Best Premier League Bargain Buys

With the amount clubs are spending these days, it is probably worth remembering that bargain buys can still make a difference

Manchester United legend Eric Cantona

There’s more money than ever washing around the England Premier League, with Chelsea alone spending over £600m across the last two transfer windows.

Fees approaching nine figures are becoming more common, but as shown by Brighton, Brentford and Fulham this season, money doesn’t always talk, and bargain buys can be just as effective as multi-million pound signings.

Here we look at five of the best bargain buys in the Premier League.

Sol Campbell – Tottenham to Arsenal, free

One of the cornerstones of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, Campbell’s move across north London was both a bargain and hugely controversial.

As a free agent, Campbell left the club who gave him his first professional contract, after nine years and joined their bitterest of rivals. 

An already fiery fixture reached fever pitch every time the two sides met, with Campbell cast as the ultimate pantomime villain.

Although troublesome, it was an inspired decision by the Gunners to sign Campbell who became one of England’s best defenders, lifting multiple trophies and winning 73 caps for his country.

James Milner – Manchester City to Liverpool, free

Another freebie who has looked more of a bargain the longer his career has gone on.

Milner left the Etihad in 2015 after five trophy-laden years at Manchester City.

More was to come at Anfield, though, as Milner, despite entering the twilight years of his career, continued to fill his trophy cabinet.

The Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and Club World Cup were just some of the trophies won by Liverpool with Milner in their ranks.

A midfielder by trade, the Leeds-born veteran is equally at home at full-back and he looks likely to end his career at Brighton, who he looks set to join on a free in the summer.

The Seagulls will be hoping their faith in the 37-year-old will pay off.

Nicolas Anelka – Paris St-Germain to Arsenal, £500,000

Young and unknown, the main question on everyone’s lips when Nicolas Anelka pitched up at Arsenal was, who?

One of Arsene Wenger’s first masterstrokes as Gunners boss was to land the French youngster, who pitched up at Highbury as an 18-year-old and quickly set the Premier League alight.

A handy 12 goals in 26 games made it a debut season to remember, and he continued in the same vein with another 17 goals the following season.

Fleet-footed and deadly with his finishing, Anelka quickly caught the eye of Europe’s biggest clubs and he was signed by Real Madrid after just two seasons in north London for a whopping fee of £22.3m.

Not a bad profit on a two-year investment for the Gunners.

Eric Cantona – Leeds to Manchester United, £1.2m

Arguably the catalyst for United’s years of success, fiery Frenchman Eric Cantona arrived at Old Trafford as a journeyman forward renowned for his bad behaviour and long list of troubles left behind him at his former clubs.

But under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and adored by the United fans, Cantona settled himself down and quickly became a legendary figure with the Red Devils.

King Eric, as he became known at Old Trafford, helped the club to multiple league titles and cup successes in a five-year spell which saw him score 64 goals in 143 appearances.

Many of his goals regularly feature in the Premier League’s best-ever goals features and he is largely regarded as one of United’s greatest players.

His bad temper got the better of him in 1995 after he kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace supporter after being sent off at Selhurst Park, following which came a lengthy ban.

It is the one black mark on a glorious career at Old Trafford where they still class him as one of their greatest ever signings, and a bargain one at that.

Philippe Coutinho – Inter to Liverpool, £8.5m

Maybe not one of the cheapest ever deals to take place in the Premier League, but the diminutive Brazilian’s move from Inter to Liverpool deserves a place in this list more because of what came later.

Coutinho had barely been heard of when he made the move from Inter to Liverpool in the January transfer window of 2013 and had a largely ineffective spell at the San Siro, prompting the Inter hierarchy to cut their losses.

And many were questioning the signing of Coutinho as the Brazilian made a slow start to his career on Merseyside. But under the stewardship of inspirational boss Jurgen Klopp, things started to gather pace for Coutinho who became known for his silky dribbling and wonderful long-range goals.

Helping Liverpool to become title challengers and a force in Europe once again, Coutinho started to catch the eye of Barcelona, who offered an eye-watering sum of around £145m for the midfield maestro.

The Reds found it impossible to turn down and he made his move to Camp Nou in 2018 but little has gone right for him since, and he is currently warming the bench most weeks at Aston Villa.

The opposite can be said for Liverpool, who invested the cash wisely by bringing in goalkeeper Alisson, and centre back Virgil van Dijk, and the rest is history, with Klopp’s mob landing most major trophies since the departure of Coutinho.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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