Top 10 Free Transfers In Football Of All Time

#10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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This is by far the most transfer on the list but really deserves credit. He may be 34 years old but the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has excited everyone at Manchester United and can be considered quite a coup for the club. The Swedish forward arrived in Manchester in the summer of 2016 on a free transfer from PSG. Ibrahimovic spent four seasons at the Parisian club, winning four Ligue 1 titles. He scored an incredible 156 goals during his four seasons for the club including 50 in 51 matches last season, by far his best goalscoring season as a professional footballer.

#9. Steve McManaman

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He’s one of the few British players to play for a foreign team and be considered a success and Steve McManaman played for one of the biggest ones in the world. In 1997 Liverpool were growing anxious that one of their key players Steve McManaman would leave the club on a free transfer when his contract expired a few years later. They accepted an £11 million bid from Barcelona for the player but an agreement could not be reached. McManaman was named Liverpool captain but still left the English club for Real Madrid in 1999. He spent four seasons at the club, scoring fourteen goals and helping Los Blancos to two Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles.

#8. Cesc Fabregas

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He is the youngest player on the list to make his move when he did. In 2003 Arsenal were scouting out FC Barcelona’s youth teams at La Masia and were eager to sign a number of players. Moves for Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique could not be finalised but an agreement was reached for a young midfielder called Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard was influenced by the prospect of first team football at Highbury and left for England at the age of 16. He played in the League Cup in his debut season and was a first team player by the age of 17. Fabregas went on to captain The Gunners and make over 300 appearances before his departure to Barcelona in 2011.

#7. Ian Wright

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The original Jamie Vardy was Ian Wright. The forward was 22 when he signed for his first professional club and it was that transfer to Crystal Palace which finds a place on this list. Wright had trials at a number of youth teams but failed to impress enough to secure a permanent contract. That changed when he impressed Crystal Palace scout while playing for non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. He went on to score over 100 goals for The Eagles and was named as the club’s Player of the Century. Wright was sold to Arsenal in 1991 for a then-club record fee of £2.5 million where he scored 185 goals for The Gunners.

#6. Robert Lewandowski

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This is one of the most controversial signings on the list. Borussia Dortmund upset all the odds and secured back-to-back Bundesliga title victories over rivals Bayern Munich. In 2013, just a year after the second of those successes, and star player Mario Gotze announced he would be leaving Dortmund for Bayern. One season later and Robert Lewandowski announced he would be doing the same in a free transfer. The Polish forward has since become one of the most lethal strikers on the planet, helping Bayern to consecutive Bundesliga titles. Lewandowski has scored an average of two goals every three matches for Bayern in his two seasons at the club.

#5. Henrik Larsson

Barcelona player Henrik Larsson, from Sweden, celebrates his goal against Alaves during a Spanish league soccer match in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Swedish forward Henrik Larsson spent the best years of his career at Celtic but left the club in 2004 following the expiration of his contract. The striker was coming to the end of his career when he made the move to Camp Nou but still had enough left in the tank to help his new team out. His first season in Spain did not go well. Larsson suffered a serious injury and a loss of form which kept him out the first team but he certainly delivered in his second. Larsson came on as a sub in the 2006 Champions League final. Barcelona were losing 1-0 to Arsenal but the Swede set up two goals and his side won 2-1.

#4. Andrea Pirlo

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Another aged player who made a career resurgence after a free transfer is Andrea Pirlo. The Italian midfielder is one of the most beloved midfielders of the past few decades and spent ten incredibly successful seasons with AC Milan. He helped his side win two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles during that time before agreeing to leave the club following the expiration of his contract in 2011. He agreed to join Juventus and went on to become a huge success at the club. He helped Juventus to four consecutive Serie A titles and even reached the 2015 Champions League final with his team.

#3. Sol Campbell

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Never mind Lewandowski’s move, this transfer is by far the most controversial on the list. Mario Gotze set a precedent when he switched from Dortmund to Bayern but for this departure there absolutely was not one. The rivalry was fiercer and the player was more important. Sol Campbell shocked the football world when he made the incredible move from Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal in the summer of 2001. Campbell became an instant traitor at White Hart Lane and few players have received such a hostile response as the defender did he returned to the Lane with his new Arsenal teammates. The move worked out well for Campbell who was a part of the 2003-4 Arsenal Invincibles team.

#2. Esteban Cambiasso

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Esteban Cambiasso made the familiar route into European football from South America by moving to Spain. The Argentinean midfielder played for Independiente and River Plate before signing for Real Madrid in 2002. Cambiasso was actually a youth player at Madrid before he spent time in his native Argentina. However the midfielder elected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu when his contract with the club expired in 2004. He joined Inter Milan and went on to spend ten seasons at the club. Cambiasso established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world, helping his club to an impressive run of success. Cambiasso won the Champions League and five Serie A titles during his time in Italy before his departure in 2014.

#1. Paul Pogba

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He’ll make the return journey soon it what is effectively the most expensive loan deal of all time. Paul Pogba has spent a career in the spotlight. He signed for Manchester United as a youth produce in 2009 in a move which sparked controversy. United received intense criticism from former club Le Havre over their conduct in the deal which should have been a sign of things to come. Pogba progressed well and was eager to break into the United first team but ultimately failed to. He moved to Juventus in 2012 when his contract at Old Trafford expired and has spent the past four seasons developing into one of the best young players on the planet. He is due to return to Manchester United in the coming weeks in a world record deal which is quite the mark-up on the free transfer.