Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his heroics for Manchester United during Sunday’s EFL Cup final victory over Southampton and it led to many questioning whether he was the Premier League’s best ever free transfer. There have been a number of class acts in England who have joined clubs on a free though and some have achieved great success.
The striker only has the EFL Cup trophy in his cabinet from his time in England so far but he could add the Europa League and the FA Cup to his collection before the end of the season. Some of these names have silverware in abundance but who comes out on top?
5) Gary McAllister
Liverpool have made a number of successful free transfers in recent years including Joel Matip from Schlake this summer. Vice-captain James Milner has also been a great addition but McAllister’s move in 2000 proved to be an inspired one. Under Gerard Houllier, he went on to notch up 55 appearances in midfield for the Reds and was a terrific player – helping to guide Steven Gerrard to heroics. He was an important member of the side which went on to win the UEFA Cup in 2001, picking up the Man of the Match award. He added a further four trophies to his collection too, including the treble in 2001.
4) Gareth Barry
The Everton midfielder was named the club’s Player of the Season in 2015-16 which goes some way in demonstrating his impact at Goodison Park. Barry initially joined the club on loan from Manchester City before sealing a permanent deal on a free and he has become a stalwart in their midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin’s move from Manchester United will undoubtedly move him into the background but at the age of 36, he has been a hugely valuable addition in midfield.
3) Michael Ballack
He was already a world-class legend with Bayern Munich and he had captained his country on the biggest stages in world football. When he joined Chelsea at the age of 29 everyone was bursting with excitement to see what he could do and he didn’t disappoint. He proved to be a fantastic addition under Jose Mourinho and he went on to win the Premier League and three FA Cups during his time in England. He left Chelsea in 2010 before announcing his retirement following a brief spell with Bayer Leverkusen.
2) Sol Campbell
Unlike many of his rivals, Campbell had already made a name for himself in the Premier League with Tottenham. He was a solid centre-back and a senior figure of Spurs’ side before he made the controversial switch to their biggest north London rivals. Campbell’s decision to join Arsenal on a free didn’t go down well with fans at all but he soon became a central figure at Highbury and went on to pick up two Premier League winner’s medals, as well as two FA Cups. He was part of the “Invincibles” side which went unbeaten in the 2003-4 season too and will forever be remembered as an Arsenal legend. He was also one of the best England centre-backs of the decade.
1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
There was some tough competition but despite only being in the Premier League for just under eight months, Ibrahimovic has already been a huge hit at Manchester United. The striker has scored 26 goals in all competitions since joining from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and he is currently just two goals behind the Premier League’s top goalscorer with 15 goals in 24 appearances. At the age of 35, he has surpassed all expectations and he’s already scored some important goals for the club including the late winner against Southampton in Sunday’s EFL Cup final and a crucial goal against Blackburn in the FA Cup earlier this month. He will be the player United will depend upon if they hope to achieve Champions League qualification and he could be the man to deliver the title to Old Trafford next season…