Bargains! 11 of football's best free transfers EVER
Raul (Real Madrid to Schalke, 2010)
Raul fell out of favour in the Spanish capital in 2009/10, the Real Madrid legend starting only eight games in La Liga as Cristiano Ronaldo established himself as the club’s new figurehead.
Schalke were only too happy to provide the striker with a new home when it became clear he wouldn’t be renewing his contract at the Bernabeu – and Raul duly repaid their faith by spearheading the German side’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2011, and third-place finish in the Bundesliga a year later.
Andrea Pirlo (Milan to Juventus, 2011)
Juventus’s appointment of Antonio Conte in 2011 marked the start of the Bianconeri’s recent monopolisation of Serie A glory, but the acquisition of Pirlo from Milan that same summer was arguably more representative of the power shift in Italian football.
Deemed surplus to requirements at San Siro after 10 years of service, the string-puller supreme was free to join the Rossoneri’s domestic rivals for nothing. It proved to be a significant error of judgement from Milan, who were forced to watch Pirlo and Juve scoop four successive championships before the playmaker’s move to New York City FC in 2015.
“When Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was: ‘God exists’,” Gigi Buffon later remarked.
Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich to Lazio, 2011)
Anyone who’s watched a World Cup in the last 17 years will be aware of Klose’s scoring prowess, but Lazio supporters could have been forgiven for thinking the German goal machine was past his best when he rocked up in Rome on the day of his 33rd birthday.
Any doubters were soon silenced, though: the striker had a hand in five of the six goals Lazio netted on his debut, with the Poland-born hitman going on to strike an injury-time winner against Roma that October. Klose ended his career in 2016 as the club’s joint-highest all-time non-Italian scorer.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United to Juventus, 2012)
On a purely financial level, this must rank as one of the greatest free transfers of all time: after signing Pogba for zilch in 2012, Juventus sold him back to Manchester United for a world-record fee of £89m four years later.
The fact that the Frenchman also offered so much on the pitch, developing into one of the world’s finest midfielders and playing a huge part in four trophy-laden seasons in Turin, made the deal even sweeter.
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, 2014)
Lewandowski did exactly that, and he hasn’t looked back since: the Pole has bagged 191 goals in 242 appearances for Bayern so far.
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