Author: Ashley Munson
In 1990 an average midfield player reached the end of his contract with an average side in a situation that occurs all the time in modern football. It just happens the player was Jean-Marc Bosman and he challenged the legalities surrounding the manner of his contract expiry.
If you jump forward five years, a long running court battle was settled in 1995 and the Bosman transfer became a thing. Since then, the world of free transfers was changed forever. Here we look at the five best Bosman transfers of all time.
5 – BRAD FRIEDEL
Friedel arrived in Liverpool from Columbus Crew for a fee of £1.3m but largely played second fiddle to David James making only 31 appearances for the Reds before he entered the free market. Blackburn snapped him up and Friedel never looked back going on to establish himself as one of the best keepers to have ever graced the Premier League.
All in all, the American stopper made 450 Premier League appearances – 310 of them consecutive, which is Premier League record – and kept over 130 clean sheets.
4 – PAUL POGBA
You might be aware of Paul Pogba already. Manchester United forked out a colossal £90m fee to sign the French midfielder from Juventus in the summer of 2016 but he was once in their ranks and he walked away for nothing after becoming disillusioned under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Juventus were the beneficiaries at the time and Pogba starred for them as they won eight trophies during his time in Turin. Pogba scored 34 goals and set up a further 42 in 178 games. Oh, and then they sold him for what was, at the time, a world record transfer fee.
3 – ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI
In four years with Borussia Dortmund, Lewandowski was directly involved in 145 goals – scoring 103 – in just 187 games. During that stint Dortmund lifted one German Cup and were named Bundesliga Champions twice with Lewandowski a key influence. He won the player of the year award three times. Imagine how much it hurt to see him join Bayern Munich in 2014 without seeing a penny.
Since joining Bayern, Lewandowski has become regarded as one of the best all round strikers in world football and has bagged a remarkable 194 goals and has laid on another 47. A further seven major trophies mean his honours list makes impressive reading.
2 – ANDREA PIRLO
The wizard that is Andrea Pirlo started his professional career with Brescia before moving to Inter Milan for just shy of £2m but three years later he joined city rival’s AC for £15m. At Milan Pirlo became recognised as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation and was part of the team that won two Champions Leagues, two Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia.
10 years on, Pirlo was in his thirties and Milan let him walk away and sign for Juventus. Pirlo wasn’t nearly finished though and was instrumental in Juventus’ success over the next four years as they become the top favourites for every national title in the online sportsbooks.
A string of further honours was added to his cabinet – another Italian Cup and a further four league titles. If there is a question mark over how pivotal an ageing Pirlo was on his new team, three consecutive players of the year awards should settle that debate.
1 – SOL CAMPBELL
A Judas to Spurs fans, a legend to Arsenal supporters and possibly the highest profile Bosman transfer of all time. When Sol Campbell traded Tottenham for their nearest and dearest neighbours, effigies were hanged and burned in the street, Campbell received death threats and the media were all over it. It might have been a drama but boy was he worth it.
The England centre back went on to make over 200 appearances for Arsenal during five years in the red half of North London and, although he lifted two cups – one League and one FA – with Tottenham and Portsmouth during his career, the Lion’s share of his silverware came with Arsenal.
Campbell played a major role in Arsenal’s double season in 2002, won another two FA Cups in 2003 and 2005 respectively and wrote his name into the history books as part of the Invincibles that went unbeaten to win the 2004 Premier League crown. Campbell is still held in high esteem today as one of England’s all-time top defenders.
There you have it, five of the best players to grace the soccer pitch – and all for free!