In recent years, the football transfer market has become highly inflated as clubs are willing to spend outrageous amounts of money to acquire the services of some of the world’s best football players.
But it does not mean that one has to always pay a certain price to acquire players who form the creme de la creme of the footballing landscape as football fans have over the years witnessed some free transfers of A-list players.
As free transfers are happening at a lightning fast pace this summer (Sergio Aguero, David Alaba and Sergio Ramos), FootTheBall takes a look at 10 of the greatest free transfers of all time in football.
10) GARY McALLISTER (COVENTRY TO LIVERPOOL, 2000)
A lot of eyebrows were raised in Merseyside as a 35-year old player was added to the roster of the Reds in the summer of 2000. But McAllister demonstrated that he was up to the task set for him by guiding them to the unique treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup under the tutelage of Gerard Houllier.
The former Leeds player made 49 appearances in total in all competitions for Liverpool and scored vital goals against the likes of Merseyside rivals Everton and Spanish duo of Alaves and Barcelona as he made his presence felt in the middle of the park.
9) STEVE McMANAMAN (LIVERPOOL TO REAL MADRID, 1999)
McManaman drew a lot of flak and vitriol for signing a pre-contract with Los Merengues midway through the 1998-99 season, but his move in joining the Spanish club from England soon paid dividends.
Raul hinted that the dressing room in Madrid was a pit of lies, treachery and whispers and deemed that McManaman had made a mistake in joining the Spaniards from Liverpool, but the midfielder helped Los Blancos to two La Liga titles and two Champions League wins in four seasons in Spain.
8) ESTEBAN CAMBIASSO (REAL MADRID TO INTER MILAN, 2004)
After only featuring in nine games for Real Madrid during the 2003-04 season, the Argentine international quickly became a part of Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan where he won the Italian Cup in his first season.
He won nine trophies followed in the capital of the Lombardy region in Italy including five Serie A titles and the UEFA Champions League before heading to England to join Leicester City in 2014.
7) RAUL (REAL MADRID TO SCHALKE, 2010)
Raul fell out of favour in the Spanish capital after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United as he only started eight games in La Liga for the Spanish giants in the 2009-10 season.
Schalke were ready to provide a new home to the Spanish international when it became abundantly obvious that he would not be renewing his contract with Los Blancos and Raul repaid the faith shown in him by leading them to the Champions League semi-finals in 2011.
In addition to that, he led them to a third-place finish in the German league in the next season and he was honoured by the German club who retired his jersey number after he called it a day in European football.
6) MIROSLAV KLOSE (BAYERN MUNICH TO LAZIO, 2011)
The all-time top scorer in Men’s FIFA World Cup history made the journey from Munich to Rome in the summer of 2011 on the day of his 33rd birthday as he signed for the Italian club in Serie A.
But any doubters of the Poland-born German player were soon silenced as he took Italy by storm in the Serie A. He had a hand in five of the six goals that Lazio scored in his debut for the Italians.
Klose ended his career in 2016 and finished as the joint-highest top scorer of non-Italian origin for the club.
5) PAUL POGBA (MANCHESTER UNITED TO JUVENTUS, 2012)
Pogba’s move to Juventus can be termed as one of the best free transfer deals not only for his on-field impact but also if looked at purely from a financial point of view.
Juventus acquired the services of Paul Pogba for free in 2012 from Manchester United and then four years later sold him for £89 million to the same club.
In between, Pogba helped the Turin-based club to a host of trophies in the intervening period in Italy as Juventus once again became a force to be reckoned with. The only regret for the Italian club and the French midfielder would be the 2015 Champions League final loss to Barcelona.
4) SOL CAMPBELL (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR TO ARSENAL, 2001)
Campbell was an academy product and the captain of the Lilywhites before he made the controversial decision to switch loyalties from Tottenham to Arsenal in the summer of 2001.
The Spurs fans were livid at his apparent betrayal of the club, but he made sure he didn’t regret the move as he went on to win two league titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners.
He also scored for Arsenal in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final before Barcelona made a comeback in Paris and won 2-1 against Arsene Wenger’s side.
3) ROBERTO BAGGIO (AC MILAN TO BOLOGNA, 1997)
Baggio departed AC Milan in the summer of 1997 and there were apparently no takers for him as Carlo Ancelotti passed up the chance to sign him for free that summer when he was in-charge of Parma.
Bologna stepped in to acquire the services of the Divine Ponytail and he led them to an honourable eighth-place finish in Serie A, scoring 22 goals and delivering 6 assists on the way.
Due to his exploits with Bologna, Baggio was selected for the 1998 World Cup in France and earned a move to Italian giants Inter Milan as he returned to the San Siro.
2) ANDREA PIRLO (AC MILAN TO JUVENTUS, 2011)
Pirlo was deemed surplus to requirements in Milan after a decade at the San Siro with AC Milan and was released by the Italians in the summer of 2011.
Juventus wasted no time in acquiring the veteran deep-lying playmaker as the Bianconeri embarked on a hegemonic run in Italy under the stewardship of Antonio Conte.
Milan watched Juve and Pirlo win four successive Serie A titles before the Italian playmaker moved to the United States of America in 2015 as he joined MLS side New York City FC.
1) ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (BORUSSIA DORTMUND TO BAYERN MUNICH, 2014)
This has to be hands down the greatest free transfer of all time in world football. Borussia Dortmund have acquired the image of a feeder club over the years and nothing exemplifies it better than this move.
Lewandowski joined the Bavarian giants Bayern Munich in the summer of 2014 for free and has never looked back ever since. The Pole is currently the best forward in the top five leagues in Europe and won the FIFA Best Player Award for his performances with Bayern Munich in the calendar year of 2020.