The transfer window is now in full string and clubs across the world have been splashing audacious amounts to bring in the players they want. So far, English clubs alone have spent in excess of half a BILLION and that’s only likely to increase in the final six weeks of the window.
However, spending a lot of money on a player doesn’t guarantee they will be successful and there’s plenty of examples to support that. In some cases, players have been signed for nothing and have gone on to achieve remarkable success- which is exactly what we’re celebrating here with the top eleven free transfers of all time!
Sol Campbell: Tottenham to Arsenal (2001)
15 years ago, English defender Sol Campbell did the unthinkable when he switch north London allegiances. It proved to be a successful move though as he won a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season. He added another Premier League trophy to his collection in 2004, clinched at White Hart Lane, and also won two more FA Cups. His final appearance in his first spell for Arsenal came in the 2006 Champions League final, where he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona.
Paul Pogba: Manchester United to Juventus (2012)
French international Paul Pogba left Manchester United in 2012 due to a lack of first-team opportunities and it’s many regard Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to let him go as the worst mistake of his career. In Turin, Pogba has developed into a superstar and has won four consecutive Serie A crowns, two Copa Italia’s, two Supercoppa Italiana’s and was a runner-up in the 2014/15 Champions League. The Red Devils are now keen to bring him back to Old Trafford but will have to spend in excess of €100m.
Raul: Real Madrid to Schalke (2012)
The Real Madrid icon waved goodbye to the Spanish capital in 2012, bringing an end to a 20-year spell with the club, and moved to German outfit Schalke. Whilst he won no honours with his new side, he managed to score 40 goals over two years in Germany and also became the highest scoring player in UEFA competitions during that period.
Miroslav Klose: Bayern Munich to Lazio (2011)
A move that raised eyebrows back in 2011, Miroslav Klose departed German giants Bayern Munich for the Italian outfit Lazio. Managing 55 goals in 139 Serie A matches, he became a cult-hero in Rome and his spell in Italy coincided with a World Cup triumph in 2014; where he also became the top-scorer in the competition’s history after netting during the 7-1 mauling of host nation Brazil. Now, aged 38, Klose is a free-agent again and could return to his first club Kaiserslautern.
Henrik Larsson: Celtic to Barcelona (2004)
After seven years at 242 goals with Celtic, Swedish forward Henrik Larsson left the British Isles for Catalonia. A serious knee injury could have ended his plans but he battled on and got his reward in 2006, when he was introduced as a second-half substitute in the Champions League final against Arsenal. He set-up two goals to provide Barcelona’s victory, their second European crown at the time, and begin a decade of the Catalan’s dominance on the European stage.
Andrea Pirlo: AC Milan to Juventus (2011)
The transfer market in Italy is always a bit strange but nothing compares to AC Milan’s bizarre decision to let Andrea Pirlo leave the San Siro on a free transfer and subsequently join rivals Juventus. He won four consecutive Serie A titles in Turin before leaving for New York City FC last summer and broke English fan’s hearts during Euro 2012 with a cheeky panenka in a shoot-out.
Jurgen Klinsmann: Sampdoria to Tottenham Hotspur (1997)
German ace Jurgen Klinsmann established himself as a hero at White Hart Lane during his spell with Spurs from 1994-95 but it’s his return in 1997 that many remember. Arriving in the winter, Klinsmann was tasked with saving the club from relegation and he did exactly that. He scored nine goals, including four against Wimbledon in the penultimate game of the season, before hanging up his playing boots and embarking on a successful managerial career.
Steve McManaman: Liverpool to Real Madrid (1999)
Having snubbed Barcelona two-years earlier, Steve McManaman moved to Real Madrid on a free transfer and his performances in the Spanish capital left him amongst the finest British exploits of all time. The crowning moment came in the 2001 Champions League final, where he scored a tremendous volley against Valencia to see Los Blancos lift their ninth European crown.
Sami Khedira: Real Madrid to Juventus (2015)
After five years at Real Madrid and having been crowned as a world champion, Juventus pulled off shrewd business by bring Sami Khedira to Turin. His spell started in disaster, with the midfielder ruled-out for two months through injury, but by the end of the season he had lifted the double. Now set for his second campaign in Italy, Khedira will continue to fill the void left by Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo last summer.
Esteban Cambiasso: Real Madrid to Inter Milan (2004)
The Argentine midfielder left Real Madrid for Inter Milan in 2004 and became a huge figure in Italian football as a result. Partnered with compatriot Juan Sebastian Veron, he lifted the Coppa Italia in his first season. Many trophies soon followed, with the highlight being lifting the treble, including the Champions League, under Jose Mourinho in 2010. He lated joined Leicester City on a free-transfer and was crowned the Foxes Player of the Year, before deciding to leave last summer- subsequently missing out on a Premier League crown.
Robert Lewandowski: Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich (2014)
Bayern Munich saved themselves a substantial transfer fee when they brought Polish international Robert Lewandowski to the Allianz Arena from Borussia Dortmund at his prime and his price-tag has skyrocketed in the two-years since. With 47 goals in 63 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern to date, including five in a nine-minute spell against Wolfsburg last year, and he’s lifted two Bundesliga titles and the DFB Polkal since. It’s hardly likely to be the last success of his Bayern career either.
Which of these free signings was the best? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter using #TopEleven!