Liverpool’s best uses of the Bosman ruling

Joël Matip has had quite an eventful 2019. He was thrown back into the starting eleven after becoming third or fourth-choice centre-back at the start of 2019, and became a vital part of Liverpool’s road to European glory in Madrid.

He is now first-choice to partner Virgil van Dijk at the heart of Liverpool’s defence and is rightfully getting a world of praise from Reds fans and journalists around the world.

Matip is slowly becoming a cult hero at Anfield – no small amount so for his exciting mazy runs he likes, driving from defence and bringing the ball as high as possible up the pitch. There aren’t many centre-backs that have the confidence to do that, pull it off as often as he does and put smiles (sometimes from behind their hands!) on the faces of the watching crowd.

Speaking of smiles, who can forget his little dance when Henderson lifted the Super Cup in Istanbul? Glorious!

Joël is quite the character!

Liverpool pulled off a great piece of business by signing Matip on a free transfer from Schalke, but it’s not the first time the Anfield club have reaped the benefits – or in some cases, daylight robbery – of a free transfer.

We take a look at some of the great ones.

Markus Babbel

The former German International arrived at Anfield with a glowing European reputation. Liverpool supporters were looking forward to those marauding runs down the right-hand side, as well as some solid, reliable defending.

It’s safe to say that Babbel was everything we expected, and them some. A model professional on and off the pitch. A solid right-back that started 60 games in his first and very successful treble season of 2001.

Babbel made the right-back spot his own and will be fondly remembered for his goal in the ‘Gary Mac’ derby and the opening goal of the dramatic UEFA Cup Final in Dortmund.

If it wasn’t for a cruel illness that cut-short his Anfield career, Babbel would certainly have been an ever-present for years to come.

Gary McAllister

When Gary McAllister arrived from Coventry on a free transfer in the summer of 2000 many fans were questioning the decision to sign a 35-year-old midfielder. Liverpool already had Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Redknapp, Danny Murphy, Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer and a young man named Steven Gerrard.

One season, three trophies and a Champions League place later and those questions had been well and truly answered.

The Scot brought much to Gerard Houllier’s side but most of all he brought leadership and became an example of focus and expertise, especially to Steven Gerrard. A league title winner and 15-year veteran of the Premier League, his influence was instrumental in the development of character and work ethic of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

McAllister was a vital part of the treble winning team. There are so many moments that the Scot will be remembered for. His genius to score THAT goal in the Merseyside derby, his coolness to score from the spot in the second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final and slotting home a penalty in the final which along with his performance earned him the man of the match award.

Gary McAllister will arguably go down as the greatest free transfer in Liverpool’s history.

Robbie Fowler

Okay, so this one is just for sentimental reasons. But how can you not include God in this? After a heart-breaking move to Leeds United in 2001, Fowler was re-signed by Benitez in a surprise move in January 2006. It was to add experience and goals to a then goal shy strike-force but maybe more-importantly give everyone at the club a huge boost.

Seeing ‘God’ in a Liverpool shirt again, was something supporters were dreaming of for years as it was thought that he left the club too early and should not have been allowed to leave.

Though he never matched the scoring success of his first spell at the club his arrival brought hope and joy to the fans. It also gave the Anfield legend the dignified exit he was denied the first-time round.

Maxi Rodríguez

“Maxi, Maxi Rodríguez, runs down the wing for me.” That was a song that was bellowed out by the Anfield faithful practically every week.

This transfer in January of 2010 was a bit of a coup for the club. The Argentinian was a fixture of his national side and an exciting contributor to Atlético Madrid. He was a very talented attacker who possessed an amazing first touch and killer finish.

The tail end of the 2010/11 season was sensational for Maxi. He brought out the best in his teammates and finished the season in double figures for goals, including two hat-tricks virtually back to back against Birmingham and Fulham, as well as vital goals against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

He was never a first-team regular under the three managers he had at Anfield, but he was undoubtedly popular with the fans who still hold him in high esteem today.

Maxi Rodríguez was a real fans’ favourite at Anfield

Fábio Aurélio

Despite having numerous injuries at Liverpool, he made 134 appearances for the Reds.

Perhaps we tend to forget him because he was never a star at the time. Playing alongside Daniel Agger, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt, we don’t tend to think of him as one of our best imports.

Aurélio was the first Brazilian to play for Liverpool after signing from Valencia in 2006. More known for his stereotypical Brazilian technical attributes he was also a solid defender. Blessed not with immense pace or strength, he made up for that with great positional sense and tactical awareness. His ability to put the ball into the box was up there with best of them.

His best moments for Liverpool were from set-pieces. Against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2009, he scored a sumptuous free kick that contributed to a 4-1 win, and who can forget that clever free-kick against Chelsea in the Champions League?

If not for the injuries, Aurélio could have been the dominant Liverpool left-back for a number of years.

James Milner

Evergreen midfielder Milner cost Liverpool nothing after his Manchester City contract expired. Image © The Kopite

When the England international arrived at Anfield, most people outside of Liverpool Football Club didn’t bat an eyelid. But Reds supporters know a player when they see one.

Milner is the model professional. A work-horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and is a tough tackling old school English midfielder. The type of player that Liverpool supporters took to their hearts immediately.

Signed under Brendan Rodgers, he has blossomed under Jürgen Klopp and has become a vital part of the German’s squad. When needed to, he has played in numerous positions for the club including the majority of a season a left-back. It is so easy to see why Klopp and Liverpool fans love him. He has all the attributes you would want in a player.

As a supporter, seeing him give his all in every game, represent the club off the pitch and show his passion for the club is what has made Milner a fan favourite. Seeing the tears in his eyes after the ‘Miracle of Anfield’, and in Madrid, will no doubt put him up there with Anfield legends.

Andrew Robertson

Hang on, he wasn’t free! He cost £8m!

Well, yes you are correct. I am cheating on this one. We did pay £8m to Hull City for his services in the summer of 2017. But, in the same transfer window, we also sold Kevin Stewart to the East Yorkshire club for the same price. Does it count? I’m gonna count it!

We’ll wait…

As we all know the Scotland Captain has been an absolute revelation since he arrived. He has arguably become one of, if not the best left-back in Europe and earned himself a Champions League winner’s medal.

Liverpool finally have the left-back they have craved for since the Premier League began, and it looks as though he could be in that position for the next eight years or so.

There are other examples such as Craig Bellamy, Kolo Touré and Jari Litmanen who also played their part during their time at the club. Any of them could just have easily appeared on this list, but I had a word count to stick to!

What is proven is that Liverpool have had some great success when signing players under the Bosman ruling.

As Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson very well put in 1992, the best things in life are free!

Jay Pearson

Writer. 80s movies enthusiast with an unhealthy obsession with Back to the Future. Heavy Metal lover and Ice Hockey watcher. Alisson Becker is a beautiful human being.

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