As Joey Barton has been put up for grabs on a free transfer by his disgruntled owners Newcastle United, GiveMefootball has decided to reflect on some of the best bargains the Barclays Premier League has known and list our top ten free transfers...what do you think?
10. Edgar Davids – Inter Milan to Tottenham Hotspur
The old Dutch master arrived at Tottenham after five careful owners, including Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan, and Barcelona (where Davids was loaned), but Davids still had plenty of miles left under the bonnet. The then 32-year-old brought his trademark shades to White Hart Lane to secure back-to-back fifth place finishes for Tottenham Hotspur between 2005 and 2007.
9. Lee Bowyer – West Ham United to Birmingham City
Lee Bowyer has a battling mentality that was to fit the mould at Birmingham City perfectly. His first taste of West Midlands football came in a loan spell from West Ham, when Birmingham were on the charge to regain their place in the Barclays Premier League. Bowyer was snapped up by Alex McLeish to help Blues secure a stunning ninth place on their return to the big time. But Bowyer has again been let go for free, as the team moves back into the Npower Championship, this time to Ipswich Town. Will the 34-year-old be able to repeat his old tricks for The Tractor Boys?
8. Brad Friedel – Liverpool to Blackburn Rovers
Goalkeeping is a fickle trade. You’re either on the bench, or between the sticks; No.1, or number none. And Friedel’s spell at Liverpool, although including a couple of UEFA Cup games, was mostly spent waiting in the wings while David James, followed by Sander Wesderveld, took centre stage. But a move to Blackburn was just what the United States international needed. With 287 appearances over eight years, Friedel can be credited for digging Rovers firmly into the Barclays Premier League after helping the club return to the top flight in his first season.
7. Mark Schwarzer – Middlesbrough to Fulham
Another international goalkeeper who has his work cut out between the sticks for his country is Mark Schwarzer. The Australian made his name as a tenacious shot stopper with Middlesbrough, a club he helped keep in the Barclays Premier League for a decade, but Fulham managed to get hold of his safe hands in 2008 when Schwarzer turned down a renewed contract with Boro. He was crucial during Fulham’s arduous campaign in the UEFA Europa league that saw the west London club finish as runners-up.
6. Gary McAllister – Coventry City to Liverpool
Gary McAllister was coming to the end of his career when he made the move to Merseyside, but Anfield was by no means a retirement home for the Scottish midfielder. McAllister was in fact Gerard Houlier’s golden boy, scoring in the victorious UEFA cup final in 2001 and playing his part in Liverpool’s FA Cup win of the same year.
5. Kevin Davies – Southampton to Bolton
With just ten goals to his name at Southampton, Kevin Davies was struggling. His return to the club was less emphatic than his first spell and a loan to Millwall was equally uninspiring, but the striker was given a new lease of life at Bolton in 2003, where he has since played in a total of 285 games. His performances with the Trotters has led to an England international call up last year, making Davies the oldest England debut player since 1950 at 33.
4. Jay-Jay Okocha – Paris Saint Germain to Bolton Wanderers
Jay-Jay Okocha, so good, they named him twice. But Bolton didn’t pay for him, not even once. The Nigerian wandered into the club in 2002 on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain, who originally bought him for around £20 million. After an injury blighted start, Okocha began to sizzle with skill for the Trotters, skinning defenders to salvage what had been a poor start to the season for Bolton. Okocha went on to lead Bolton to their highest Premier League finish and captained the club to a League Cup final.
3. Michael Ballack – Bayern Munich to Chelsea
Ballack’s big presence was felt at Chelsea from the get go - scoring in the second leg of his first UEFA Champions league game with Chelsea was followed up by a red card against Liverpool a few days later. This eventful start was to sum up the German’s role for the Blues, a physical player with as much to give in possession as he did when Chelsea were without the ball. In his four years for the club, Ballack scored 17 goals, a figure that is somewhat dented by a plague of injuries while at Stamford Bridge.
2. Michael Owen – Newcastle United to Manchester United
The once child-prodigy and proven Barclays Premier League striker with 89 international caps to his name, in hind sight, was an obvious target for Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but at the time, Michael Owen was as surprised as anyone by the signing. Owen was drifting away from Newcastle United when Ferguson snapped him up in 2009, and despite a long injury spell, he has gone on to produce the goods leading to a contract extension for the 31-year-old, signed in June. And, although he will find himself behind Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in the United pecking order, who would bet against scoring a vital goal or two next season?
1. Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal
An Arsenal legend, and a true bargain, Sol Campbell started a glittering career at Arsenal in 2001, a season that would go down in history with the gunners sealing the Double. Just two years later, the towering defender played alongside Kolo Toure in the back line of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ team, the team that won the league without losing a game. Campbell has since returned to Arsenal, a club where he rode out some real ups and downs on and off the pitch, but is now back in the bargain bin ready for his next challenge. Any bidders?