Footballers aren’t cheap, to put it simply. We’ve reached an era in which the world transfer record is around £86 million (€100 million) and, when it comes to transfers in the top divisions, eight figured fees have become the norm. Teams don’t bat an eyelid about spending £10 million, £20 million and £30 million.
Every now and again, however, bargains can still be had – not least when players come to the end of their contracts with clubs and become free agents. It’s easy to think that clubs only allow that to happen to their poorest players, but that’s not always the case at all. For one reason or another, some great players have become available for free and subsequently moved to another club for no fee – and sometimes they end up performing brilliantly.
We take a look at the best free agents signings that have ever been made by Premier League clubs in England.
10) Esteban Cambiasso – Leicester City
Former Argentina international (52 caps) Esteban Cambiasso has enjoyed an illustrious career that has seen him playing at clubs like River Plate in his homeland, Real Madrid in Spain and Inter Milan in Italy – the latter for whom he played over 400 competitive games. So when he became a free agent in 2014, having departed the San Siro side at the end of his contract, a glamorous destination looked to be on the cards, even if he was 34.
However, England’s newly-promoted Leicester City gave the defensive midfielder a chance to play in the Premier League in 2014 – and what a signing he turned out to be. He played in 31 of Leicester’s league matches in the 2014/15 season, playing an integral part in helping the team to comfortably – and surprisingly – retain their Premier League status by avoiding relegation in the final stages of the season.
9) Teddy Sheringham – Tottenham Hotspur
Teddy Sheringham is a Tottenham Hotspur legend, so it was disappointing for Spurs fans when he left for Manchester United in a £3.5 million deal in 1997. That being said, not even Spurs fans could begrudge the talented forward and genuinely nice guy the success he achieved at Old Trafford – not least in scoring the dramatic equaliser in United’s 1999 Champions League final victory.
However, when Sheringham’s four-year contract expired at United, he re-signed for Spurs for free and it was seen as a homecoming about which Spurs fans rejoiced – even though he was 35. Sheringham had rejected a new 12-month contract at Old Trafford and was still in good shape.
His return season coincided with the club's highest league position in six years – ninth – and he scored 26 goals in 80 appearances in all competitions in this second spell at White Hart Lane.