Thanks to a man called Jean-Marc Bosman, every summer sees high profile soccer players switch teams for no fee at all.
In 1995, Bosman challenged European transfer laws, allowing players to move for free when their contract expired. Previously, a player employed by a club but out of contract still commanded a fee, and they could be held at their club until such money was paid.
Known as a Bosman transfer, players can simply run their contract down these days and then move for free, even if they have cost their club vast sums of money. Promising players who know they’re worth hefty fees can let their contract end, then demand signing on fees and the like, benefitting them and their agent rather than their club. This summer, a feature on free agents by Bwin demonstrates how many top players can move for nothing, including Euro 2020 winner Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has already left Milan for Paris St Germain. He should have been one of the most expensive players globally, but instead, he cost PSG nothing but wages and agent fees.
Whether it is a good or bad thing for football depends on who you talk to, but even though it is very much a European ruling, many top South American players have moved on a Bosman and ended up being massive successes with their new clubs.
Here are our top three Bosman transfers involving South American soccer players.
Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan, Leicester City Olympiacos)
Cambiasso was a midfield enforcer for Argentina, winning 52 caps during a stellar career. At club level, he made three big Bosman-style moves. The first saw him leave Real Madrid for nothing in 2004, moving to Inter Milan in Serie A. He won the Champions League with them in 2010 and five successive domestic titles.
He then left them for free to move to Leicester City, where he was part of the developing squad that later won a Premier League title, although he left the season before their unlikely triumph. After one season in England, he made another Bosman move to Olympiacos, where he added two more domestic titles before retiring. Not bad for a player who had already won La Liga with Madrid before any of his free transfers.
James Rodriguez (Everton)
Rodriguez sprang to prominence during the 2014 World Cup but had already moved for a significant transfer fee, namely €45m ($53.2m). His superb tournament for Colombia saw Real Madrid spend €63m ($74.6m) for his services, taking him into three figures for career transfers. It seemed incomprehensible that he would be leaving on a free after that outlay. He did spend time on loan in Germany with Bayern Munich, costing the German giants €13m ($15.4m) purely in loan fees.
In September 2020, after six years with Madrid, he joined Everton for free. CBS reports he had an electric start to his career in England, with Everton winning their opening four matches. That pushed them towards a Champions League spot before he got injured, which saw Everton drift away and caused him to miss the Copa America this summer. There’s more to come from him in 2021/22, whether that is in an Everton shirt, or elsewhere who knows.
Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
Silva was 35-years-old when he left Paris St Germain for Chelsea, and at the time, it didn’t seem like one of the biggest moves of the summer. Silva had played 315 matches for the French side, winning seven domestic titles and finishing as runner-up in the Champions League. He has two international trophies to his name: the Confederations Cup in 2013 and Copa America in 2019. What more could he win with a move to London? The answer was the coveted Champions League. He played 34 matches for the Blues, eight of those in the Champions League, which Chelsea won. He appeared in the final, albeit for 39 minutes, before going off injured.