Remembering when Bolton Wanderers assembled their Galacticos for absolutely nothing

For two transfer windows Sam Allardyce worked his contact book to secure some of the best free transfers in Premier League history

If Sam Allardyce was actually named Samuel Allarydcé he’d be manager of Spain with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus on his CV.

As it is, plain old Big Sam had to settle for Blackburn, Sunderland, Bolton and a one-game stint with England.

‘I said you buy one, you get one free’

But that didn’t stop Allardyce building his own version of Madrid’s Galacticos while managing Bolton.

The best part of it all? He spent absolutely nothing putting it all together.

Walk with us down memory lane and reminisce back to the transfer windows, between 2002 and 2004, in which Allardyce worked more magic than a used car salesman at a scrapyard.

Tashe and tan

Ronaldinho’s idol

Jay-Jay Okocha arrived at Bolton from PSG, where the emergence of a young Ronaldinho had seen the 28-year-old become available.

Ronaldinho was sufficiently impressed with Okoacha to label him one of the few no.10s he admires, and it wasn’t long before the Nigerian’s flicks and tricks were captivating Bolton fans.

For four years he embarrassed the great and good of the Premier League, with Ray Parlour on the receiving end of a particularly jaw dropping piece of skill. Not bad for a free transfer.

You’re going to need a bigger wall

Double Champions League winner

Ivan Campo pitched up at Bolton on a season-long loan just months after winning a second Champions League trophy with Real Madrid.

Fans instantly took a liking to the Spaniard because of his afro and belly, but it turned out the lad could play a bit.

He signed a three-year deal to stay at Bolton after deciding it was nicer than Madrid. Who are we to argue with a La Liga winner?

Campo took little time adjusting to the English game

European Golden Boot

There was a time when the European Golden Boot wasn’t just won by Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez.

Yes, dear friends, it was won by the likes of Mario Jardel, who scored 42 goals in one season for Sporting before realising that until you’ve proved yourself at Bolton you aren’t a top, top player.

The Brazilian was only 29 when he arrived but scored just three goals in 11 games for Allardyce’s side, two of which came against Walsall. European Golden Fraud.

Deadly (against Walsall)

Serie A winner

Ibrahim Ba was destined for great things when he started playing for Le Havre as a 17-year-old.

His career path was heading the right way, from Bordeaux to Milan, with a sprinkling of French caps, before injuries struck.

That didn’t put Allardyce off taking a gamble in 2003, although it didn’t pay off and a year later he was sold to Turkey. Can’t blame Sam for trying.

Ba was a hard man to impress. Not even bicycle kicks could make him smile

Greek Footballer of the Year

You might not realise it, but the Greek Footballer of the Year is the one they all want to win. Yep, even Lionel.

In 2003 Stelios Giannakopoulos was crowned the Best Greek Player, before hot footing it to Adonis Allardyce.

By the start of his second season in England Stelios was a European Champion, having been part of Greece’s Euro 2004 squad.

The Battle of the Bald

Future England international

The least glamorous of Allardyce’s bargain Galacticos came in the shape of burly target man Kevin Davies, a 26-year-old free transfer from Southampton.

He’d become one of Bolton’s greatest servants, staying for ten years and entering the pantheon of England one cap wonders after playing against Montenegro.

In true fashion the Premier League’s biggest (Robbie) fouler picked up a yellow card despite playing just 21 minutes.


Never trust a striker with a clean shirt