Long ago, players were unable to join other clubs unless their current ones allowed them to, even if their contracts had expired. As a result, some players missed the chance to join a better team while some lost out on lucrative contracts and there was hardly anything they could do about it. This was to change however, after one player finally had enough.
Jean-Marc Bosman played for RFC Liege in the Belgian First Division and after his contract had expired in 1990, he wanted to join the French side Dunkerque. Liege however refused to let him leave after the French team refused to meet their transfer fee demand. Things got even worse for Bosman who saw his wages reduced as he was no longer a first-team player. He thus decided to take his case to court. On December 15, 1995, the European Court of Justice ruled that the transfer system placed a restriction on the free movement of workers and EU players were thus allowed to join other clubs at the end of their contracts without a transfer fee, provided that both former and future clubs were within an EU Association. Furthermore, players could agree a pre-contract with another club for a free transfer so long as the contract with their existing club has six months or less remaining. The ruling also removed quotas that restricted the number of EU players on each team.
Despite its benefits to players, the ruling proved disadvantageous to clubs, which were sometimes forced to part with their high profile players for no profits. Several players have taken advantage of the ruling and while some leave because they’ve been released by their clubs, others choose not to renew their contract in order to join a new one. Here are the top 15 Bosman moves in football.
15 Edwin van der Sar - Ajax to Juventus
When Van der Sar joined Juventus in 1999 after a long and successful stint at Ajax, he became their first non-Italian goalkeeper. This was after he’d established a reputation as one of Europe’s top goalkeepers and even piqued the interest of Manchester United who were looking for a replacement for Peter Schmeichel.
14 Gianluca Vialli - Juventus to Chelsea
13 Miroslav Klose - Bayern Munich to Lazio
12 Henrik Larsson - Celtic to Barcelona
11 Phillip Cocu - PSV Eindhoven to Barcelona
10 Jay-Jay Okocha - Paris Saint-Germain to Bolton
9 Gary McAllister - Coventry to Liverpool
8 Michael Ballack - Bayern Munich to Chelsea
7 Steve McManaman - Liverpool to Real Madrid
6 Sol Campbell - Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal
Controversial is how the centre back’s move from Tottenham to their north London rivals in 2001 can be described. He had after all stated that he would never play for Arsenal. Despite being labelled ‘Judas’ by Spurs fans who hated him for the rest of his career, he has maintained that he doesn’t regret his decision.
5 Esteban Cambiasso - Real Madrid to Inter Milan/Inter Milan to Leicester City
Inter Milan had Real Madrid’s Galactico policy to thank for Cambiasso’s availability in 2004. The midfielder’s decade at Inter Milan saw him win five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias and the UEFA Champions League. He played a key role in the 2010 Champions League victory as Inter became one of the few teams to win the elusive treble.
4 Cafu - Roma to AC Milan
3 Roberto Baggio - AC Milan to Bologna/Inter Milan to Brescia
2 Robert Lewandowski - Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich
1 Andrea Pirlo - AC Milan to Juventus
In 2011, AC Milan decided not to renew Andrea Pirlo’s contract enabling Juventus to sign him on a free transfer. Milan had just won the Serie A title and Pirlo whose appearances in the team had been reduced was thought to be past his best. The best was yet to come however for while Milan declined, Pirlo helped Juventus win four consecutive Serie A titles.
While at Juventus, Pirlo cemented his reputation as a free kick specialist and one of the world’s best midfielders before moving to MLS club New York City FC. It’s not hard to see why Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon described Pirlo’s transfer as the signing of the century and Milan probably agree, ruefully that is.
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