Thanks to a man called Jean-Marc Bosman football clubs don’t always have to spend big to get players through the door.
The humble free transfer become a powerful tool for players and clubs alike. But what happens when it’s time to move on again?
As the following seven players show, if you get it right there’s room to make massive profits on your investment.
Paul Pogba- Juventus to Man United for £89million
The ultimate one that got away served with a cool side dish of humble pie.
Pogba realised his time was up at United when Rafael and Park Ji-Sung were picked to play in midfield instead of the Frenchman.
Four years after leaving for Juventus he was back in Manchester as the world’s most expensive player. Profit in the bank for Juventus.
Lilian Thuram- Parma to Juventus for £35million
Parma picked Thuram up from Monaco for absolutely nothing before selling him on to Juventus for major profit five years later.
How much would he be worth in the modern game? Probably not much more than Michael Keane. (Troll Face)
Gabriel Batistuta- Fiorentina to Roma for £31million
Batigol’s rise to becoming one of Europe’s most prolific strikers wasn’t a particularly smooth one.
He played for Newell’s Old Boys, River Plate and Boca Juniors before making his way to Europe, at which point the touch paper was very much lit.
Fiorentina got a £31mil profit on their investment when they sold Batistuta to Roma, having got nine stellar seasons out of the Argentinian.
Juan Mata- Valencia to Chelsea for £23million
Did you know that Mata played for Real Madrid as a kid? You did? Carry on your day then.
The Spaniard was allowed to join Valencia on a free transfer, with Madrid not convinced of his talents.
One Champions League trophy, two Europa League honours, a World Cup, a European Championships and nearly £50m worth of transfer fees says that Madrid got that one slightly wrong.
Savo Milosevic- Real Zaragoza to Parma for £21million
Despite not having to pay anything, Real Zaragoza were still taking a gamble on signing Milosevic from Aston Villa, where he’d picked up the nickname ‘Miss-a-lot-evic’.
But he proved his weight in goals during his two seasons in Spain, leading Parma to splash out in 2000.
He then had another wobble, and so was back at Zaragoza within two years. It must have been something in the Zaragoza water.
Franck Ribery- Marseille to Bayern Munich for £21million
Late bloomers don’t come much better than Ribery, who was well into his mid-twenties when he left Galatasaray for Marseille.
He didn’t hang about making up for lost time, heading to Bayern after two seasons back in France.
Ten years later he’s still going strong.
Stefan Savic- Fiorentina to Atletico Madrid for £21million
What is it with Man City ruining perfectly good centre-backs?
Citeh didn’t learn from Jerome Boateng and shipped Savic off to Fiorentina as part of the deal that brought Matija Nastasic to Manchester.
Fiorentina then sold Savic on to Atletico Madrid where he’s proved a perfect foil for Diego Simeone’s love of the dark arts.