As the January transfer window approaches, Premier League clubs will be on the lookout for the best deals available to strengthen their sides for the second half of the season.
And as the decade closes, it gives us the opportunity to look at the best Premier League freebies from the past 10 years. Our list includes a certain Champions League winner moving to Leicester and Manchester United snapping up one of the decade’s best strikers.
You can find all of our January transfer window specials here.
James Milner – Manchester City to Liverpool (June 2015)
James Milner left Manchester City having won all domestic trophies for the Citizens, and at 29 years old with plenty of experience he was an enticing prospect for major clubs all across Europe. Liverpool decided to snap up Mr. Reliable and he was made vice-captain of the club not long after. Fast forward four and a half years and Milner is now a Champions League winner and on course to win another Premier League title if the Reds can hold their nerve at the top of the table. An outstanding free signing.
James Milner scores for a 50th time in the #PremierLeague as a Liverpool player and the Reds haven’t lost a single one of those games.
— GrosvenorSport (@GrosvenorSport) December 5, 2018
Esteban Cambiasso – Inter Milan to Leicester (August 2014)
Leicester? Signing a Champions League winner? For FREE?! The Foxes did just that when Argentinian international Esteban Cambiasso signed for Nigel Pearson’s promoted side in August 2014. He made an immediate impact and scored an equaliser in a 5-3 win over Manchester United at the King Power. He went on to have a solid season as the Foxes stayed up and Cambiasso won the club’s Player of the Year award.
Samuel Eto’o – Inter Milan to Chelsea (August 2013)
Chelsea chased Samuel Eto’o for years before he finally signed at Stamford Bridge in August 2013 for free from Anzhi Makhachkala. While he only played 35 games, he notched 12 goals in that time. There might have been more successful free transfers, but with a name like Eto’o, he has to be in there doesn’t he?
Dema Ba – West Ham to Newcastle (January 2011)
Demba Ba was only at Newcastle for two years after joining for West Ham on a free, but it was a special time in the north-east for the Senegalese striker. He scored 29 goals in 54 Premier League games and helped the Magpies earn fifth position in the table, before leaving for Chelsea for £7 million.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG to Manchester United (July 2016)
Reputations don’t come much bigger than Zlatan Ibrihamovic’s, and when Jose Mourinho brought him to Old Trafford for nothing in the summer of 2016, he didn’t disappoint. During a transitional period in which Manchester United were recovering, the 34-year-old Swede scored an impressive 28 goals in his debut season – rubbing it in the faces of those who said he was too old to cut it in England’s top flight.
"When you come to New York you have the Statue of Liberty, when you come to Sweden you have the Statue of Zlatan."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming out with yet another gem of a quote.
— GrosvenorSport (@GrosvenorSport) October 8, 2019
William Gallas – Arsenal to Tottenham (August 2010)
Tottenham fans were livid when Sol Campbell signed for their bitter rivals Arsenal in 2001, but they got their own back in a lesser fashion when Gunners centre-back William Gallas chose to sign for them at the start of this decade in 2010. Gallas made 61 appearances for Spurs and captained the club on several occasions before injury curtailed his time in north London.
Mathieu Flamini – AC Milan to Arsenal (August 2013)
Arsene Wenger knows what he likes, and he decided to re-sign Mathieu Flamini five years after he left the Emirates for AC Milan. It might not have been the most glamorous of signings, but Flamini gave the Gunners much-needed stability in a young side, and he played his part in helping them win two FA Cups in his second spell at the club.
Joshua King – Bournemouth Blackburn to Bournemouth (May 2018)
It feels like there’s still much more to come from Joshua King at Bournemouth, but it’s incredible to think he was signed for zilch back in May 2018 from Blackburn after a disappointing spell at Rovers. He joined the Cherries in their first season in the Premier League and has a decent return of 44 goals in England’s top flight. As we say, more to come from the Norwegian, but a good signing.
Tom Heaton – Bristol City to Burnley (May 2013)
Tom Heaton may have been disappointed not to have made the grade at Manchester United as a youngster, but he had big competition and always needed to leave to reach his full potential. Bristol City were used as a stepping stone to Burnley where he then made 200 appearances and became a fans favourite before leaving for Aston Villa for £8 million.
Marc Albrighton – Aston Villa to Leicester (May 2014)
Leicester took a risk-free chance of Marc Albrighton by signing him from Aston Villa for free in 2014. But the wide man was integral to the Foxes during their Premier League winning year, and he will cherish that medal while going down in history at the King Power.