Following Didier Drogba's astonishing Chelsea homecoming, we thought we'd look back at some of the other best free transfers from through the years. From Andrea Pirlo's success at Juve to Bayern scoring Robert Lewandowski, we've got it all covered.
Getty ImagesValerio Pennicino
Henrik Larsson (Celtic to Barcelona)
The Swedish striker left Celtic in 2004, having scored 174 goals in 221 games for the Scottish giants. In two years at Barcelona his goal-scoring record may not have been as impressive, but his impact on performances was more valuable. Following Barca’s Champions League triumph over Arsenal in 2006, Thierry Henry said: “He (Henrik Larsson) changed the game. That is what killed the game – sometimes you talk about Ronaldinho and Eto'o and people like that, you need to talk about the proper footballer who made the difference and that was Henrik Larsson tonight.”
Getty ImagesLuis Bagu
Brad Friedel (Liverpool to Blackburn)
Liverpool selected Sander Westerveld as their number one keeper in 2000, allowing Brad Friedel to move out on a free to Blackburn. The Reds’ loss was Blackburn’s gain as the American performed heroics in his career at Ewood Park. The Ohio-born keeper even scored a goal in his 287 appearances for Rovers.
Getty ImagesPhil Cole
Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich to Chelsea)
In 2006, German midfielder Michael Ballack opted to sign for Chelsea over the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. Following a disappointing first season -- in which an ankle injury staggered his impact -- Ballack helped Chelsea to a Champions League final and a tilt at the title in 2008/2009. He added a Premier League, three FA Cups and a League Cup to the trophy cabinet before returning to Germany in 2010
Getty ImagesMichael Regan
David Beckham (Real Madrid to LA Galaxy)
In 2007, David Beckham was looking for a new chapter in his career and a multi-million deal from LA Galaxy unsurprisingly took his fancy. The deal was reportedly worth £128 million ($217 million dollars) having signed a whopping five-year deal – incredible considering he was 31. Becks is one of the reasons why soccer is now more popular than ever in the USA and continues to grow. This free transfer has a lasting legacy.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Steve McManaman (Liverpool to Real Madrid)
After McManaman ran down his contract at boyhood club Liverpool, he opted to reject clubs such as Barca, Inter and Juve in favor of a move to Real Madrid. He signed a five-year deal at the Spanish giants in 1999 and became a key player in two La Liga and two Champions League successes. The winger even scored a goal in the 3-0 Champions League final victory over Valencia in 2000.
Getty ImagesShaun Botterill
Gary McAllister (Coventry to Liverpool)
At the ripe old age of 35, Gary McAllister made the leap from Coventry City to Liverpool in 2000. Despite some raised eyebrows it was to prove a masterstroke by Reds manager Gerard Houllier. McAllister’s vision, leadership and experience contributed to an incredible treble-winning season for the men from Anfield.
AFP/Getty ImagesOdd Andersen
Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan to Juventus)
When Andrea Pirlo left AC Milan for Juventus in 2011 you’d have been excused for thinking that his career was on the way down. Instead, he has overseen the rise of The Old Lady back to the top of Italian soccer while Milan have declined. It could even be argued he has played some of the best soccer of his career – starring for Juventus in Serie A and at Euro 2012 for Italy.
Getty ImagesClaudio Villa
Esteban Cambiasso (Real Madrid to Inter Milan)
Despite Claude Makelele’s move to Chelsea, Esteban Cambiasso found himself on the periphery of Real Madrid’s starting eleven. He cut his losses by joining Inter Milan in 2004 and never looked back. The Argentine midfielder went on to make over 400 appearances for the club and was part of the Jose Mourinho side that secured a famous treble.
AFP/Getty ImagesPIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal)
Sol Campbell’s controversial free transfer from Tottenham to Arsenal was a resounding success. The former England international lifted two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and was a key part of the Gunners 2003/04 invincible squad. However, Campbell will forever be known to Spurs fans as ‘Judas’ after leaving for their bitter rivals.
AFP/Getty ImagesGABRIEL BOUYS
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)
Not only did Bayern Munich sign one of the best strikers in the world during the 2014 summer window, they signed their closest rivals’ main goal-scorer. Robert Lewandowski would have commanded an astronomical figure had the Polish international been under contract. He scored 103 in 185 games for Dortmund and he’ll be looking to do even better at Bayern.