Campbell, Messi, Lewandowski: The biggest and best football free transfers

Kylian Mbappe’s move to Real Madrid on a free transfer has finally been confirmed.

While PSG do not get a transfer fee for the 25-year-old after running his contract down, technically making the transfer a free one, the sizable sign-on fee Real Madrid are paying Mbappe means it is far from it in reality.

But what are some of the greatest ‘free’ transfers to have ever taken place? Here are some of those which worked out incredibly well…

Sol Campbell – Tottenham to Arsenal

One of the most controversial transfers of all time. Campbell infamously claimed he would stay at Spurs before backtracking and signing for the Gunners, who went on to win two Premier League titles with the club and has gone down as one of their best ever defenders.

Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan to Juventus

The iconic midfielder left AC Milan to join big rivals Juventus in 2011 on a free transfer, where he would win the league four times in four seasons for the club and became a legend in Turin.

Lionel Messi – Barcelona to PSG

Messi’s spell at PSG did not go as well as anticipated but it is still nonetheless one of the biggest and most surprising transfers, let alone free transfers, in football history. A lack of funds at the Catalan club meant he had to leave his boyhood side and went on to win another Ballon D’Or as well as two league titles with the French side.

Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich

Dortmund’s resistance when it came to letting Lewandowski leave eventually resulted in him joining Bayern for free in 2014. He won a remarkable eight straight Bundesliga titles with the club, as well as the Champions League in 2020, scoring an amazing 344 goals across his time in Munich.

Esteban Cambiasso – Real Madrid to Inter Milan

The Argentine midfielder’s move to Inter would result in a ten-year spell at the club filled with enormous success. He won five league titles on the bounce, four Coppa Italia trophies and the Champions League in one of the best periods in their history.

Paul Pogba – Manchester United to Juventus

After failing to break into the first team at United, Pogba made the move to Italy where he quickly became one of the world’s best young midfielders and won four Serie A titles before United decided to pay a whopping £89m to buy him back. He would never hit the heights he did at Juve, however.

Michael Ballack – Bayern Munich to Chelsea

Chelsea pulled off a coup to get the three-time German Football of the Year on a free transfer in 2006. Ballack enjoyed a fine spell at the club, winning two league titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup too with his presence in midfield proving to be a big part of that success.

Cafu – Roma to AC Milan

The legendary Brazilian right-back was coming to the end of his career when he joined AC Milan but still had plenty left to offer, winning a league title and the Champions League during his five-year spell with the Rossoneri.

Thiago Silva – PSG to Chelsea

The veteran defender has not had a great past couple of years at Chelsea but his arrival had a huge impact at the club, helping them to win the Champions League in 2021 with his leadership at the back.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG to Man Utd

One of the greatest strikers of his generation joined Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in 2016, scoring 17 Premier League goals while helping the club to the Europa League and League Cup double.

Joel Matip – Schalke to Liverpool

Matip’s arrival at the club on a free transfer in 2016 would see him become a crucial cog in the Jurgen Klopp machine with his consistent performances at centre-back, winning a Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League during his time in Merseyside.

David Alaba – Bayern Munich to Real Madrid

Alaba’s transfer to Real Madrid saw the Spanish giants get one of the best defenders in the world for free. His role has perhaps been slightly smaller than originally expected, but he has still helped the club to two league titles and two Champions League trophies since joining.

Henrik Larsson – Celtic to Barcelona

After a trophy-laden time at Celtic, Larsson headed over to Spain to join Barcelona where he would play a big role in winning the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal, setting up both goals in the victory.

James Milner – Man City to Liverpool

Milner’s steady presence, versatility, work-rate and experience was crucial for the Reds after arriving from Man City and proved to be a big part of the success they had under Klopp.

Gianluca Vialli – Juventus to Chelsea

Vialli was brought to the club by Ruud Gullit, another free transfer, when he was player-manager and would then go on to assume the role himself before retiring to focus fully on the latter part of the job. His goals helped Chelsea to an FA Cup and League Cup before winning another FA Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup as manager.

FEATURED IMAGE: Christof Stache/Getty Images via One Football

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