Free transfers are usually there to take younger players leaving an academy or a player coming to the end of their career. They are normally used for squad depth and never for a main starter, but there are some exceptions. Some free transfers can be seen as some phenomenal business from the club buying. But before I start, here are some honourable mentions:
Sami Khedira – Real Madrid to Juventus
Dani Alves – Barcelona to Juventus
James Milner – Manchester City to Liverpool
Henrik Larsson – Celtic to Barcelona
Sol Campbell – Spurs to Arsenal
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG to Manchester United
At the time Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on Top of the World. He carried PSG to another league title and became their record goal scorer. And to top that, he said he would only stay if he was given a statue. Classic Zlatan. Ibrahimovic was rumoured to be joining United as soon as the transfer window opened, and there was plenty of criticism. Involving his age, being able to adapt to the league, and only scoring all his goals against so called ‘farmers.’ And turns out all of this criticism was incorrect. At this moment of writing Zlatan has scored 26 goals for Man United. An unbelievable amount for a player who only scored against farmers. The reason he’s on this list over the players on the honourable mentions is because Mourinho brought in a leader, a player who would be able to give plenty on the pitch as well as off the pitch. He’s an experienced player who added a lot to a team that needed a massive boost, after 3 years of underperforming.
4. Paul Pogba – Manchester United to Juventus
The third free transfer involving Juventus is easily their best one. Paul Pogba was a player with high potential, with him being seen as the future for Man United’s midfield, but because of a lack of game time he was getting and the typical manipulation of Mino Riola, Pogba was persuaded to move somewhere else for game time. At Juventus he showed his talents, being heavily involved in the champions league final team. Playing in a very balanced midfield with Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal, where he was able to show his talents, and eventually being named in the FIFA team of the year back in 2015. This is regarded as Fergie’s biggest mistake. Because 4 years later, Man United came back to buy him, only for a record fee. Giving Juventus a giant profit on the Frenchman.
3. Jay-Jay Okocha – PSG to Bolton Wanderers
Not many people outside of the England will understand this pick but you have to hear me out. Jay-Jay Okocha was at PSG for two years after being signed for £10 million, which at the time was a decent amount of money. But Sam Allardyce, releasing his contract was almost at it’s end, signed the Nigerian on a free, and boy what a signing he was. Bolton not only signed the best dribbler the Premier League has ever seen, they also signed someone who was an expert with the dead ball, something you need when you’re fighting a relegation battle. Okocha saved Bolton by contributing with 14 in 124 games. He helped massively in keeping Bolton in the Premier League. But that’s only the objective reason why he is on this list. Subjectively, he is one of my favourite players of all time. I never saw anyone in the Premier League play with opposing playing with insane trickery, until I saw Jay-Jay Okocha kick a ball. He is on the list for revolutionizing the Premier League, and reminding everyone why it’s called the beautiful game.
2. Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich
Robert Lewandowski does not need any introduction. The man who showed himself as one of the best strikers around, consistently scoring for Dortmund for 3 years. One when they won the league title and another when they reached the Champions League final. He left under very controversial circumstances, letting his contract running out and deciding to go to Bayern Munich. Where he continued his insane goal scoring form. Bayern signed the best striker in the world, during a time where they needed a striker who would play the Pep way and still score plenty of goals. He can be seen as the main reason why they won the league 2 years ago. Carrying Bayern during a time where they had so many injuries to key players. And his second season where he scored over 30 goals in the Bundesliga. Bayern signed a player who is worth a record amount for nothing. And that just makes the signing even better.
1. Andrea Pirlo
Even though this pick is very unoriginal, it can’t be stressed how brilliant this signing was. Pirlo was at AC Milan for years, becoming one of the best deep line playmakers in the world for years. But as Pirlo began aging, Milan thought he was no longer needed for them, so they didn’t offer him a new contract and let him leave the club, and what a mistake that turned out to be. Juventus decided to sign him to complete their already brilliant midfield. The best way i can describe this is Gigi Buffon describing him as the best signing of all time, although i wouldn’t go that far, i do agree with it being one brilliant signing. He was given a very free role under Antonio Conte, allowing him to be the extra quality, while Pogba, Vidal and Marchisio provide the energy he doesn’t have. Pirlo thrived in that system. Scoring 19 and assisting 35 in 119 games. He is the perfect example of age not being a problem, and he helped guide Juventus to years of success.