With Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard having walked through the doors at Pride Park in recent years, Derby fans were growing accustomed to watching England legends in action on a weekly basis.
Nonetheless, few could have expected what would follow in the summer of 2019.
On August 6, five-time Premier League winner Wayne Rooney - England and Manchester United's record goalscorer, no less - was revealed as the club's latest acquisition. It was a sensational story, particularly given the fact he had displayed his evergreen match-winning capabilities during two seasons in the MLS with DC United.
"I spoke to Phillip [Cocu] on the phone to see the situation with him. It was important to speak to him," he revealed.
"After that call I decided to come. There were other options - clubs made offers and enquiries about me but once I made the decision to come here, I wasn't going to go back."
A surprise return to English football
It wasn't until New Year's Day 2020 that he officially linked up with the club but his arrival brought an almost instant - and much-needed - boost for Cocu's side, who were languishing in the bottom half of the Championship the club had tried so hard to exit for so long.
On his debut a day later, Rooney kicked off his return to English football with an assist for Jack Marriott, who netted the opener in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Barnsley and on January 28, he had one of his own - a deflected effort to edge ahead against Luton.
Three days later, he rolled back the years with a delightful free-kick in a 4-0 thumping of Stoke. It was vintage Wayne Rooney.
Mostly deployed in a 'quarterback' role, he played an influential role in five straight wins either side of lockdown as the Rams made a desperate late dash for the play-offs, scoring twice more in what was, ultimately, a futile attempt, owing to four straight defeats in that packed mid-July schedule.
With four defeats and a draw in their final six fixtures of 2019/20, the short gap from one season to the next proved to be the hindrance nobody at the club needed. It was a sign of the difficult start to the season that Phillip Cocu had to stick his captain up front to try and improve their fortunes.
In his first game spearheading the attack, another sublime free-kick earned a shock win over Norwich in October, yet after missing three games in self-isolation, just five games followed, the last of which came on November 25 - a trip north to Middlesbrough.
By this point, Cocu had been sacked and the Rams - who had been devoid of ideas in a 3-0 reverse - appeared to be in freefall.
A quiet transition into management
Immediately after Cocu's departure, a managerial quartet consisting of Rooney, Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker was hastily assembled but it soon became clear there was a 'too many cooks' type situation and the latter trio took a back seat.
Wycombe were the visitors for Rooney's first game in sole charge and, were it not for a late equaliser from Chairboys stalwart Matt Bloomfield, November 28 would have been a date to remember.
A few days later, they were pegged back again, this time by Coventry, but a week after his appointment as interim manager, a second-half strike from Jason Knight earned Derby a 1-0 win over Millwall.
It was quickly clear that tightening up at the back was high on Rooney's list of priorities as he looked to steer his side away from the relegation zone and the trip to The Den marked the first of an unprecedented four straight clean sheets. The two games they have lost have both been settled by a solitary strike.
Undoubtedly the high point of his interim tenure was the resounding 4-0 win over Birmingham at St Andrew's on December 29. It was the first time since January they had scored more than three goals and, despite a host of errors from the Blues, they confidently strolled to victory.
"You can see the confidence growing in the team," Rooney said shortly afterwards. "They deserve that for the work they have put in over the last month.
"With the energy we have in the team, I felt it was the perfect game to take it to Birmingham. I wanted to see if they could live with our energy and our desire. I felt we could overrun Birmingham and that's what we did."
It was a result that moved Derby out of the drop zone for the first time since October but the New Year's Day loss to Sheffield Wednesday means, in addition to a 1-0 defeat to Rotherham in Rooney's first match as permanent boss, they are not out of the water yet.
Far from it, in fact, particularly given the lingering uncertainty surrounding the club's proposed takeover by Sheikh Khaled's Derventio Holdings.
Amid that, there's light for Derby, who now not only have a young manager with bright ideas at the helm on a permanent basis, but a national icon.
It's just a shame we won't see those free-kicks in the Championship again.