We recently wrote a post regarding the Top 10 Transfer Flops and it was enjoyable, having a snigger at these overpriced players who never lived up to their price tag. So, we thought it would be fun to to the opposite: The Top 10 Football Bargains! Who went over and above their price tag? Who got the most return, both on the pitch and financially? Who got the most bang for their buck? Also, this time, we won’t be limiting it to The Premiership.
10. Kolo Toure
Arsenal – £150,000
While the oldest of the Touré brothers is more than likely past his peak, you can’t argue that the big centre half was a great player for Arsenal. He was and integral part of the ‘Invincible’ Arsenal team of the 2003-04 season and captained the side on many occasions. He was (and still is) known for a tremendous work ethic and never-say-die attitude. While he may have been one of the many players to jump on the Manchester City band wagon, his £16m fee gave Arsenal a %10,667 return on their investment.
9. Nicolas Anelka
Arsenal – £500,000
‘Le Sulk’ has always been famous for his moody temperament and his egotistic attitude, but what people forget is that the man was a world class striker on his game. This is the part of Anelka that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger clearly saw in the then 17 year old when he decided to pay £500,000 for the Frenchman, which at the time could have been considered a lot for a raw, largely untested teenager. The gamble paid off and Anelka scored 23 goals over 2 seasons for the Londoners before he was sold to Real Madrid for a whopping £22.3m, giving Arsenal another hefty ROI of %4460
8. Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Manchester United – £1.5m
The Baby Faced Assassin. We all know and love Ole Gunnar Solskjær, unless of course you are a Manchester City or Bayern Munich fan, and even then, you probably still love him a little. Apparently one of the nicest people in football, the now Cardiff manager was brought into an established Manchester United side in 1996 as a relatively unknown player. He wouldn’t leave Old Trafford unknown. The original super-sub scored 126 times for United, many of them important, but none as important as his late winner in the 1999 Champions League Final for which he’ll always be remembered. While Manchester United didn’t sell him on unlike others on this list, that goal he scored in the Champions League Final was worth ten times his fee alone.
7. Robin Van Persie
Arsenal – £2.75m
Another twinkle in Wenger’s eye that would eventually become a club captain and legend. Van Persie was brought to Arsenal in 2004 originally as a winger, but would turn out to be so much more. Competing for a place with £20m man Jose Anotnio Reyés, Van Persie gradually won his place, moved in from the wing, and became the natural replacement for his compatriot and idol, Dennis Bergkamp. He later went on to replace Thierry Henry as club captain and talisman and scored 132 goals in 279 total appearances for Arsenal. While many questioned his move to Manchester United in 2012 for £24m, none can argue with his record for the club and the %872 return on their investment.
6. Jay-Jay Okocha
Bolton Wanderers – Free
So good they named him twice. We all remember Jay-Jay Okacha, he was the man you would see week in week out on Soccer AM’s ‘Showboat’ without fail, and quite rightly so. The Nigerian raised a lot of eyebrows when he moved to Bolton from French giants PSG on a free transfer in 2002, but The Reebok Stadium is where he would go on to play the best football of his career. He became a cult legend in Bolton, with his outrageous skills and important goals keeping Bolton in the top flight and the Wanderers fans happy. He would also captain what could be considered one of the best Bolton sides of the modern era, reaching the League Cup Final and playing in Europe.
5. Peter Schmeichel
Manchester United – £500,000
There isn’t that much that needs to be said about Peter Schmeichel. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Personally, he is the greatest of all time. A commanding presence, an astude understanding of the game and a shot stopping ability that very few can rival, Schmeichel is one of the greatest players ever to pull on a Manchester United shirt full stop, not just the goalkeeper top. The man who would only cost £500,000 would go on to have an illustrious career with the English giants, where he help United win 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 4 Charity Shields, 1 Champions League and 1 Super Cup. Not bad for a man from a small town outside of Copenhagen.
4. Henrik Larsson
Celtic – £650,000
If I told you that a man who made a ridiculous error on his debut for Celtic, costing them the game and a man who scored an own goal on his first European game for the club would go on to become one of the greatest strikers the Scottish game, and even Europe, has ever seen and, would you believe me? Of course you would, because why would I lie? That aside, the man I was describing is none other than the great Henrik Larsson. This Swedish ‘nobody’ would become the only non-Scot to be selected in Celtic’s greatest ever team. He was, and still is, the highest scoring foreigner in Scotland, and for Celtic and is widely considered to be on of the most prolific poachers ever to play the game. Ronaldinho even called him his ‘idol’. Praise doesn’t come much higher than that. While he didn’t command a fee when he left Celtic for Barcelona after nearly 8 years, the 242 goals he scored for the club certainly made up for that.
3. Gareth Bale
Tottenham Hotspur – £7m
While you might think that £7m isn’t really a ‘bargain’ so to speak, Bale’s transformation while at Tottenham is a story in itself. Tottenham have always had a record of snapping up young players for lower teams and moulding them into more established players, but Bale really does stand out among the rest. Signed as a skinny 17 year old left back, with promise, none would expect Bale to become one of the deadliest and most fearsome attackers in the world. First catching the eye and dazzling audiences with his blistering pace and goalscoring prowess in the Champions League with Tottenham, he would later move to Real Madrid for a world record £85.3m in 2013 giving Tottenham a profit margin of £78.3m, which is a pretty decent return for any club.
2. Eric Cantona
Manchester United – £1.2m
When Sir Alex signed the Frenchman from Leeds in 1992 after not even a full season in England, no one would have thought that Cantona would go on to be such a pivotal player for Manchester United. Signed as a result of failures to bring in 4 different strikers who were above him on Fergusons shortlist, King Eric would go on to be voted as United’s Greatest Ever Player. Again, Cantona would not command a return fee when leaving United, as he retired a legend at the age 0f only 30. But, his goals, his attitude and his love for the club will never be forgotten, and he will always be remembered as the player who was the final piece of the puzzle in Sir Alex’s vision for Manchester United. Cantona helped United win 4 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups and 3 Charity Shields and scored 78 times in 176 games in his time at Manchester United and as captain. He most likely would have won more if it were not for his premature retirement.
1. Lionel Messi
Barcelona – Free
While you could argue that players brought through the ranks are not exactly bargains; we will argue that Messi was still sought after and signed as any other player would be, only he was just 11 at the time. Barcelona are renowned for their South American scouting conquests, and Messi is the shining example of how well this can pay off for a club. Spotted playing football in his hometown at the age of 11 by Barcelona scouts, the team would go to great lengths to bring this boy that they have such high hopes for back home to Spain. They offered to relocate his entire family, as well as paying for his ongoing medical bills. Barcelona finally got their man, err, boy and groomed him in the best way they know. After making his full debut at age 16, Messi has gone on to win countless personal and team awards. He has helped Barcelona win (deep breath) 6 La Liga Titles, 2 Copa del Reys, 6 Spanish Super Cups, 2 Champions League titles, 2 Uefa Super Cups and 2 FIFA Club World Championships. And that is just his team honours, there are plenty more individual ones. So, Barcelona scoured the globe for talent, and they ultimately found it in Lionel Messi: arguably the world’s most valuable player, and thus making him our number 1 on our list of Top 10 Football Bargains.
Don’t agree with our list? Know of any bargains we have missed? Let us know in the comments below.