to secure the services of experienced left-back Christian Fuchs in 2015. The Austrian was playing in the Champions League with Schalke the season before moving to the King Power, and the switch to England has worked brilliantly for the Foxes. Fuchs was a regular in Leicester’s sensational Premier League triumph during his first season with the club.
Gary McAllister - Coventry City to Liverpool
Gerard Houllier decided to snap up Gary McAllister on a free transfer back in 2000 from Coventry City, and at first, plenty of Liverpool supporters weren’t so sure on the deal. However, the experienced midfielder helped the Reds win five trophies, including the UEFA Cup, before returning to Coventry in 2002.
Jay-Jay Okocha - Paris Saint-Germain to Bolton Wanderers
Nigerian midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha remains one of the most exciting players to have ever played in the Premier League, and somehow, Sam Allardyce managed to secure his services on a free from PSG in 2002! He became a Bolton legend during his four-year stay – not a surprise really given his quality.
Roberto Baggio - AC Milan to Bologna
Roberto Baggio’s free transfer from AC Milan to Bologna in 1997 came as a real surprise. The dynamic Italian went on to score 22 goals and provide six assists for the unfancied Serie A outfit, helping them to an excellent eighth-place finish. His impressive form even earned him a move to boyhood club Inter Milan!
Marc Albrighton - Aston Villa to Leicester City
Marc Albrighton’s career was at a standstill during his time with Aston Villa, so when he moved to Leicester in 2014, nobody really took any notice! However, the free transfer has proven to be an excellent piece of business by the Foxes, with Albrighton becoming a real fan favourite at the King Power. He helped keep them in the top flight during his first season and then played a crucial role in their title win.
Raul - Real Madrid to Schalke
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid arrival was the final nail in the coffin for the legendary Raul. The Spaniard ended up leaving the Bernabeu for Schalke in 2010 and helped the German side to a remarkable semi-final run during the 2010/11 Champions League.
Joshua King - Blackburn Rovers to Bournemouth
Joshua King was struggling for games with Blackburn Rovers in 2015 and decided to leave Ewood Park to head down south to sign for Bournemouth. It’s turned out to be an excellent decision for both the player and the club, with King helping the Cherries reach and become an established top-flight side. His impressive form recently caught the attention of former side Manchester United, however, the forward is still plying his trade under Eddie Howe.
Miroslav Klose - Bayern Munich to Lazio
Many remember Miroslav Klose’s career for his excellent record for Germany, however, he was also handy in front of goal for various clubs! Klose joined Lazio on a free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2011 and excelled during his five-year stay in Italy. He ended his career as Lazio’s joint-highest all-time non-Italian scorer.
Michael Ballack - Bayern Munich to Chelsea
Michael Ballack decided to swap Bayern for Chelsea in 2006 to join the growing list of world-class stars at Stamford Bridge. It was a real coup by Roman Abramovich, with Ballack becoming a regualr during his time in England. The German midfielder spent four years with the Blues, picking up four trophies during that time.
Demba Ba - West Ham to Newcastle United
Demba Ba’s time at Newcastle United was memorable, and it’s easy to forget that the Magpies actually picked up the striker on a free transfer from West Ham in 2011! Papiss Cisse’s St James’ Park arrival six months later helped form one of the best Premier League strike partnerships over the last 10 years.
Craig Bellamy - Manchester City to Liverpool
In 2011, Craig Bellamy returned to Liverpool for a second spell. He helped them knock his former side Man City out of the League Cup semi-finals, and the Reds went on to win the competition.
Teemu Pukki - Brondby to Norwich City
In the summer of 2018, Norwich signed Finnish striker Teemu Pukki on a free transfer and it was an amazing piece of business. His 29 goals fired the Canaries to promotion and he’s not looked out of place as a Premier League striker either.
Gus Poyet - Real Zaragoza to Chelsea
Before they were spending Roman Abramovich’s money, Chelsea had to be a bit smarter in the transfer market and bringing in Gus Poyet for free was very smart. The midfielder helped the Blues win the Cup Winners’ Cup and the FA Cup.
Paul Lambert - Motherwell to Borussia Dortmund
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Paul Lambert left Motherwell to Borussia Dortmund but it was an inspired signing by the Germans as the Scottish star helped them win the Champions League.
Cafu - Roma to AC Milan
Some will argue that Cafu is the best full-back of all-time and it’s easy to see why. He was already 33-years-old when he moved to Milan but he still played there for five years and won a Serie A title and the Champions League.
Luis Enrique - Real Madrid to Barcelona
Not many players are brave enough to leave Real Madrid to join Barcelona, but Luis Enrique was. It was a moved that worked well for the Spaniard too as he went on to win seven trophies at the Nou Camp.
Ruud Gullit - Sampdoria to Chelsea
Ruud Gullit’s career was in its twilight when he moved to Chelsea, but the Dutch legend certainly made an impact at Stamford Bridge and he even became the club’s manager.
Gianluca Vialli - Juventus to Chelsea
Another player who signed for Chelsea for free and went on to become their manager. The Italian’s goals helped Chelsea win three major honours during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Fernando Llorente - Athletic Bilbao to Juventus
Fernando Llorente joined Juventus for free in 2013. His 27 goals helped Juve win five trophies during his two full seasons in Turin.
Joel Matip - Schalke to Liverpool
Liverpool brought in defender Joel Matip on a free transfer from Schalke and the Cameroon international was a key part of the Reds team that won the Champions League last season.
Dani Alves - Barcelona to Juventus
Dani Alves only spent one season in Italy with Juventus after an amazing spell with Barcelona. In his one year in Turin, he won a league and cup double and also helped his side get to the Champions League final.
Phillip Cocu - PSV to Barcelona
Phillip Cocu played over 290 games for Barcelona after arriving for free from PSV, winning one league title during his six-season stay in Spain.