In a world of inflated transfer fees, the free transfer is a vital part of any manager’s plans. It is no longer just the domain of journeymen who cannot settle at one club; players of the highest quality have moved clubs for nothing; from Michael Owen to David Beckham, some star names have been signed for free. But among those transfers in the Premier League, who are the top ten free transfers of recent times?
10. Tuncay: Tuncay arrived at Middlesbrough in 2007 from Fenerbahce and quickly endeared himself to the fans with his fantastic work rate and a succession of spectacular goals. Though he only spent two seasons at Boro, he was one of their best players during this time and at one point was linked with a move to Chelsea.
9. Gary McAllister: Signed at the age of 35 by Gerard Houllier, many questioned the point, but McAllister played an integral role at Liverpool for two years and without him the treble of cups in 2001 would not have been achieved.
8. Geovanni: The Brazilian was snapped by Hull in 2008 after a year spent at Eastlands. He played a vital role for them last season, finishing as Hull’s top scorer. Without his talents, Hull would definitely have been relegated; key goals against Arsenal and Tottenham at the beginning of the season were particular highlights.
7. Juliano Belletti: The full-back who has scored a winning goal in a Champions League final arrived at Chelsea in 2007. He has gained something of a cult following after a number of long-range strikes. Though he is not a regular, his role as a utility player cannot be understated; capable of playing at full-back or in defensive midfield, he continues to perform well when asked to do so.
6. Steve McManaman: One of the most talented English players of the 90s, McManaman left Liverpool and signed for Real Madrid on a free transfer. Described by team-mate Luis Figo as a ‘genius’, he collected a number of trophies during his time in Spain including two league titles and two European Cups.
5. Kevin Davies: The Bolton captain was signed on a free back in 2003; he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best target-men in the country. Often criticised for not scoring enough goals, his contribution to the team is still massive.
4. Michael Ballack: The German captain arrived at Chelsea in 2006, he has gone on to make well over 100 appearances for the club. One of their most consistent players, he continues to play an important role for the side despite stiff competition for places.
3. Henrik Larsson: The Swedish striker moved from Celtic to Barcelona on a free transfer in 2004; during his two years at the club he won two league titles and a European Cup. Larsson played a key role in the Champions League final in 2006 as he came on as a substitute and inspired Barcelona to recover from 1-0 down to go on and win 2-1.
2. Brad Friedel: Friedel moved to Blackburn from Liverpool in 2000 for no fee. He has gone on to establish himself as on of the league’s most consistent goalkeepers over the last decade.
1. Sol Campbell: Campbell’s controversial move from Spurs to Arsenal was one of the big football stories of 2001. He is still considered a traitor at White Hart Lane but his time at Arsenal was a success as he won two league titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners.