Bosman at 25: Who made the best free transfer?

What happened to Boseman?

Decent, if inconspicuous, as a player. Absolute variety in the field.

It has been 25 years since Jean-Marc Bosman was a midfielder at the European Court of Justice and he became material.

He wants a Bosman. Bosman’s rule. We’ll sign it on the Bosman.

The change in labour law means that players can choose to terminate their contract or change clubs after a free transfer. With a few sacrifices.

It’s made a big difference in football. But who was the best and most successful Bosman?

Take a look at our Top 10 list and rate them at the bottom of the page.

Sol Campbell – Tottenham – Arsenal, 2001

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: Premier League 2002, 2004; FA Cup 2002, 2005

Controversial? That’s right. Tottenham offered the defender of England a contract that would have made him the highest paid player, but he turned it down and moved to his archrival Arsenal.

It was an important decision, Campbell said. I could have made more money if I had gone abroad, but I thought it was the right place.

An award-winning Judas – and much worse – Campbell has hunted trophies throughout his career, reaching the Champions League in Arsenal. He even scored a goal in the 2006 Champions League final, but lost to Barcelona.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United, 2016

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: 2017 League Cup, 2017 European competition

Five reasons why Zlatan will be missed.

The signs were there, of course. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has long been one of the best and best strikers in the world. He’s just become PSG’s all-time leading scorer at just 30 years old.

But the move of the Swede to Old Trafford, by Bosman, in the summer of 2016 was more than cynical. He was 34 years old, supposedly in the end, after everything he had done. At best, an attack submarine.

Instead, he scored 28 goals in an excellent first season. He won in Wembley and played a key role in the initial success of Jose Mourinho. He lit up the Premier League, just like he told us.

He has since done the same for LA Galaxy and AC Milan, also with free transfers. King Bosman?

Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund – Bayern Munich, 2014

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: Bundesliga 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; German Cup 2016, 2019, 2020; Champions League 2020.

The best transfer operation in the history of the game has rarely been performed. Borussia Dortmund has more reason than others to curse the 1995 trial.

Robert Lewandowksi was neither the first nor the last player to leave the Westfalia Stadium for the Allianz Arena as part of a free transfer, but his departure was probably the most painful.

Look at the numbers. Lewandowski scored 175 goals in 200 Bundesliga matches for Bayern. He won the competition six years in a row. He won the Champions League and is expected to win the best selection prize of the Fifa this week.

No money has been spent.

Gary McAllister – from Coventry to Liverpool, 2000

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: FA Cup 2001, League Cup 2001, UEFA Cup 2001

Gerard Houllier must have raised the eyebrows at the idea of taking the 35-year-old Anfield McAllister out of the eternal relegation candidate Coventry. This summer, Liverpool finally threw money at Nick Barmby, Christian Ziege and Bernard Diomede (plus Marcus Babbel, who was a serious contender on that list, came for a Bosman).

But it’s Gary Mack who would call Houllier his most inspired signature. With Steven Gerrard’s young legs, it’s up to McAllister to lead the game and wreak havoc with his deadly runs. Do you remember his goal against Everton up close? Are sanctions against Barcelona and Birmingham? His goal and decisive free kick in the UEFA Cup final against Alaves?

A major player in this famous triple season.

Steve McManaman – Liverpool – Real Madrid 1999

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: La Liga 2001, 2003; Champions League 2000, 2002

Probably the first English top player to take advantage of the opportunities that Bosman unconsciously discovered, McManaman’s move to Madrid was big news.

The English winger was about to move to Barcelona a few years ago for £12 million and negotiations on his contract were a real saga – but he has always expressed a desire to play abroad.

Any doubts about his ability to integrate into Galactica were quickly dispelled. McManaman scored a great goal in the final of the Champions League 2000 to become the first English player to win a trophy for a foreign club.

James Milner – Manchester City to Liverpool, 2015

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: Premier League 2020; Champions League 2019

James Milner knows how to make the most of his time at home.

Milner won two Premier League titles with Manchester City, but played only 89 of the possible 190 league games before deciding to switch to another big club via the U62.

Liverpool fans might wonder what kind of deal they’ve got. A crack.

Milner played more or less a full season on the left wing under Jürgen Klopp and is still an undisputed starter in midfield. Versatile, reliable and above all of high quality.

YY Okocha – Paris Saint Germain – Bolton, 2002

If you’re not that old yet, it might seem a bit long to walk from Dukes Park to Reebok Stadium. But it was Sam Allardyce’s genius.

Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo, Yuri Yorkaev – Big Sam has put a ridiculous signature for the Wanderers, but no better than Okocha. It’s so nice to get called twice.

What a pleasure to see him in flight. All rabonas, rainbow shots and long-distance free kicks, with a radiant smile on his face at the same time. A great player.

Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan – Juventus, 2011

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: Series A 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015; Coppa Italia 2015

When Andrea told me he was going to join us, it was the first thing I thought of: God exists. A player of his level and abilities, not to mention the fact that he was available, I think that was the signature of the century!

Who are we to challenge the judgment of Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon?

Pirlo stranded at Milan in his last season and joined Juve at the age of 32 as an extra player. Maybe a cameo option.

Instead, Pirlo became the mainstay of the team of Antonio Conte, who won the league four years in a row and played the best football of his career. Good business thanks to the club he runs now.

Gus Poyet – Real Zaragoza in Chelsea, 1997

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: FA Cup 2000; Cup Winners’ Cup 1998

Gus Poyet was virtually unknown to most Premier League fans when he signed for Zaragoza, but he scored immediately in midfield.

The Uruguayan, who is long in the air and owns a strong volley, scored twice in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and scored 49 goals in just 145 matches before going over to management.

Gianluca Vialli – Juventus at Chelsea, 1996

After the move to Bosman, the honour was won: FA Cup 1997, 2000 (as manager); Cup Winners Cup 1998 (as player/manager); League Cup 1998 (as player/manager) ;

The move of Viali to La Juve in 1992 for £12 million was a world record. Four years later Ruud Gullit took him to London on a Bosman.

Vialli, who had been in and out of the team under Gullit, was the surprising choice to replace the Dutchman as coach and soon became the youngest coach to win a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1998.

Three major awards and a more than respectable 40 goals in 88 appearances rightly put Luca on that list.


Confirm selection

In an earlier version of this article Ruud Gullit was wrongly mentioned as an option. Gullit moved to Chelsea as a volunteer in 1995 – but for the Bosman trial.

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