The soccer world was turned on its head on this day in soccer history when the Bosman Ruling was handed down by the European Court of Justice in 1995. The ruling allowed players out of contract to move freely between clubs which has become known as Bosman Free Transfers.
In 1990 an out-of-contract Bosman was trying to move on from RFC Liege in the Belgian Jupiler League for Dunkerque in France but was denied when the clubs could not agree on a transfer fee leaving the then 26-year-old on the bench and out of favor at Liege. The 5-years in the court system ultimately sided with the benched Bosman and other players like him have since taken the initiative and moved on to a new club.
Bosman Free Transfer Starting XI
Brad Friedel – Liverpool to Blackburn 2000
The United States is best known for their goalkeepers so it is only fitting to include Brad Friedel in net on the Bosman Starting XI. After spending 3 years and making 25 appearances for Liverpool, Friedel signed with Blackburn Rovers in 2000 and helped the club earn promotion back the Premier League. He made 257 appearances for the club and helped them become a steady mid-table side in the EPL.
Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal 2001
One of the most acrimonious moves off all-time came when Sol Campbell decided his title chances were better with Arsenal than Tottenham and made the move across London with new transfer fee. The defender went on to prove the decision a good one as he helped the Gunners to 2 league titles including the invincibles run and regular Champions League action. He was never allowed to live it down at White Hart Lane, however, as fans would chant ‘Judas’ anytime he played against Spurs. Surprising for the times, Campbell never commanded a transfer fee moving on Bosman Free transfers to Portsmouth, Notts County, and Newcastle.
Markus Babbel – Bayern Munich to Liverpool 2000
Babbel was considered one of the best defenders in the world while playing for Bayern Munich. Manchester United put in a £5 million bid after the Euro 1996 but it fell through. After moving to Liverpool, Babbel helped the Reds to a treble in 2000/01 but his career was sidelined when contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 2001.
Cafu – AS Roma to AC Milan 2003
The Brazilian international played 6 seasons for AS Roma and helped the side to the 2001 Scudetto. It was while at Roma that he became known for devastatingly joining the attack up the right flank and nicknamed Il Pendolino ‘The Express Train’ by the fans. Despite his love for the club he moved to AC Milan after turning down a move to Japan. He won another Scudetto in 2004 as well as a UEFA Champions League title in 2005.
Phillip Cocu – PSV Eindhoven to Barcelona 1998
After a successful career at PSV Eindhoven and with a long list of suitors that included Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, and Lazio, Cocu opted to join the club he supported as a child, Barcelona. He joined Louis van Gaal’s Dutch revolution at the club and made more appearances, 291, than any other foreign player at the time, and helped them win a La Liga title.
Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan to Juventus 2011
AC Milan was flying high after winning a first Serie A title in 7 years in 2011 and the success must have gone to their heads because rather than re-sign the FIFA World Cup winning playmaker, Pirlo, the allowed him to leave on a free transfer to join rivals Juventus. The 32-year-old made the Rossoneri pay by helping the Old Lady to 4 consecutive Scudetti before
David Beckham – Real Madrid to Los Angeles Galaxy 2007
The Bosman Rule allowed David Beckham to make a headline grabbing move from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and establish his own namesake rule, the Beckham Rule, although more accurately called the Designated Player Rule. After making his name at Manchester United (and by marrying Posh Spice), Beckham moved to Real Madrid but as his contract winded down the midfielder delayed signing a new contract after being dropped by manager Fabio Capello. Beckham had the last laugh after signing a $6.5 million a year contract with MLS he worked his way back in the Real line-up and was big part of the side winning the La Liga title in his final year.
Michael Ballack – Bayern Munich to Chelsea 2006
The best Bosman Free Transfers are the ones that make the fans angry and Michael Ballack’s decision not to re-sign with Bayern Munich, who let’s face it usually get what they want in Germany, and move to Chelsea. He rejected opportunities at Real Madrid and Manchester United to move to Stamford Bridge. During his 4-year career with the Blues, he won a Premier League title, 3 FA Cups, League Cup, and runners-up medal in the UEFA Champions League.
Steven McManaman – Liverpool to Real Madrid 1999
McManaman’s departure from Liverpool was drawn out over 2 years starting in 1997 as the club tried to re-sign the midfielder but he continued to hold off. The Reds agreed to a £12 million bid from Barcelona hoping to avoid McManaman on a free transfer but that fell through. A year before his Liverpool contract expired, the midfielder stated his desire to play abroad and in January 1999 had signed a pre-contract with Real Madrid. He became a fan favorite in Madrid and helped the side win 2 La Liga titles and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.
Honorable Mention: Gary McAllister (Leeds United to Liverpool, 2000), Jay-Jay Okocha (Paris Saint Germain to Bolton Wanderers, 2002), Esteban Cambiasso (Real Madrid to Inter, 2004 and Leicester City to Galatasaray in 2014), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid to Juventus, 2015), Luis Enrique (Real Madrid to Barcelona, 1996), Paul Pogba (Manchester United to Juventus, 2012)
Roberto Baggio – AC Milan to Bologna 1997
Roberto Baggio is one of the best players in the history of the game. He won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or in 1993 and was a key in the success of the Italian national team in the 1990’s. But the forward found himself out of favor at Juventus after the arrival of Alessandro del Piero. He was sold to AC Milan but never found his form and after 2 seasons Milan was happy to send him on his way to Bologna. In his 1 season with Bologna, ‘the Divine Ponytail’ scored 22 Serie A goals and earned a place back on the Azzurri.
Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich 2014
Lewandowski was a key to Borussia Dortmund’s run to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12 but knew his future was with another club. He held off signing a new contract and in January 2014 he signed a pre-contract agreement with Bayern Munich which saw him grabbed by the Bundesliga power club for no fee. The final half of the season was no doubt painful with Dortmund’s top player already signing his allegiance with another club.
Honorable Mention – Henrik Larsson (Celtic to Barcelona 2004), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich to Lazio 2011), Gianluca Vialli (Juventus to Chelsea, 1996)