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Best Free Transfers of the 21st Century

At the closing end of the 2021/22 winter transfer window, we looked at some of the best free signings since 2001.

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan –> Juventus)

The departure of Andrea Pirlo from AC Milan did not look so much a wrong decision as he had proved it to be. The world-class Italian legend went on to play 164 games for Lazio and won 4 League titles in his 4 seasons there.

(Photo by Daniele Badolato – Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images)

Sol Campbell (Tottenham –> Arsenal)

Sneaky move to your arch-rivals, but both Campbell and Arsenal benefitted from this move significantly. Campbell became part of the historically famous ‘Invincibles’ season with Arsenal and left the North London club with 2 Premier League titles and 2 FA Cup medals, and probably many haters as well.

Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund –> Bayern Munich)

Showing no remorse or any sign of loyalty, Lewandowski refused to sign a new contract, and as a result, found himself on the other side of the German title race. His career at his rivals has more than flourished, needless of any introduction or description. He has more trophies; individual and team, than most players have goals. 

Lewandowski dramatically breaks Muller's record on day of farewells
(Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images)

James Milner (Manchester City –> Liverpool)

Assuming James Milner was coming towards the end of his footballing career, Manchester City let the experience-packed all-rounder move to Premier League rivals, Liverpool, where he is still playing today. He can play any position on the pitch and has the best cardiovascular fitness in the entire reds’ squad. Fun fact – Liverpool have never lost a game in which Milner has scored.

Miroslav Klose (Bayern –> Lazio)

German international and footballing sensation, Klose, was miraculous for both club and country; however, the German league leaders let him go on a free transfer for a rebuild. Assuming he was a finished player, he did a decent job scoring 64 goals in 170 games and becoming the joint highest scorer in 5 years. 

Paul Pogba (Manchester United –> Juventus)

A young player who wasn’t given a chance was all the fame Pogba had achieved at United. Little did they know, they had a raw gem in their hands, which they gifted to Juventus for free. At Juventus, the French international won 4 League titles and 2 Italian Super Cups, and after some successful years, he was sold for a stunning £80m.

(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich –> Chelsea)

After much success at Bayern, it was surprising to see Ballack leave the German giants, especially on a free. He joined a star-struck Chelsea side and excelled for the blues in flying colours. In 4 years, he made 144 appearances and left with 2 FA Cups, a League Cup, and a Premier League title to his name.

Raul (Real Madrid –> Schalke)

After 18 years at Real Madrid, Raul was allowed to leave on a free transfer considering he was 33 years old and coming towards the latter stages of his career. However, his spell at Schalke showed no signs of his age, where he managed to get 44 goals in 98 appearances.

(Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

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