Top 5 performing free transfers of the football season so far
Sept. 17, 2019
Summers are usually a very busy time for European clubs, as the transfer window offers football teams the chance to reshuffle their squads, bolstering areas of perceived weakness and augmenting sectors where they have adequate strength.
There is an ever increasing amount of money accessible to football clubs more than at any other point in history, as increased marketability of the biggest players as well as a more global interest in the game means there is more funding available from improved TV deals as well as ticket prices and merchandise sales.
This increase in funding has had a concordant effect on everything concerning the game, as there is now a reactive increase in inflation, as players values soar high through the roof. Therefore clubs spend exuberant amounts of money to land the highest quality talent.
However, for all the marquee names usually added to a squad during a transfer window, sometimes there is more value from players who were gotten at a bargain, either for ridiculously low transfer fees, on loan, or even on a free transfer.
History is littered with examples of players who went on to cement their legacy in club folklore despite arriving on a Bosman, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Raul Gonzalez’s spells with Manchester United and Schalke 04 respectively serving as more recent examples of this.
This season is proving to be no exception, as there are a number of players across Europe who are performing creditably well at their new clubs, having arrived on a free, and this piece focuses on five such players who are performing incredibly.
Honorable mentions – Ximo Navarra (Las Palmas – Alavez), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal – Villareal), Wayne Rooney (Everton – DC United), Pau Lopez (Espanyol – Real Betis), Bernard (Shaktar Donetsk – Everton).
#5 Sergio Canales (Real Sociedad – Real Betis)
Sergio Canales broke through in the Racing Santander team in 2010, helping his hometown club escape relegation with his performances. This led Real Madrid to sanction his purchase in the summer of 2010, but he found playing time hard to come by, and was loaned to Valencia just a season later.
His spell at Valencia however was plagued by injuries, and he was shipped on to Real Sociedad in December 2013.
At the Anoeta, he still suffered relapses of his injuries, but was consistent enough to make 134 appearances, scoring 10 goals in LaLiga across 5 seasons for the Basque outfit, but the club opted against renewing his contract upon its expiration at the end of the just concluded season.
Real Betis manager, Quique Setien, took up the option of signing the midfielder on a free, and it has proved to be a masterstroke, as Canales has blended in seamlessly with the squad, orchestrating play from the middle, as Betis have won admirers all over LaLiga for their impressive style of play.
He has starred in LaLiga, scoring 3 goals from 13 matches, and has also helped Betis’ charge in the Europa League, appearing in 3 of their 4 matches thus far.
#4 Kevin-Prince Boateng (Eintracht Frankfurt – Sassuolo)
Controversial yet highly talented attacker, Kevin-Prince Boateng, needs no introduction to any football fan, as he has courted as much attention for his actions off the pitch as he has made headlines on it.
The 31-year-old has had spells at numerous European clubs, including Tottenham, Hertha Berlin, Dortmund, Portsmouth, Schalke 04, AC Milan, Las Palmas, and most recently Eintracht Frankfurt, but he never stayed long enough at any club to firmly establish himself, as numerous disciplinary issues as well as clashes with club officials and teammates meant he was almost always booted out of clubs.
He terminated his contract with Las Palmas in 2017, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ with the board, and moved onto Frankfurt in Germany only a day later, but despite winning the DFB Pokal in his debut season with the club, he was once more on the move again – this time back to the Serie A for Sassuolo.
On his return to the Serie A, Boateng has shone like a million stars, showing all the attributed qualities that made him highly sought after early on in his career.
So far, he has scored 4 goals from 11 Serie A matches to help the Modena based team to 8th place on the league standing.
#3 Javairo Dilrosun (Man City – Hertha Berlin)
The 20-year-old Dutch winger made waves across Europe for his exploits with the never ending supply of talents which is the Ajax academy, and on account of his performances, and was highly coveted by a number of major European sides.
Dilrosun had his choice of picks, but eventually settled with Manchester City, transferring to the blue half of Manchester in 2014. The array of talents on display at The Etihad however meant that breaking into the first team was always going to be a step too far for Dilrosun, so it came as no surprise when Hertha Berlin snapped him up at the expiration of his contract with The Cityzens.
He made his Bundesliga debut early in September when he came on as a substitute for HSC following an injury to Ondrej Duda, and he registered his first assist for the club less than 9 minutes later in a 2-0 win for his club.
He opened his goal-scoring account a fortnight later against Wolfsburg, and since then he has become a mainstay in the first team, making 10 Bundesliga appearances, scoring 2 goals, and contributing 3 assists to help Hertha to 8th place on the Bundesliga standing.
His form has caught the eye of Dutch coach Ronald Koeman who handed him his senior international debut in the just concluded Nations League fixture against Germany, although his appearance was cut short by injury.
#2 Gervinho (Hebei China Fortune – Parma)
A part of the much celebrated ‘Golden Generation’ of Ivorian players who shone throughout much of the last decade, Gervinho was also one of the stars of the show alongside Eden Hazard as Lille won the won the Ligue 1 title for the first time in 56 years in 2011, in addition to the Coupe de La Ligue. He courted more global attention when he starred for two seasons with Arsenal between 2011 and 2013.
His romance with Arsenal was not long however, and he moved on to Roma in 2013 and he performed creditably well in the Italian capital before trading Europe for the mega bucks of China in 2016.
He returned to Italy with newly promoted Parma at the start of this season, and his performances have been instrumental in helping the club to its surprise run in Serie A this season, which sees them placed 6th on the standings, as well as pick up some notable shock away wins against Inter Milan and Torino.
Capable of the extraordinary on his day, Gervinho has brought his wizardry with him to Parma, and scored a ‘stunning goal’ in the 2-0 home win over Cagliari by running with the ball for almost the entire length of the field, which is one of 5 Serie A goals he has scored this season in 9 matches.
#1 Jonathan Bamba (Saint-Etienne – Lille)
Not much headlines were made when Lille picked up 22-year-old Jonathan Bamba from St Etienne on a free transfer, but despite his low-key arrival, the France youth player has made sure that his stay at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy is anything but.
Jonathan Bamba made his competitive debut for his new club in a 3-1 victory over Stade Rennais in Ligue 1 during August 2018, and scored a goal in the match which served as an appetiser for what fans were to expect, as he has been on fire since then.
So far, he has scored 7 goals and registered 1 assist from 14 Ligue 1 matches to help his club to 4th place on the French League table.
Bamba had been long touted as one of the priced jewels of the St Etienne academy, but how the club let him leave on a free is beyond anyone’s imaginations. However, their loss is very much Lille’s gain, and his performances for the club have been sufficient enough to warrant attention from the biggest sides in Europe.
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