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Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic the best free transfer in the Premier League era?

Before Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the successful Premier League team Manchester United, he had graced some of the best other football leagues in the world and had performed at the greatest level.

He enjoyed successful campaigns at Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and a loan stint at Milan before heading to PSG. At the Paris-based team, he managed to score a phenomenal 113 goals in 122 appearances, so it is perhaps understandable that he had the audacity to refer to himself as ‘God’.

Zlatan is well known for his footballing achievements but perhaps even more so for his outrageous comments. He was once quoted as saying ‘When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari’. It’s fair to say he has a very high opinion of himself and some would say rightly so, given his exceptional footballing talents.

Ibrahimovic joined Manchester United before the start of the 2016-2017 season on a free transfer from PSG. At this time, he was 34 years old, for most footballers this is an age when pace and agility begin to dwindle.

Not Zlatan.

He has gone on to become United’s top goal scorer, pretty much single-handedly rescuing them from mid-table obscurity. His free kick in the league cup final against Southampton was sublime and his Man of the Match performance was arguably what swung the game’s result.

So even this early on, Zlatan is looking like a great free signing but is he the best ever free transfer in the Premier League? Let’s have a look at some others to compare him to:

Michael Ballack – When Chelsea signed Michael Ballack back in 2006, this was a great moment for the club. He had won the German Player of the Year award in 3 of the previous 4 years and was at the top of his game. The Premier League odds were hardly stacked against him when he helped Chelsea achieve back to back title wins.

To be able to land him on a free was a great bit of business. Ballack went on to make 105 appearances for Chelsea and was a real fan’s favourite.

Demba Ba – When Ba joined Newcastle United on a free transfer from West Ham, nobody could have predicted the success he would achieve. Ba scored an astonishing 29 goals in 54 appearances during his time at the club.

Gianluca Vialli – Another shrewd move by Chelsea was to bring in Vialli, the Italian international with a glittering career behind him. Nowadays this wouldn’t seem that big a deal but Chelsea were not the powerhouse that they are today and Vialli played a big part in their development.

Gary McAllister – In a similar vein to Ibrahimovic, Gary Mac as Liverpool fans fondly refer to him was coming towards the end of a great career. Aged 35, many thought it was a strange move by the Liverpool manager but McAllister played a huge role in bringing a treble of cups to Liverpool in the 2000-01 season.

It is probably too early to say whether Ibrahimovic will emulate the feats of some of these other great free transfers but it is looking pretty likely at this stage.

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