Footballers owe a lot to Jean-Marc Bosman.
The Belgian was responsible for the creation of the Bosman ruling, meaning players could move to a new club at the end of their contract without their old club receiving a fee.
And as Sir Alex Ferguson once said in 2015: “Once the European Court of Justice ruled that clubs no longer had to pay transfer fees after the expiration of a player’s contract, all hell broke loose. Suddenly it was a free-for-all.”
Since the implementation in 1996, it’s had a massive effect on football with clubs having the ability to snap up quality players on a free transfer.
And it got us here at GIVEMESPORT thinking, who have been the best free transfers in Premier League history?
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Well, we decided to look at the best free transfer each Premier League club has ever made:
Arsenal | Sol Campbell
Imagine stealing your biggest rivals’ best player and club captain on a free transfer. That’s what Arsenal did and it didn’t go down well on the other side of north London. But at Arsenal, Campbell became one of the best centre-backs in Premier League history and was part of the Invincible side during the 2003/04 season.
He originally spent five seasons at Arsenal and after a spell at Portsmouth and Notts County, returned to the club for the 2009/10 campaign.
Aston Villa | Thomas Hitzlsperger
What a left foot the German had. Not a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals. Villa snapped up the midfielder from Bayern Munich and he spent five seasons at Villa Park, scoring 13 goals and becoming a fan favourite.
He later went on to play for Stuttgart, Lazio, West Ham, Wolfsburg and Everton.
Bournemouth | Josh King
King left Blackburn for Bournemouth in the summer of 2015 and what an acquisition it has proved to be for the Cherries.
In the five Premier League seasons, King has scored 44 Premier League goals in 144 matches.
Brighton | Bruno
“Once a Seagull, always a Seagull.”
An absolute cult hero at Brighton. Bruno joined the Seagulls from Valencia ahead of the 2012/13 campaign, playing five seasons in the Championship before their promotion to the Premier League.
He retired at the end of last season having played 225 league matches for the club.
Burnley | Tom Heaton
Heaton was actually Sean Dyche’s first signing as Burnley manager, getting him from Bristol City in 2013.
He played 200 times for the club over the course of five seasons, before his summer move to Aston Villa.
Chelsea | Gus Poyet
A proper Chelsea legend.
The Blues signed the Uruguayan from Zaragoza in 1997 with the midfielder spending four seasons at Stamford Bridge. He scored some pretty important goals during his time and lifted the 2000 FA Cup and the 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup.
He went on to play for London rivals Tottenham.
Crystal Palace | Mile Jedinak
Fantastic beard and a great servant to Crystal Palace, making 178 appearances over six seasons.
The Australian was signed from Turkish club Gençlerbirligi in 2011 and eventually left Selhurst Park in 2016 to join Aston Villa.
Everton | Alan Stubbs
After Stubbs won his battle with cancer, Everton signed him from Celtic in the summer of 2001.
The Scot was at the heart of the side’s defence for four seasons, captaining the club to a fourth-place finish during the 2004/05 campaign.
He left for Sunderland in the summer of 2005 but returned to Goodison Park six months later.
Leicester City | Marc Albrighton
Aston Villa must regret letting Albrighton join Leicester on a free for in 2014.
186 appearances, 13 goals and a Premier League winners’ medal later, Albrighton will go down in history at the King Power.
Liverpool | James Milner
One of the best free transfers in Premier League history. Since joining Liverpool from Manchester City, Milner has played in a variety of positions, dropping at least a 7/10 performance every single game. He’s close to making his 200th appearance for the club and has a Champions League medal to show for it.
Manchester City | Bacary Sagna
With the ridiculous amount of money that City have, they haven’t made too many free transfers in recent years.
Sagna is probably their best with the former Arsenal right-back playing 86 times for the club – although he only lifted a League Cup during his time.
The 36-year-old is actually still playing, with the Frenchman at Montreal Impact in the MLS.
Manchester United | Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sergio Romero has proved to be an astute free transfer, provided excellent back-up to David de Gea but Zlatan in the Premier League was box office.
Twenty-eight goals in his debut season saw him put a massive middle finger up at those who thought he couldn’t cut it in England as he helped United win the ‘treble.’
A serious knee injury cut his time short at Old Trafford but he’s since gone on to score 52 goals in 56 MLS appearances for LA Galaxy.
Newcastle | Demba Ba
Ba’s two’s seasons at Newcastle were pretty special.
He notched 29 goals in 54 Premier League games after joining from West Ham, helping the Magpies finish fifth under Alan Pardew.
Newcastle made a £7 million profit on the striker two years after he joined with Chelsea snapping him up.
Loves a bit of strawberry syrup.
Norwich | Teemu Pukki
Norwich took a chance on Pukki and signed him from Danish side Brondby despite his unsuccessful spell at Celtic.
It’s proved to be an inspired decision.
He scored 29 goals in the Championship last season and has already managed six in nine games in the Premier League.
Sheffield United | John Fleck
Fleck moved from League One Coventry to League One Sheffield United in 2016. After winning two Player of the Year awards at Bramall Lane and achieving two promotions in three years, Fleck is now a Scotland international and Premier League regular.
Not bad for a guy that cost absolutely nothing.
Southampton | Paul Telfer
Another player Coventry allowed to leave on a free transfer. Telfer spent four seasons at Southampton, making 127 appearances helping the Saints establish themselves as a Premier League club and reach the FA Cup final in 2003.
Tottenham | Brad Friedel
Imagine signing a player that in the middle of a run of playing in 310 consecutive Premier League games for a free.
Friedel didn’t miss a single match from the 2004/05 season all the way through to the 2011/12 campaign, spanning three clubs.
That was until Hugo Lloris came along.
But Fridel, signed from Aston Villa, played 67 times for the White Hart Lane club and, despite his advancing years, became a cult figure at the club.
Watford | Heurelho Gomes
Speaking of Spurs goalkeepers…
Gomes joined Watford from Spurs in 2014 and has since made 157 appearances for the club, helping them earn promotion to the Premier League and then become a perennial top-flight club.
At 38, he now finds himself back-up to Ben Foster.
West Ham | Hayden Mullins
West Ham signed Mullins from fellow ‘Division One’ side Crystal Palace and they probably didn’t expect the midfielder to become an iconic figure for the club.
But that’s exactly what Mullins became, helping them earn promotion and then playing in four Premier League campaigns. After 213 appearances, Mullins joined Portsmouth as he played a further two seasons in the Premier League before their relegation.
Wolves | Ryan Bennett
Remember when Wolves signed Bennett from Norwich on a free transfer in 2017? No, us neither.
But Bennett helped Wolves win the Championship in his debut campaign before playing 34 times in the Premier League last season as Wolves qualified for Europe.