Incredibly, the start of the new Premier League football season is now less than one month away, with Liverpool set to host newly-promoted Norwich City on Friday, 9th August.
Still, there’s ample time for teams to add to their squad during the summer transfer window, with a number of big money transfers and bargain-basement deals set to be signed during the next few weeks.
In this post, we’ll look back at four of the best free transfers in history and ask why they were so impactful.
- Sol Campbell, Tottenham to Arsenal in 2001
We start with arguably the single most controversial free transfer in history, with Spurs and England defender Sol Campbell making the short trip across North London after allowing his contract to run down.
This deal stunned the football world, whilst it’s fair to say that the anger of Spurs fans has yet to fully subside to this day. Some of the taunts that the centre-back went beyond the pale too, but there’s no doubt that the move benefitted Campbell from a career perspective.
In fact, he won two EPL titles and three FA Cups during his time at Arsenal, whilst also scoring in the Champions League final of 2006 during a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona.
Emery’s men could certainly do with someone of Campbell’s ability for the upcoming campaign otherwise there are sure to be plenty both teams to score matches when they face off against the crème of the Premier League crop.
- Roberto Baggio, Milan to Bologna in 1997
We move to Serie A now, when the legendary Italy striker Roberto Baggio moved from Milan to Bologna in the summer of 1997.
The so-called ‘Divine Ponytail’ was thought to be passed his best after a disappointing season at the San Siro, so much so that Parma manager Carlo Ancelotti passed on the chance to sign him for free.
However, Baggio shone for his new club, scoring 22 goals and providing six assists as relegation favourites Bologna secured an eighth-place finish. Baggio also earned a spot in Italy’s 1998 World Cup squad, before subsequently securing a move to boyhood club Inter where he found stardom and is rightly ranked amongst the best 20 strikers of all time.
- Esteban Cambiasso, Real Madrid to Inter in 2004
Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso also appeared to be on the wane in 2004, after a disappointing season in Madrid during which he made just nine league starts.
However, then-Inter Milan football manager Roberto Mancini took a chance on the combative midfielder and brought him to the San Siro for free, and the player soon became an integral part of his new side.
Cambiasso subsequently won the Cope Italia in his debut season in Italy, whilst adding five Scudetti and the Champions League under Jose Mourinho before departing for Leicester in 2014.
- Gary McAllister, Coventry to Liverpool in 2000
It’s fair to say that eyebrows were raised when Liverpool signed the 35-year old midfielder Gary McAllister from struggling Coventry in 2000, even if the deal was completed as a free transfer.
Whilst many people suggested that the Scot would play little more than a bit-part at Anfield, he actually made a staggering 49 appearances in all competitions as Liverpool won an unprecedented treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup in the 2000/01 season.
The former Leeds star even plundered crucial goals against Everton, Barcelona and Alaves, the latter of which helped to secure a topsy-turvy 5-4 win the UEFA Cup final.