Before 1995, a large amount of EU countries were allowed to keep players beyond their contract unless another team offered them a fee for said player. Some countries were opposed to this and didn’t allow such procedure, namely Spain and France, but elsewhere, such as Belgium, where football player and now famous transfer rogue Jean-Marc Bosman played, held this unfair, almost inhumane idea about human labour. Something, surely, at some point, had to give. And give it did.
Jean-Marc Bosman defined a sport when he rightly took the Belgian FA and UEFA to court over allowing free movement of labour throughout the European Union. His story is one of human rights and a legal battle that is one of, if not the most famous court rulings in sporting history.
In 1990, Bosman wanted to move clubs. To our generation, this sounds like nothing strange or anything new. In 2016, as for years previous, players move through leagues and clubs with relative ease and without a thought of “what if?” Bosman, though, had a problem.
The club that Bosman played for, RFC Liege, for better use of a word, owned the player. Not just his registration, but owned him out-right. Once his contract ran down, he wasn’t free to move to another club without a fee changing hands. He had to wait until another team paid Leige.
RFC Liege decided to offer Bosman a contract. This contract, according to the player himself, was four times less than his current deal. The club that wanted to sign him, Dunkirk, were quoted a fee four time higher than his worth. Bosman was trapped. Something needed to change.
For five years he fought to allow himself and players alike the chance to move freely once their contract expired. It took him to the edge of his chosen career, for once clubs caught wind of his legal challenge nobody wanted anything to do with him. His career took a turn for the worse.
One of the greatest names in world football he may be, but it wasn’t for his skills on the football field that the world knows his name. Find below my greatest 11 Bosman team. For these have a lot to thank the Belgian youth player for.
The Spanish ‘keeper decided that, as opposed to winning countless more trophies over the next few years with Barcelona, he would seek a new challenge. Unfortunately, that new challenge turned out to be displacing the best goalkeeper who has been in the Premier League in a long time in David De Gea. Safe to say all didn’t go to plan, with the player never grabbing a hold of a first team opportunity at United.
Moving from Spurs to Arsenal in 2001 never really seemed like a bad move, which is unfortunate for Tottenham and their fans, as the dominant defender ended up winning the Premier League (twice), winning the FA Cup three times, playing in a Champions League final and being part of the Invincibles side, the only side to go through a league campaign unbeaten. Not bad for a free transfer.
Evra’s United career was fantastic, after a slow start. Playing for the best team in the country whilst he was at the club, he nailed down the left-back slot, making the Premier League team of the year 3 times. Since leaving United, the French international has stated how he is angry about leaving the Manchester club, but whilst he was there he won almost every honour in football, with the exception of the FA Cup and Europa League. Leaving on a free transfer to Juventus in 2014, he is still playing at the highest level, competing for championships and playing Champions League football.
Another left back in the team, which I understand makes no sense, but Ashley Cole is probably the best left-back England have ever seen, a feat that will probably extend to his former club too. Not the most popular with opposition fans, Cole was Mr Dependable at Stamford Bridge. His move from Chelsea to Roma for a free transfer was during a time of upheaval for Chelsea, as Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Cole himself left the club from their Champions League winning side. Currently a free agent once more, Cole is reported to be looking into signing for Californian side LA Galaxy.
Michael Ballack was one of the biggest Bosman transfers of all time. One of the best midfielders in the world during his career, he decided against staying with Bayern Munich, opting, as they all do, for a new challenge. Liverpool, Manchester United and even Real Madrid were keeping close tabs on him, but it was the chequebook of Chelsea that pushed the signature over the line. The German central midfielder had an up-and-down spell at Chelsea, with him at one point wanting to finish his career in London, he ended up leaving Chelsea on a Bosman too, returning to Germany for a second time with Bayer Leverkusen.
AC Milan’s loss was Juventus’ gain, because, whilst the Milanese team thought Pirlo had passed his peak, Juventus snapped him up in another masterstroke of a Bosman deal. Still playing now, he is a wonder in central midfield and the perfect deep-lying midfielder for both club and country. His game never relied on pace, something Milan should have respected, and Pirlo has the grace and class to continue playing for a little while longer. The Rodger Federer of the football world, the Italian always seems to have space to play the ball. A truly fantastic player.
Rarely does a player turn down mega-money to leave a club on a Bosman, but that is exactly what James Milner did last season. If reports are to be believed, City offered the player in excess of £150,000 a week to stay with them, but the promise of regular football at Liverpool with then-manager Brendan Rodgers turned the head of the English midfielder. He’s had an average start to life at Anfield, but if the blue team in Manchester wanted to keep him so much, there must be something in the player. One to watch for the future, as he’s still got a few years in the bank yet, having only just hit 30.
A favourite player of mine during the 90s, Steve McManaman was an early advocate to take advantage of the Bosman rule. Playing for Liverpool from the beginning of his career, the Scouse winger decided he had what it took to play for Real Madrid. It’s hard to say he was wrong. He won La Liga twice and the Champions League twice (including scoring in the 2000 final). No doubt Macca would have helped Liverpool to numerous trophies has he not left, but the overseas experiment was well and truly successful.
One of the most famous names in Italian and world football during his career, Roberto Baggio left AC Milan under negative pressure from then manager Fabio Capello (who had managed him at his previous club Juventus). Bologna came calling, and even though they struggled in a relegation battle that season, Baggio was in fine form. Scoring 22 goals and helping the side stay in the division, the Italian forward shone, providing further proof of his continuing quality. Later in his career, after the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed for his childhood team Inter Milan. This move, however, proved unfortunate. Suffering from injuries and poor form, Baggio never hit the true heights he threatened earlier in the decade.
Arguably the most high-profile Bosman transfer of the decade, Robert Lewandowski was a sensation at Dortmund, which prompted Bayern Munich to persuade him to join the biggest club in Germany. This move, so far, is proving a huge success. Scoring goals for fun, Lewandowski is proving the ideal focal point for the slick passing and quick play of Pep Guardiola’s Munich revolution.
Fernando Llorente has always been the nearly striker of the current Spanish crop. But in regards to domestic performances, his goal scoring record is solid. After Athletic Bilbao decided against offering the forward a new deal, Llorente decided his future lay elsewhere, and this included moving countries. When the decision was made, the player decided Juventus was his best bet. The Italian champions really know how to take advantage of a free transfer, and his followed Pirlo, and came just before Patrice Evra signed for the club. His scoring form was consistent but hardly prolific in Italy, scoring 23 goals in 66 appearances. He now plays for Sevilla in Spain.