The names share a whopping six Champions League winners medals between them.
Just as much as we enjoy paying a snip of the price for a multipack of Quavers, football clubs can’t resist a cheap deal when it comes to buying players.
Europe’s top sides always have their ears to the ground about the very best free agents going and it has paid dividend in the past.
We’re all familiar with how Nicolas Anelka somehow racked up over £120million worth of transfer fees over his career.
Le Sulk sits at one end of the spectrum, in stark contrast to several high-profile players who actually failed to command a transfer fee throughout their careers.
Some of the very best players to have played the game actually went the entirety of their careers without clubs having to spend a single penny on them.
Obviously minus their extortionate wages, that is…
Here are 5 of the best players who were only ever signed as free transfers…
1 Sol Campbell
We’ll ease into the list with the most obvious of the bunch.
Campbell played for five different clubs throughout his 18-year career in professional football, however not once did he command a transfer fee.
The no-nonsense centre-back was first lured away from Spurs by their north London rivals Arsenal, in what is still regarded as one of the most banter signings of all time.
He left Arsenal for Portsmouth on a free transfer in 2006, before bizarrely joining Notts County and later rejoining the Gunners. Both free transfers.
After failing to secure a new contract back at Arsenal, Campbell again moved for nothing, this time to Newcastle where he made just eight appearances before retiring in 2012.
Campbell can now be found on Instagram, providing all the best content that you didn’t know you needed to see.
FANCY SOMETHING DIFFERENT?
How did the future England captain end up without a club at 30-years-old?
2 Esteban Cambiasso
This man is truly one of the original GOAT footballers.
The image of Cambiasso bombing around the pitch draped in the famous blue and black of Inter Milan will take you right back to the early 2000s.
The combative Argentine played for six clubs during his professional career yet didn’t cost any of them a single penny.
Loan moves from Real Madrid B to Independiente and lately River Plate, gave Cambiasso the experience to make his mark with Real Madrid’s first team.
He did just that, helping Los Blancos to the La Liga title in 2002/03, before leaving the Spanish giants a year later after his contract expired.
Cambiasso was snapped up by Milan, where he went onto make over 430 appearances, before moving to the Premier League with Leicester after his contract at the Serie A club expired.
After spending a year in England, the Argentine then moved to Olympiacos where he spent two seasons before retiring in 2017.
Seven professional clubs, £0 spent on him.
3 Steve McManaman
The Madrid contingent continues with the curly haired messiah McManaman.
Having gone through the ranks at his boyhood club Liverpool, the gifted midfielder became one of the first names on the team-sheet at Anfield.
McManaman went onto make over 300 appearances for Liverpool before he got a glamour move to Real Madrid in 1999.
‘How much was the transfer fee?’ I hear you ask, absolute nothing. They got him on a free transfer, scenes.
He went onto make over 150 appearances for Los Blancos, becoming the first English player to win the Champions League with a foreign club.
McManaman returned to the Premier League in 2003 with Man City, where he sadly failed to replicate his Madrid form, before retiring in 2005 without scoring a single goal for City.
A sad end to an otherwise flair career.
4 Mathieu Flamini
Although he hasn’t technically retired yet, we can’t see anyone lodging a £70million bid for Flamini. So, I think his inclusion is a fairly safe one.
The combative Frenchman burst into the Arsenal starting eleven after joining from Marseille in 2004 and swiftly became a player who Arsene Wenger often turned to.
Following a dispute over wages, Flamini left north London in 2008 after over 100 appearances for the club.
The Frenchman was snapped up by AC Milan on a free transfer where he enjoyed a somewhat successful five-year period in Italy.
Flamini became a free agent for the third time in his career after Milan chose not to renew his deal.
In a bid to retain match fitness, he became training with his former club Arsenal and was subsequently picked up by the Gunners on a free transfer in 2013.
After his contract expired in 2016, the Frenchman spent a year at Crystal Palace before going onto sign for Getafe in February this year.
He left the La Liga club this summer and is currently without a club. At the age of 34-years-old, could this be the end of Flamini’s playing career?
If only he had something to fall back on after he hangs up his boots…
The word ‘legend’ is thrown about a bit nonchalantly in football. There’s nothing wrong however with using it to describe this man.
Raul was mostly a one club hero throughout his career, making over 740 appearances for Real Madrid and scoring over 320 goals.
It might have slipped your memory however that the clinical Spaniard actually went onto play for two more clubs after leaving the Bernabeu in 2010.
Raul was first snapped by Bundesliga club Schalke after his contract with Los Blancos expired.
The striker went onto make 98 appearances over two seasons in Germany, making such an impact that Schalke actually retired his No7 shirt for a short spell. Bit much.
Raul then went onto play for Oatar side Al-Sadd and later New York Cosmos. The less memorable moments of his career.
Not a single penny was spent on this absolute legend.
In a way, that makes him even more of a GOAT.
Richarlison set Everton back £50million. This lot all cost absolutely nothing.
The times they are a-changin…
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