In today’s current transfer climate, free transfers have become an integral part of players moving clubs. Newcastle have already secured Romain Amalfitano for nothing, and with players such as Louis Saha, Jose Bosingwa, Hugo Rodallega and Royston Drenthe all free agents, there’s certainly a bargain to be found.
Here, we will take a look at the 5 best free transfer signing’s in the recent history of Newcastle United.
5. Antoine Sibierski -With big money signings arriving thick and fast such as Michael Owen, Emre, Albert Luque and Damien Duff, not much hype was generated following the signing of French free agent Antoine Sibierski from Manchester City.
However, he did the best thing that any new signing could do, and that was to score on his club debut, in a UEFA Cup game against Levadia. He became somewhat of a UEFA Cup specialist for the club as he scored 4 goals in 5 starts in the competition.
Soon after, injuries began to appear in the squad, and the Frenchman became an increasingly important member of the team and he quickly became a fan favourite due to his tireless work-rate and impressive footwork. He scored arguably the goal of the season against SV Zulte-Waregem in which he received the ball, nutmegged a defender, beat one more defender, skillfully skipped past the ‘keeper, and then cooly slotted the ball home.
He remained at the club until Sam Allardyce took over, but will be remembered fondly by the Geordie faithful.
4. Pavel Srnicek - The next player on this list is a player that Newcastle actually signed on a free transfer, twice!
Originally signed way back in 1990 by then Newcastle manager Jim Smith, Pavel Srnicek arrived on a free from Czech club Banik Ostrava. He soon became first choice ‘keeper, and was key in Newcastle’s promotion to the FA Premier League. Despite competition from players such as Shaka Hislop and Shay Given, Srnicek remained at Newcastle for 8 years, making 149 league appearences, and leaving behind many happy memories with the fans.
However, it doesn’t just end there. 8 years later, a goalkeeper injury crisis hit the club, and a 39 year old Srnicek was signed as emergency backup to Shay Given, and when Given pulled up in the 87th minute of a game against Tottenham, Srnicek came on to one of the loudest receptions to ever take place in St James’ Park.
3. Temuri Ketsbaia – He joined Newcastle as a free agent in 1997 from Greek side AEK Athens, and in his 3 year spell as a Newcastle player, proved to be one of the best all-round central midfield players in the Premier League.
He became loved by the Newcastle fans as a bit of a crazy character. He seemed to have an endless engine on the pitch, and went a bit mad every time he celebrated a goal. This was best summed up when he celebrated a goal by ripping off his kit and kicking the advertising hoardings.
He is seen as a one-man hero in Cypriot football for his playing and managing time. Ketsbaia also has a more than impressive club managerial record of just 9 losses in 115 games.
2. Olivier Bernard - In the early 2000′s, Sir Bobby Robson had assembled arguably the best ever Newcastle United team. So it’s hard to believe that one of the key players of that team was signed for absolutely nothing.
Olivier Bernard was signed from Lyon on a free transfer at the age of 20 in 2000, and at left back, soon formed a lethal left side partnership with fellow Frenchman Laurent Robert.
Young, quick, determined and good on the ball, Bernard had the makings of a future Newcastle superstar. He helped Newcastle to almost winning the league, and put the club back on the map with some impressive Champions League performances.
Unfortunately, a horrific hip injury severely halted the progress of one of the brightest prospects in the game, and Bernard never really recovered. He had to retire at the young age of just 27, and now walks with a limp.
However, he is always greeted with a warm welcome whenever at St. James’ Park.
1. Demba Ba - Despite the exploits of the aforementioned four players, there can only be one man who ranks as Newcastle’s best ever free agent.
After playing in Germany, and then having a half season at relegated West Ham United, not much was expected from Demba Ba upon his free arrival at the club, taking the number 19 shirt from Xisco.
While not many people thought Ba would get many goals at Newcastle, Demba had other ideas.
From when he scored his first Newcastle goal against Blackburn, he then went on to score an incredible 16 goals in 15 games, breaking goalscoring records left, right and centre.
Not only is Ba excellent at scoring, he has pace, he’s comfortable at dribbling, and is yet to be physically matched by a defender in the league. A truly all-round forward, he also helped to settle in new signing Papiss Cisse.
Ba, Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa went on to create an almost unstoppable front 3 in the second half of the 2011/2012 season, with the Magpies just missing out on Champions League qualification.
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