belfasttelegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Best transfer deals ever

<br>Sammi Hyypia (Willem II to Liverpool, £2.6m 1999)</b><br/>
Went on trial to Newcastle a couple of years earlier, but they weren't interested so he ended up shoring up Liverpool's backline for a decade, picking up domestic and European glory as he went. A reliable rather than spectacular player, but not a bad buy for a player recommended to the club by a TV cameraman.

Sammi Hyypia (Willem II to Liverpool, £2.6m 1999)
Went on trial to Newcastle a couple of years earlier, but they weren't interested so he ended up shoring up Liverpool's backline for a decade, picking up domestic and European glory as he went. A reliable rather than spectacular player, but not a bad buy for a player recommended to the club by a TV cameraman.

Brad Friedel (Liverpool to Blackburn Rovers, free, 2000)
Friedel never made the breakthrough at Liverpool but at Blackburn he established himself as one of the Premier League's best keepers, and is now an authoritative presence at Aston Villa, again making a decent profit as the free signing was sold on for £2.5m.

Carlos Tevez (Corinthians to West Ham United, who knows? 2006)
No-one will really unravel how much he cost and who that money went to, but his 7 goals in West Ham's last 10 games kept them in the gravy train of the Premier League. His next destination (after Manchester United) will be as tedious a story as his last two transfers were, but he proved he can be worth the wait.

Eric Cantona (Leeds United to Manchester United, £1.2m, 1992)
The catalyst to an empire. United had not won a title in 26 years, til Cantona turned his collar up at Old Trafford and inspired the team to a trophy rush that is (probably) not yet over. His arrival at United was prompted by a speculative Leeds bid for a United fullback, which in-turn led Ferguson to counter-offer for Cantona. What followed makes this the bargain of the Premier League era.

Zat Knight (Rushall Olympic to Fulham, 30 tracksuits, 1999)
Not the greatest centre back in the League (by some distance), but he played for England a couple of times and made quite a profit for the Cottagers when they sold him on to Aston Villa for £3.5m, which is not a bad mark-up on the 30 tracksuits that he cost. Strictly speaking, even the tracksuits weren't part of the fee. Knight signed for free but chairman Mohamed Al Fayed was feeling generous.

David James (Manchester City to Portsmouth, £1.2m, 2006)
It was something of a surprise when James left City for the south coast but Harry Redknapp landed a bargain as Calamity James restored his reputation and won back his England place.

lan Shearer (Southampton to Blackburn Rovers, £3.6m, 1992)
It seemed like quite a lot of money at the time, but Shearer scored 112 Premiership goals for Blackburn in 138 appearances, and helped Rovers win the title. Added to that, Blackburn made a profit of more than £11m when he was sold on to Newcastle United in 1996.

Dimitar Berbatov (Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham Hotspur, £10.9m, 2006)
At over £10m, Berbatov didn't seem cheap, but two seasons of languid creativity trebled his transfer fee when he went to Manchester United, and his first season would indicate that Spurs (or at least their accountants) got the better of that deal.

Paolo Di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday to West Ham United, £1.75m, 1999)
Footballing mavericks rarely come cheaper but Di Canio was pure box office, whether scoring great goals, pushing referees over or outing himself as a fascist (but 'not a racist'), the man made headlines and a hero of himself at West ham.

Marc Overmars (Ajax to Arsenal, £7m, 1997)
One of Wenger's best deals. He bought Overmars for £7m, squeezed his best years out of him, sold him to Barcelona for £25m and watched him fade slowly from view. Cake and eating it.

Nicolas Anelka (Paris St-Germain to Arsenal, £500,000, 1996)
Another from Wenger's milk 'em and sell 'em policy. The moody adolescent arrived and outpaced all-comers on the route to goal for a couple of seasons before sulking his way to Real Madrid for a £22.5m profit and beginning a career of nomadic surliness that is currently stationed, rather more cheerfully it has to be said, at Stamford Bridge.

Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest to Manchester United, £3.75m, 1993)
Keane came within a whisker of signing for Blackburn Rovers, but instead joined United and became the heartbeat of what, at its peak in 1999, was Europe's best midfield (alongside Scholes, Giggs and Beckham).

Gianfranco Zola (Parma to Chelsea, £4.5m, 1996)
The most popular Italian to hit British football, the clever little player inspired a pre-Abramovich Chelsea to win trophies. Worth the money for inspiring the unlikely scenario that people felt warmly about Chelsea for a while.

Dennis Bergkamp (Inter Milan to Arsenal, £7.5m, 1995)
Bruce Rioch signed him but Arsene Wenger got the benefit by turning round the career of a man going nowhere in Milan. As a deep-lying forward creating space with inspired passes in dangerous areas, he had few peers and was instrumental in the birth of Arsenal's glory years.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United, £12m, 2003)
Not the most popular of players but worth his place for six seasons of growing brilliance (which is one more season than Eric Cantona managed) before setting off for Madrid for a profit to United of £68m, which is good business in anyone's book.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Molde to Manchester United, £1.5m, 1996)
Solksjaer's debut set the tone in 1996 ? on as sub (against Blacburn Rovers), he scored within six minutes. Has there been a better substitute? His football intelligence helped him hit the ground running when he came on and exploit a situation ? whether it be four goals in 12 minutes against Nottingham Forest or a certain last minute winner in 1999. Still with the club as reserve team coach.

Kevin Davies (Southampton to Bolton Wanderers, free, 2003)
Davies' career was ambling towards oblivion when Sam Allardyce took him to Bolton for nothing. A spiky target man or rare presence, he is the most under-rated of forwards and leads the line with less pace but as many goals as England hero Emile Heskey

Jurgen Klinsmann (Monaco to Tottenham Hotspur, £1m, 1995)
Few players have energised a club like Klinsmann did in his first season at Spurs ? from his self-mocking dive to celebrate his first goal to his winning of the player of the year award in his debut season. It didn't end quite so well, but it was glorious while it lasted.

Thierry Henry (Juventus to Arsenal, £10.5m, 1999) Another of Wenger's gems, another under-achiever in Italy, reinvented at Arsenal as wide-lying forward who cut in to devastating effect. The best player Arsenal have ever had.

For some clubs, splashing the cash on established stars will guarantee success. For others, it's a matter of sniffing out the bargains, making the gambles and backing hunches.

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