Tuesday brought with it the 20th anniversary of the Bosman ruling, a landmark moment that changed the face of football forever. Players, once restricted to clubs until another side bought them or they were released, were finally able to come and go as they pleased, while cash-strapped teams were able to pick up stars for nothing. Craig Fowler looks at the best Bosman signings in Scottish football so far.
I REGRET everything.
At first the idea of a Bosman XI in Scottish football sounded easy. Sauzee, Rousset, Latapy, Olafsson - the guys who dominated my football universe during my formative years - they were all Bosmans and they were all going into this team. Hell, I needn’t even spend time doing the research.
Or so I thought. Turns out every single one of those signings wouldn’t be what you would consider a ‘true Bosman’. Meaning, they didn’t leave their previous club solely because they wanted to leave and their contract had expired. Hibs negotiated Sauzee’s release in February. Hearts scooped up Rousset in the autumn. Latapy appears to have still been under contract when Alex McLeish approached Boavista, while Olafsson was another signed in October.
There is an argument to be made that these guys moved because the Bosman encouraged players to roam freely across Europe, but where do you draw the line?
Then there are those who’ve joined Scottish football in recent years, guys like Takis Fyssas and Edgaras Jankauskas, who’ve spent weeks as free agents safe in the knowledge that they’ll eventually be picked up by another team. That’s the way the ruling has evolved the market place, but it’s difficult to call such players Bosman signings if they’ve been unemployed for a month or so. After all, free transfers and unattached players existed pre-Bosman.
So, instead, I’ve assembled a team of players who were wanted by their former employers prior to signing for a SPFL club. As a result, not all of them come from outwith these shores, funnily enough.
GK - Daniel Anderson (Hibernian)
Tough. Very tough to pick a goalkeeper. Good goalkeepers don’t often go for huge sums of money, but they also aren’t let go without a much of a fight, and there are obviously fewer of them than any other position.
Anderson would only stick around at Easter Road for one year but made quite the impression. It’s not unfair to suggest he’s been the club’s most competent custodian since Jim Leighton.
DR - Mikael Lustig (Celtic)
Lustig just beats out his former team-mate Adam Matthews for the right back spot.
Celtic seemed allergic to the idea of a free transfer during the Martin O’Neill era but have adapted in recent years, with Kelvin Wilson and Gary Caldwell also narrowly missing out on this team.
The Swede signed a pre-contract while with Rosenborg and has been the first-choice right back at Celtic Park, when fit, ever since.
DC - Stephen Pressley (Hearts)
His overenthusiastic celebrations while in a green and white hooped shirt at Tynecastle soured what was, before then, a perfect relationship between fans and the player they used to call “Mr Hearts”.
Pressley was the heartbeat of the team for eight seasons, getting over a slow start, due to being played at full back, before going on to captain the club and lift the 2006 Scottish Cup.
DC - Jean-Alain Boumsong (Rangers)
Looking purely at profit margins, this deal has to be one of the best in football history.
Rangers signed the player for nothing. He played at Ibrox for only six months. They then sold him for £8 million. And he was a dud at his next club (Graeme Souness’ Newcastle).
DL - Ulrik Laursen (Hibernian)
Another terrific bit of football business but on a smaller scale. Laursen was excellent at Easter Road for two seasons, playing left back and centre half, before moving to Celtic for £1.3 million.
He wasn’t a nailed on start at Parkhead but still played a decent number of games over three years, including the 2003 Uefa Cup final.
MC - Rino Gattuso (Rangers)
While this will be considered another strong bit of business - pinched from Perugia for nothing, sold to Salernitana for £4 million - Rangers may have wished for a do-over after watching the midfielder go onto lift two Champions League trophies with Milan.
At Rangers he underachieved to an extent but he was still a solid player and had plenty of potential before Dick Advocaat wrote him off.
And yes, he is in this team because he’s a sexier name than Joe Ledley.
MC - Paul Hartley (Hearts)
Hearts paraded the former St Johnstone midfielder, after securing him on a pre-contract, alongside Dennis Wyness at half-time in the last game of the season before he joined.
The Hearts support roared in appreciation of Wyness... and booed Paul Freaking Hartley!
Luckily he wasn’t a stubborn or vindictive player as he would go onto be a modern day legend at the club, scoring numerous goals against Hibs and helping to secure the 2006 Scottish Cup.
He was then sold for £1m to Celtic just before his powers started to wane.
MC - Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic)
This may be a little hard to swallow after Mulgrew’s chronic injury problems over the past year, but he’s been such a pleasant surprise for Celtic overall after rejoining from Aberdeen.
Everyone thought Neil Lennon was nuts to re-sign the full back who couldn’t defend. Instead he’s proven himself to an adept puppet-master, pulling the strings in the centre of midfield, while also being a surprisingly strong cover at centre half.
FC - Rod Wallace (Rangers)
If Rangers got value for money with all their signings during the Dick Advocaat era in the manner they did with Wallace then they would have won a European Cup or two.
Wallace didn’t cost a penny and then went on to be the club’s top goalscorer in back-to-back title winning seasons. Apply the same overachievement scale to £6.5m Michael Ball and you’d have a Ballon d’or winner.
FC - Dado Prso (Rangers)
The Croatian striker’s last game before coming to Glasgow was the 2004 Uefa Champions League final, where he played 67 minutes in Monaco’s 3-0 loss to Porto.
Other future Scottish football players in that game included the aforementioned Jankauskas, who won the Scottish Cup with Hearts and played at Tynecastle for two seasons, and Benni McCarthy, who once turned out for Whitehill Welfare.
FC - Arild Stavrum (Aberdeen)
The Norwegian jumped at the chance to earn the big bucks in Scottish football - don’t laugh, it was true then - by joining Aberdeen following a tremendous year at Helsingborgs.
He scored goals for fun across two seasons on an otherwise dire Aberdeen side. Exercised a clause in his contract to make a hasty escape to Turkey in 2001.
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