If you thought we had drained every last morsel out of decade-related videos then you would be wrong. Today, on New Year’s Eve, ahead of tomorrow’s video looking at my view on the best XI over the course of the entire decade, we’re going to take a look at some of the best free transfer signing completed since 2010.
Credit to Jezza on Twitter who sent in this one, and if you have any other video ideas, as always leave them in the comments and like those suggestions which you think would be good so as to let me know which ones people are most eager to see.
Free transfers have always been a fantastic tool for both cash-strapped sides and European giants, and the 2010’s have been no exception. I’ve tried to base my rankings on the significance of the signing as well as the raw talent of the player signed, which is why players like Dani Alves and Sami Khedira miss out in favour of arguably lesser-talented but more significant arrivals.
Here are my views on 7 of the best free transfer signings this decade:
7. Demba Ba
Getting us started in the seven, Demba Ba may have featured even higher if he hadn’t had such a low release clause at Newcastle United. The Magpies picked Ba up on a free after he scored 7 goals in 12 games in a relegated West Ham side, and he continued his rich vein of form at St James’ Park. The Senegalese marksman found the back of the net 29 times in 58 games during just a season-and-a-half in the north-east, before Chelsea successfully activated his release clause. That means Newcastle only received a reported £7 million for the striker, but it was nice while it lasted and that’s still a decent return for a player you signed for nothing.
Spanish legend Raul Gonzalez is of course best associated with the 16 years he spent at Real Madrid, where he ranks first in the all time appearance charts and second to only Cristiano Ronaldo in the all time scoring charts. A fantastic forward, following his departure from Real in 2010, Raul still had plenty to offer. Schalke realised that and signed the veteran frontman on a free transfer, with Raul going on to bag 40 goals in 98 games in two seasons in the Bundesliga. He had no sell-on value but he helped Schalke to a third place finish, and deservedly takes sixth as far as I’m concerned.
5. Esteban Cambiasso
The only player in this seven who only spent a single season with a club, I’ve probably got some explaining to do here. Esteban Cambiasso joined a then newly-promoted Leicester City side in 2014 from Inter Milan on a free transfer, and he was named as the club’s Player of the Year as they staged a great escape. Although he left for Olympiacos the following season, Leicester went on to win a Premier League title the following season and are now candidates for a Champions League place. Without Cambiasso, Leicester almost certainly would have gone down that season, and instead of title winners and top four hopefuls, they may just have been playing second tier football since 2014.
4. Miroslav Klose
Following 53 goals in 149 games for Bayern Munich, German legend Miroslav Klose was released by the Bavarians in 2011. On the verge of turning 33, some may have thought Klose’s best days were behind him, but not Lazio. The Italians signed Klose on a free, and he saw out the rest of his playing days at the Stadio Olimpico. Always more formidable at international than club level, Klose is Germany and the World Cup’s all time leading goal scorer, but he enjoyed some of the best football of his career in Rome. He scored 63 goals in 170 games, helping the club to two top four finishes and winning the Coppa Italia in 2013.
3. James Milner
There are a fair few Liverpool fans who would send me death threats if James Milner didn’t feature in this seven, but he takes third place on merit and not through any fear of retribution I assure you. The 33-year-old, who has now been playing Premier League football for more than half his life, found himself out of contract back in 2015. Milner had spent the last five seasons at Manchester City, and Liverpool were so keen to sign him that they made him their best paid player at the time. There were plenty of critics of the move, but four-and-a-half seasons and more than 200 appearances later, Milner has proven himself to be an excellent addition. He has played in just about every position and has always done so with a faultless attitude and a tremendous work rate, and he’s still an important player now in a quite incredible side.
2. Andrea Pirlo
AC Milan letting Andrea Pirlo leave on a free transfer should serve as a warning to clubs everywhere that age is just a number. The 2006 World Cup winner was 32 at the time, and he’d just helped AC Milan win the Serie A title, his ninth trophy in a decade at the San Siro. He joined Juventus in a move Gianluigi Buffon called the ‘signing of the century’, and Juventus have won every league title since, whilst AC Milan have failed to even finish in the top four. Pirlo isn’t the only reason behind that, but he was a major factor, and he played 164 games in four seasons in Turin as the brains behind a brilliant Juventus side.
1. Robert Lewandowski
Among the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make on this channel, Robert Lewandowski is undoubtedly the finest free transfer signing of the last decade, and one of the finest of all time. Poland’s all time leading goal scorer and the third highest scorer in the history of the Bundesliga, Lewandowski was already considered among the finest centre-forwards on the planet when he joined Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer. A player of his calibre, aged 25 at the time, would cost you in excess of £100 million under normal circumstances. Bayern’s recruitment of the Pole was daylight robbery, and so it has proved. Lewandowski has scored 221 goals in 267 games in Bavaria, including 30 in 25 so far this season, which looks likely to be the most prolific of his career to date.