Top 10 Free Transfers In Premier League History

The summer transfer window is just around the corner, with clubs ready to open up their chequebooks to complete their business ahead of the new season.

Not every club can benefit from the riches of the Premier League meaning players who are now out of contract are the next best thing for those with a more modest budget.

Some clubs have already released their retained list for the summer which includes the likes of Jesus Navas and Bacary Sagna.

We take a look at the top ten free transfers in Premier League history…


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Club From: Inter Milan
Club To:

Having been released by Inter Milan in 2014 after winning four Serie A titles, five Coppa Italia and one Champions League, it was a surprise to Leicester win the race for Esteban Cambiasso.

The Foxes signed the Argentine following a historic treble in Italy but were already in danger of relegation – yet to win a game in the league following his transfer.

With Cambiasso in midfield, Leicester were able to pull through and steer themselves to safety. The Argentina international was named the club’s Player of the Year but opted not to renew his contract at the King Power Stadium.

If he stayed one more year, he would have earned himself a Premier League winners medal but instead moved to Greece to play for Olympiacos.


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Club From: Paris St Germain
Club To:
Bolton Wanderers

Jay-Jay Okocha became the most expensive African player in history when Paris St Germain paid around £14m to bring him to France from Fenerbache. Remarkably, just four years later, he joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer.

Sam Allardyce managed to convince Okocha to join the Trotters, and the Nigerian managed to steer them away from the relegation zone – winning the club’s goal of the season award. He instantly became a fan favourite at the club.

Okocha was named club captain just a year later and led Bolton to their first cup final in history against Middlesbrough in the 2004 League Cup.

He eventually left the club following their relegation to play in Qatar but later moved back to England to line up for Hull.


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Club From: Bayern Munich
Club To:

One of the best midfielders in the world moved to the Premier League for absolutely nothing when Chelsea managed to sign Michael Ballack after he left Bayern Munich in 2006.

He won three Bundesliga titles with Munich before opting to join Chelsea despite interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, and both Milan clubs.

Ballack was given his favoured number 13 shirt at Stamford Bridge and instantly became a key player for the Blues. In his first season, the German lifted both the FA Cup and League Cup. He enjoyed a strong partnership in the centre of midfield next to Frank Lampard.

He racked up over 150 appearances during his four years at the club, winning the Premier League title in 2010 and also finishing as runners-up to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final.

Ballack will be remembered as one of the best free transfers in Premier League history.


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Club From: Manchester City
Club To:

After being named PFA Young Player of the Year at Aston Villa in 2010, Manchester City paid £26m to bring James Milner to the club.

He made over 200 appearances for the Citizens, lifting the Premier League title twice before opting to join Liverpool on a free – taking a pay cut to move to Anfield and leaving Champions League football for regular game-time.

Brendan Rodgers made Milner Liverpool’s vice-captain but the former Swansea boss was sacked and replaced by Jurgen Klopp. Milner remained a key player for the German as Liverpool reached two cup finals.

Last season, the former England international was used by Klopp at left-back, a role which he performed admirably in despite the ex-Leeds man admitting he did not enjoy playing there.

Following Liverpool’s return to the Champions League, Milner is expected to play a prominent role on Merseyside next season.


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Club From: Sampdoria
Club To:

Chelsea completed the signing of a global superstar in 1995 when Ruud Gullit joined the club on a free transfer from Sampdoria.

Despite being past when signing for the Blues, Gullit arrived the club as a Ballon d’Or winner with AC Milan as well as being a European Cup winner. He also led Holland to a European Championship victory.

Glenn Hoddle brought the Dutchman to the club to play in a sweeper role but his effectiveness there was limited. He moved to a midfield role to score six goals, finishing runner-up in the Footballer of the Year and helping Chelsea reach the FA Cup semi-final.

He later became appointed player-manager following the departure of Hoddle and guided Chelsea to victory in the FA Cup; the club’s first trophy in 26 years.


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Club From: Paris St Germain
Club To:
Manchester United

No-one can argue that Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn’t been one of the best free transfers in Premier League history.

The legendary forward joined Manchester United after his contract expired with Paris St Germain where he won four league titles. Many pundits wrote the Swede off saying he moved to England too late in his career.

Even at 35-years-old, Zlatan proved his critics wrong and scored 28 goals in 46 appearances for the Red Devils before an injury cruelly cut his season short. He lifted the EFL Cup and Europa League in his first season in England.

Speculation is mounting over whether the former Barcelona forward will remain at Old Trafford next season following his severe knee injury with reports suggesting a move to the MLS could be on the cards.


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Club From: Juventus
Club To:

After winning the European Cup with Juventus, Gianluca Vialli joined Chelsea to become a key member of Gullit’s squad.

The Italian won the FA Cup in his first season at Stamford Bridge but a feud with Gullit late in the season restricted his appearances.

However, when Gullit received the sack, Vialli was named player-manager. He won the European Cup Winners Cup and League Cup after taking the reins. He retired from professional football a year later, scoring the winning goal against Derby in his final game.

He won the FA Cup in 2000 and also beat Manchester United to lift the FA Charity Shield but was sacked just five games into the season following a bust-up with many key members of the squad.


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Club From: Tottenham
Club To:

There is no doubting that Sol Campbell’s move from Tottenham to Arsenal is the most controversial free transfer in Premier League history. He turned down the chance to become Tottenham’s highest paid player to go to the Gunners.

Campbell became an integral member of Arsene Wenger’s squad forming one of the best centre-back partnerships the league has ever seen next to Tony Adams which helped Arsenal complete the league and cup double in his first season.

The following season, next to Kolo Toure, Campbell was part of the 2004 Invincibles side that won the Premier League without losing a single game.

He made 197 appearances for the Gunners before leaving to join Portsmouth.


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Club From: Coventry
Club To:

Many fans questioned Gerard Houllier’s decision to bring Gary McAllister to Liverpool on a Bosman deal as the midfielder was already 35 – potentially meaning his best years were behind him.

However, the Scot proved to be a revelation in his short stint on Merseyside as Liverpool completed the treble in 2001. He made himself an Anfield legend after burying a 44-yard free-kick to win the Merseyside derby against Everton in stoppage time.

McAllister also scored the only goal of the game against Barcelona in the UEFA Cup semi-final – he was named man of the match for his performance.

He retired after two years at Liverpool and later became a coach at the club under Rodgers. He then left his position to take an ambassadorial role with the club.

Who do you think is the best free transfer in Premier League history? Comment below!

Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 – Visit my blog The Beautiful Game for more


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