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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Aaron Ramsey and five of the best ever Premier League free transfers

The Arsenal midfielder is set to leave at the end of the season and will have no shortage of offers

In this age of stratospheric transfer fees it is rare to come across a top English Premier League player in his prime who is available on a free.

Step forward Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, who is set to leave the Emirates when his contract runs out next summer.

Where will he go? The Welshman has been linked with all of the top English sides, though Manchester United and Liverpool are reportedly the most likely to land him at this stage. However, strong links have also emerged to German giants Bayern Munich and Italy's AC Milan should he fancy a move abroad.

A player of Ramsey's calibre - he has made 245 Premier League appearances since joining from Cardiff City in 2008, scoring 37 goals - will not be short of offers, according to Wales manager Ryan Giggs.

“He's one of those players that, if he plays a full season, will get 10-15 goals from midfield and that's a very attractive player to have in any side," Giggs told Sky Sports.

“He's friends with Gareth Bale so obviously he'll be able to tell him what it's like to play abroad and Aaron's certainly got the talent to play anywhere in Europe but that will totally be his decision."

Ramsey will be keen to add a league title to his honours, having so far won just the FA Cup while at Arsenal.

Trophy potential has been at the forefront of players' minds when making a free transfer - as well as that big signing on fee and bumper wage packet.

While the Premier League hasn't been short of big-name freebies, here's five of the best from previous years:

Michael Ballack - Bayern Munich to Chelsea

Michael Ballack scored 42 international goals for Germany.  AFP
Michael Ballack scored 42 international goals for Germany. AFP

Like Ramsey, Ballack still had plenty of years left in him when he arrived in London in 2006, aged 29. He came as one of the most celebrated attacking midfielders in Europe, a pillar of the national team and with three Bundesliga titles in the previous three seasons.

He went on to win the League Cup in his first season, followed by the FA Cup in 2008-09 and a Premier League-FA Cup double in 2009-10 as he formed part of one of the strongest midfields of the decade, which also featured Frank Lampard, Claude Makalele and Michael Essien.

Four seasons were enough before he headed back to Germany - on a free transfer to Bayer Leverkusen.

Sol Campbell - Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal

Sol Campbell was a rock at the back for Arsenal. AFP
Sol Campbell was a rock at the back for Arsenal. AFP

The towering defender revealed earlier this year that he still gets abused in the street for his controversial move across north London in 2001.

He just has to point to his success at Arsenal to justify the move - two Premier League titles and two FA Cups compared to a League Cup win for Spurs. He was also part of "The Invincibles" in 2003-04 when Arsenal went the whole league season unbeaten.

Harsh but true - when were Spurs ever going to go 38 games unbeaten?

James Milner - Manchester City to Liverpool

James Milner has been versatile for Liverpool and continues to chip in with vital goals. Getty Images
James Milner has been versatile for Liverpool and continues to chip in with vital goals. Getty Images

There's got to be more exciting transfers than "Mr Boring" himself, hasn't there?

Actually, it has turned out to be a masterstroke for Liverpool, as Milner has continued to reinvent himself, first from a winger to a central midfielder (Steven Gerrard had just left Liverpool), then to a left back and now he is being regularly utilised in central midfield again by Jurgen Klopp.

Milner won two Premier League titles with City but felt he was on the periphery of their evolving side and was even reported to have taken a pay cut to move to Merseyside.

Klopp wasn't short of praise after Milner scored in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at the weekend, saying: "He’s getting better. I think Millie should buy all of the newspapers and read this. I would like it if you write a story about James Milner, I will like it. Obviously someone might write that he will have to play for England again. That’s a really nice idea.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed you don't need a big transfer fee to be a top player. AFP
Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed you don't need a big transfer fee to be a top player. AFP

The self-titled best striker in the world had proved that he could mix it with the greatest players around during spells in Spain, Italy and France where he scored a bucket load of goals in each. England was yet to be ticked off though, until United came calling.

His solitary full season brought 28 goals before a bad knee injury sidelined him for more than six months and he eventually moved on to LA Galaxy.

There's a classic moment after United's League Cup win in 2017 when, in an interview, Paul Pogba says Zlatan had shown why the club "had bought him". Zlatan was quick to correct him. "Bought me? I came for free!" he quips.

Demba Ba - West Ham United to Newcastle

How Newcastle could do with a striker of Ba's quality right now. As for getting one on a free transfer - no chance.

It's easy to forgot how well the Ivorian did after arriving from a short stint at West Ham during which he was unable to save them from relegation in 2011.

Newcastle United's French-born Senegalese striker Demba Ba celebrates scoring their first goal from a free-kick during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at The Emirates Stadium in north London, England on December 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by GLYN KIRK / AFP)
Demba Ba was prolific for Newcastle. AFP

Ba went on to score 29 league goals in 54 games. Put that into context - Newcastle scored only 39 last season and have managed just 7 in 11 matches this season.

He moved on to Chelsea before spells in Turkey and China.

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