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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 17:16 GMT

Sport: Football

Bosman summer holiday

(From left to right, starting at the top - Mark Bosnich, Rob Jones, Roland Nilsson, Ken Monkou, Stuart Pearce, Don Hutchison, John Barnes, Scot Gemmill, Guy Whittingham, Karl Heinz-Riedle and Andy Clarke)

Those managers who do not have the same amount of money as Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal should pay close attention to the picture above.

That classic 4-4-2 formation is available because they are all footballers who can leave their current clubs at the end of the season without commanding a transfer fee.

In other words, they are potential beneficiaries of the Bosman contract ruling.

Jean-Marc Bosman was an above average Belgian footballer who sought to join Dunkerque at the end of his contract, but found his club RFC Liege were intent on making that impossible by cutting his wages and demanding a prohibitively high transfer fee.

Bosman took his case to the European High Court where it was held that existing transfer rules were in breach of EU law on the free movement of workers between member states.

[ image: Steve McManaman: Owes his fortune to a man called Bosman]
Steve McManaman: Owes his fortune to a man called Bosman
The law was changed to allow players to negotiate their own deals with other clubs when their contract expired.

The ruling, and subsequent additions to football transfer law have allowed players such as Steve McManaman to sign a contract with Real Madrid before leaving Anfield. The lanky winger is no doubt thankful that his current club are not in the European Champions Cup.


Players, or those at the top of their profession, hold most of the aces in the transfer market. Many now receive huge signing-on fees and higher wages because of the absence of transfer fees.

With more sports agents involved in football than ever before, many players are being advised to play out their exisiting contracts and wait till the summer to decide on their options.

The list of Premiership players that will be out of contract by the end of the season makes for interesting reading.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of players entering the twilight of their careers, such as Mark Bright who are unlikely to make much out of the ruling.

But when one sees the likes of Bosnich, Hutchison, Jones and Gemmill, players in their mid 20s, likely to move on for 'nothing', it becomes obvious that football in future years will become a very different game.


On the same level, players like Wimbledon's Peter Fear and Coventry's Sam Shilton, young players with promising futures who have been usurped by the influx of foreign players can find themselves clubs with greater ease and kick start their careers.

But clubs are gradually waking up to the fact that they can use the Bosman ruling to their benefit. Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, is targetting seven new signings for the start of next season and is expecting half of them to come through free transfers, which will provide some compensation for the loss of McManaman.

And football fans can expect more foreign players to enter the English game, with players like Ajax's Jari Litmanen available at the end of the Dutch football season, and seemingly intent on coming to the Premier League, where wages and signing-on bonuses make a career nearly as lucrative as playing in Spain or Italy.

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