Money isn’t everything: The best free transfers of all-time
Henrik Larsson (Celtic to Barcelona)
Henrik Larsson may have only spent two years at Barcelona, but he was mightily successful. He left Camp Nou having won two La Liga titles and a Champions League. It was his performance in the Champions League final victory in 2005-06 that particularly captured fans’ imagination. The Swede came off the bench in the 61st minute to replace Mark van Bommel to set up both goals in their 2-1 win over Arsenal. Following the game, Thierry Henry said: “People always talk about Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Giuly and everything, but I didn't see them today, I saw Henrik Larsson. He came on, he changed the game, that is what killed the game.”
Getty ImagesLuis Bagu
Gary McAllister (Coventry to Liverpool)
Many people were questioning Gerard Houllier’s decision to sign 35-year-old Gary McAllister in 2000. However, the Liverpool manager’s faith in the veteran paid off in his very first season as the Reds won the treble (League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup). After a less successful 2001-02 campaign, he returned to Coventry City in a player-manager role. Despite only playing for two seasons, the Scottish International will go down as an Anfield legend.
Getty ImagesClive Brunskill
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski made his name at Borussia Dortmund following his move from Lech Poznan in 2010. After scoring 103 goals in 186 games for Dortmund, Lewandowski hit the ground running at Bayern, scoring 25 in 49 appearances in his first season at the club. The Poland international is one of the best goalscorers in world soccer and, at this rate, is sure to become a Bayern Munich legend.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLennart Preiss
Roberto Baggio (AC Milan to Bologna)
Italy legend Roberto Baggio transferred from Milan to Bologna in 1997 on a free transfer. He transformed a side meant to struggle in Serie A and guided them to an eighth-place finish that season. The star scored 22 goals in 30 games before moving to childhood club Inter Milan and receiving a call-up to the 1998 World Cup. Short but sweet.
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Brad Friedel (Liverpool to Blackburn)
After only making 25 appearances for Liverpool, Friedel joined Blackburn Rovers on a free transfer in 2000. It was to be a masterstroke by Graeme Souness -- who was the manager at the time -- as the USA international remained Rovers’ number one for eight years. The 287 games he played for Blackburn helped him become the main keeper for the USMNT.
Getty ImagesGary M. Prior
Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich to Chelsea)
The big German powerhouse snubbed interest from across Europe to sign for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2006. He was arguably their best player as they finished runner-up to Manchester United for the title and reached the Champions League final in 2007-08. The 6ft 2in midfielder went on to make 166 appearances for the club, during which the club won a League Cup, three FA Cups and a Premier League title.
Getty ImagesShaun Botterill
Esteban Cambiasso (Real Madrid to Inter Milan)
Cambiasso wasn’t getting regular playing time at Real Madrid, so he moved to Inter Milan in 2004. The Argentinian embraced the defensive aspect of the Italian game, winning five straight Serie A titles. He was a key part of Jose Mourinho’s famous treble-winning side of 2010, which included the likes of Javier Zanetti, Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder.
AFP/Getty ImagesKARIM JAAFAR
Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal)
Not many players have made the move across North London, but Sol Campbell decided he was ready to take a leap of faith in 2001. Despite receiving a lot of grief following the transfer, the England international helped Arsenal to two Premier League titles and three FA Cup’s during his stay. He was also part of the Arsenal ‘invincibles’ of 2003-04 that went 49 games unbeaten in the league.
AFP/Getty ImagesLLUIS GENE
Steve McManaman (Liverpool to Real Madrid)
Real Madrid swatted aside competition from Europe’s top clubs to land the signing of Steve McManaman in 1999. The Liverpool legend signed a five-year contract at the Bernabeu after spending nine years as a professional at Anfield. McManaman was an instant hit with the fans at Real in uncertain times for the club. The former England international secured two Champions League medals (scoring in the 2000 final), two La Liga titles, a European Super Cup and the World Club cup.
Getty ImagesBen Radford
Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan to Juventus)
The Italian spent a decade at AC Milan, collecting two Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies in the process. In 2011, the playmaker decided it was time for a new challenge and joined Juventus. Since then, The Old Lady have won all four Serie A titles on offer and dominated Italian soccer. Pirlo is one of the most iconic soccer players of his generation and possibly the best free transfer of all-time.