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How the Bosman Ruling Transformed Football

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 The Bosman Ruling is one of the most impactful football decisions ever. Learn how one footballer changed the game forever.

Jean-Marc Bosman is probably not the most popular name or face in world football, but his career has put an indelible mark on football. Back in 1990, the Belgian player was in a hectic contractual situation. He was in the closing stages of his two year deal with RFC Liege but was not enjoying his football. As footballers often do nowadays, Bosman sought a move to another team and received a contract offer from Ligue 2’s Dunkirk.

However, Bosman had a little problem. What is currently known as free transfers in football didn’t exist back then, and clubs still had to pay transfer fees to the player’s previous club. RFC Liege wanted to recoup their investment in him and asked Dunkirk for an exotic transfer fee. This was in line with the regulation in play that no player could leave for another team at the end of his current deal unless the two clubs involved agreed on a fee.

In Bosman’s case, Dunkirk couldn’t afford the transfer fee and pulled out of the deal. Liege offered Bosman a new deal that cut the player’s wages by 70%. When he refused to sign, the Belgian FA banned him from playing football in the country, and he was unable to get a transfer move. At 25, this was a bad situation for any footballer. As football expert Kate Richardson (our expert author) notes, “The situation was terrible, Bosman was not earning any money or playing time as a professional footballer.”

The Bosman Ruling

Jean-Marc Bosman engaged Jean Louis-Dupont and Luc Misson as his lawyers, charging the Belgian FA, UEFA and Liege to the European Court of Justice. The lawyers relied on the 1957 European Treaty of Rome that guaranteed the freedom of movement for workers to argue that Bosman was free to move without the payment of a transfer fee since his contract had expired.

Five years after the transfer saga, on Dec 15 1995, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in Bosman’s favor. The court decided that footballers are free to move to another club at the end of their contract without the payment of transfer fees. On that night in Luxembourg (the ECJ’s seat), the free transfer was born.

Since then, players have been able to secure free transfer moves as free agents upon the expiration of their contracts with the instant clubs. The Bosman ruling has been very instrumental in the careers of several top players, some of which we will consider below.

Players Who Have Benefited From the Bosman Ruling

Robert Lewandoski

Polish captain and current Bayern forward Lewandoski is one of the high profile players to change clubs via a Bosman. The legendary striker earned his name at Dortmund, where he scored 74 goals across four years. At the end of his contract in 2014, Lewandoski opted to switch to Munich to play for the Bavarians.

Lewandoski rather than sign a new deal with BVB ran down the length of his contract and signed a pre-contractual agreement with Bayern with six months to go. The pre-contractual agreement is usually negotiated in January when the player has six months left on the expiring deal. Lewandoski got his dream move and wage demands without the usual transfer fee requirement by triggering the Bosman.

Sergio Ramos

Former Real Madrid and Spanish national team Sergio Ramos bade goodbye to Madridsta fans earlier this year. The thirty-six-year old’s contract with Madrid expired this summer, and the club was unwilling to renew on the player’s terms. Ramos has since signed for Paris Saint Germain, alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum, as the club rebuilds for the new season.

Ramos departs Madrid as its most capped player of all time in a career that spanned sixteen years. Though critics may argue that Madrid made no real losses in this transfer as Ramos has paid his dues at the club, all cash injections are welcome and losing Ramos on free brought tears to fan’s faces.

Sol Campbell

In the English Premier League, moving to a rival team is almost sacrilegious. Yet, several players have secured direct transfers to local rivals, even on a free. This was the case with Spurs’ Sol Campbell when he moved to Arsenal in 2001. These moves are sometimes forgiven by fans when there’s a transfer fee involved, but Campbell also relied on a Bosman.

In the end, he was able to negotiate a £2 million signing on fee and £65,000 in wages. Generally, players who move on free transfers negotiate better contracts and sign-on fees than when a transfer fee is paid.

Lionel Messi

In a shocking turn of events, Lionel Messi has become available as a free agent after contract talks with Barcelona hit the rocks. The six-time Balon D’or winner announced his departure via a live stream a few days ago. As one of football’s greatest players of all time, the race to sign him is ongoing, with PSG looking to make a steal.

Should PSG sign Messi, they will have one of the best summer transfer windows in football history, with Ramos, Wijnaldum, and Donnarumma joining on a free. This is likely to make PSG the favourites for UCL glory on high odds betting sites globally.

Other notable footballers who have benefited from Bosmans include Andrea Pirlo, Michael Ballack and Edgar Davis. While Jean-Marc Bosman received £312,000 as compensation for his legal and career troubles, players worldwide owe a big thank you to the now-retired pacesetter. As he stated in an interview with Daily Mail, “I’m still waiting for the others to say thank you – Ronaldo, Beckham, all of them.” 
The Bosman ruling is not without criticism; the most notable is that it further widens the gap between rich and poor clubs. This argument contends that a player could intentionally run down his deal to facilitate a move to a bigger team (and receive higher wages). In contrast, his last team gets no compensation. The conversation remains ongoing, and you can drop some comments here.

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