Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s move to Manchester United can be seen as the best free transfer ever made.
Zlatan arrived at Old Trafford on a free after his contract at Paris Saint Germain expired in June 2016, becoming Jose Mourinho’s second – and without doubt most high profile – signing of the transfer window.
The big Swede’s arrival was greeted with doubts over his age, but such noise has been emphatically silenced by a haul of 26 goals so far this season, with his most recent – an 86th minute winner against Southampton at Wembley – sealing the League Cup for Man United.
And Redknapp, speaking in the wake of United’s League Cup triumph, was quick to label the 35-year-old as the best free signing ever made.
“In Ibrahimovic, they have a big player in every sense of the word. He has been a great signing,” he said.
“I can’t lie, at the start of the year I thought ‘that’s a funny signing, will he get in the way of Marcus Rashford? Is he going to stop the development of any young players?’ But the truth it is one of those inspirational signings that happen every so often.
“If you do talk about Eric Cantona and the effect he had at the club on all the young players, Ibrahimovic is having a very similar one now.
“He’s the king there at the moment and he has been an inspired signing. Whoever bought him in whether it was Jose Mourinho or the owners, he has been one of the best free transfers ever.”
When I think of a ‘free transfer’, my mind conjures up examples like Emmanuel Adebayor moving to Crystal Palace for six months. This is the form free transfers generally take: brief, speculative and habitually unfruitful stints that didn’t really ever need to happen in the first place.
That said, a brief trawl through history reveals a number of superb free transfers: Ruud Gullit to Chelsea in 1995; Jurgen Klinsmann in 1997; Raul to Schalke in 2010; Andrea Pirlo to Juventus in 2011. The list goes on.
But in terms of sheer earth-shattering influence and, more importantly, genuine fate, Zlatan’s decision to reunite with Mourinho for one last time to bring United back to where they belong perhaps eclipses any free transfer that has come before.