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The man footballers today should thank for their millions now relies on handouts to get by

Jean-Marc Bosman changed the football transfer landscape forever - but it came at a high price for him. Credit: AP

Footballers signing multi-million pound contracts with new clubs ahead of the transfer deadline tonight will probably thank their agents, families, clubs and fans.

David Luiz looks set to join Arsenal from Chelsea while Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku looks certain to get wish by moving to Inter Milan.

But any player moving on as a free agent today should be thanking one man above all others.

What Jean-Marc Bosman achieved nearly 25 years ago paved the way for footballers to take control of their futures and make millions.

But it came at a high price for the Belgian, who has since battled alcoholism and relied on ex-footballer’s union FIFPro for money.

As clubs scramble for signings before the transfer deadline today, here’s a look back at how one man inspired the biggest change in football transfers history.

  • What did Jean-Marc Bosman do?
Jean-Marc Bosman's time at FC Liege wouldn't come to an end despite his contract expiring. Credit: AP

It was 1990 and little-known Bosman, playing for the little-known Belgian side RFC Liege, wanted to play for another team.

His contract was about to expire and he had his eyes on a move to French Club Dunkirk.

But Dunkirk and Liege could not agree on a transfer fee and the deal collapsed, signalling the start of Bosman’s troubles that have stayed with him to this day.

Liege refused to release the Belgian, then 26, and his wages were cut. His contract was over but he was trapped at the club as an employee.

His lawyer initially believed it would take two weeks to solve the issue.

By the time he reached the European Court of Justice it was 1995 - five years on - and Bosman had been was frozen out of the first-team at Liege and playing football in lower amateur leagues.

The player's case challenged football’s transfer rules, citing Freedom of Movement within the European Union.

The Belgian won the landmark case, giving birth to "the Bosman ruling" – which allows players to leave their club and join another at the end of their contract.

It also put an end to rules that limited clubs to no more than three foreign players.

  • What did that mean for other players?
Jean-Marc Bosman (right) waiting with his lawyer Jean-Claude Dupont on the day of the ruling in December 1995. Credit: AP

The freedom for players to leave for free once their contracts are up gives two distinct advantages.

Firstly, the interested club does not need to pay the player’s current club a fee, which means the footballer can negotiate a higher salary based on the money the club saves in a free transfer.

In other words, if a club does not need to pay another club millions for a player, then they can afford to pay the player more.

Secondly, it means clubs not only can’t hold onto players after their contracts finish, but also need to plan ahead before they expire.

For example, if a player has one year left on a contract, the club may be forced to sell the player or risk losing him for nothing in 12 months’ time.

Steve McManaman has 14 million reasons to thank Jean-Marc Bosman. Credit: AP

Two of the most famous Bosman ruling cases came within years of the result.

In 1996 Edgar Davids became the first high-profile footballer to move using the Bosman ruling, joining AC Milan from Ajax Amsterdam.

Three years later, Steve McManaman became the then highest paid British player when he moved from Liverpool to Real Madrid for free, reportedly earning £14 million over five years.

Just this year, Welsh footballer Aaron Ramsey agreed to join Juventus from Arsenal once his contract had expired, reportedly netting him £400,000 per week.

  • But what happened to Bosman?
Jean-Marc Bosman has battled alcoholism and struggles for money. Credit: AP

The years Bosman was chasing justice should have been his prime in the sport but here he was taking football’s business model to the judiciary.

Perhaps it’s no surprise club chairmen wouldn’t seriously consider signing Bosman in the meantime.

Other clubs showed interest but could not sign him because they already had three foreigners. And by the time his case was won, he was in his thirties and nearing the end of the typical footballer’s career.

Bosman fell on hard times after football and has never truly recovered from the impact of his failed transfer and subsequent treatment.

He squandered money on a disastrous investment in t-shirts, which were branded with the words ‘Who's the Boz’. He hoped footballers benefiting from the ruling made in his name would show support by buying them.

He only ever sold one – to his lawyer’s son.

In 2011, he was given a suspended prison sentence for assaulting his girlfriend and he has suffered with alcoholism.

ITV News tried to contact him for interview but he declined. His recent comments to German paper Bild, however, suggest he is still in a dark place.

“The verdict has not only destroyed my career," he said.

“The load was too heavy to carry for a single person. With the Bosman judgment, I have achieved something that no minister would have achieved politically.

“The fact that I was treated by the clubs as a traitor and dirt has hit me deeply.”

To recoup some money he lost, the Belgian had to reportedly sell his second house and his prized Porsche.

He’s now unemployed and relies on handouts from the world footballers' union FIFPro.

  • And what does he think of his impact?
Jean-Marc Bosman (centre) hasn't been the same since the failed transfer. Credit: AP

Bosman has watched on for the past 24 years as footballers land bumper contracts thanks to his fight against the system.

But he doesn’t seem to take much solace in his sacrifice.

He told Bild the ruling has become a “perversion”, solely used to make clubs money.

He believes control has been taken back out of the players’ hands.