Warning: You will almost certainly disagree with many of the players in this line up, so let me begin by explaining my quite specific criteria for a great Premier League bargain.
1. As you’ll notice, this line up consists entirely of players signed in the 21st century, as it seems pointless comparing the kinds of fees we see now to those paid in the 90s.
2. No free transfers. Yes, players like Sol Campbell, Michael Ballack and James Milner were clearly bargains in some sense, but it’s also quite a different story snapping up a world class player because their contract is up versus identifying a top talent before anyone else has and negotiating a smart deal.
3. So that also means no academy players.
4. I decided to keep the line up to players that cost under £10m. Yes there will be better players that might’ve cost £12m, but I had to set a limit somewhere.
5. Yes, yes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were also ridiculously cheap but I’ve limited this to deals done by clubs that were in the Premier League at the time.
Anyway, enough moaning from me, onto the great Premier League bargain XI…
GK: Edwin van der Sar
One of the best goalkeepers in recent Premier League history, Edwin van der Sar is a certified Manchester United legend after helping the club to no end of success following his move from Fulham in the summer of 2005. Transfermarkt have his fee down as around £3.6million, and it’s pretty staggering to think he was at a club like Fulham for as long as he was, and that Man Utd got away with spending so little on him.
CB: Nemanja Vidic
Another member of that dominant United team in the late 00s and early 10s, Nemanja Vidic is one of the great Red Devils players of modern history and proved an incredible bargain for just £7m (fee via BBC Sport). It’s crazy to compare the quality of that deal with the massive over-spending on Harry Maguire last summer.
CB: Vincent Kompany
Another player who arrived as a relative unknown but who became a Premier League legend, Vincent Kompany cost Manchester City just £9.45m (as per Transfermarkt) but went on to captain the club to four titles and a number of other major honours, becoming an elite centre-back and leader for the club.
RB: Seamus Coleman
A ridiculous bargain here, Seamus Coleman cost Everton just £63,000 in 2009, according to Transfermarkt. Such fees are virtually unheard of now, and while Coleman might not be in the same league as most of the other players in this XI, he’s been a top performer and captain for Everton and has to go down as one of the best bargains of recent times.
LB: Patrice Evra
Like Vidic and Van der Sar, few could have imagined the impact Patrice Evra would have at Man United when he joined in a low-key deal worth just £5.5m (fee via BBC Sport) in January 2006. The Frenchman became one of the finest full-backs of his generation, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League in a glittering career at Old Trafford.
CM: N’Golo Kante
A ridiculously good signing by Leicester City. N’Golo Kante rose to stardom almost out of nowhere with his move to the King Power Stadium in the summer of 2015 for just £6m (fee via BBC Sport). Just a year later he was a Premier League champion as he starred in one of the most incredible sporting success stories of all time, and his value more than quadrupled as he earned a £30m move to Chelsea (also as per the BBC), where another title, and the PFA Player of the Year prize, would follow. A superb piece of business all round.