You don’t need to spend big for quality because here are the 20 most economically efficient summer transfer window signings.
These are the players who were signed for bargain-basement transfer fees, and have exceeded expectations.
Loan deals have been excluded from the article. This list isn’t exhaustive, so please comment below with your suggestions.
For what it’s worth, here are the last five players cut from this list:
21. Steed Malbranque (Lyon; signed as a free agent)
22. Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt; signed from Kaiserslautern for €1.5 million)
23. Roman Neustädter (Schalke; signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach on a free transfer)
24. Fabian Giefer (Fortuna Düsseldorf; signed from Bayer Leverkusen for €400,000)
25. Lex Immers (Feyenoord; signed from ADO Den Haag for €900,000)
Signed from Manchester United on a free transfer
Paul Pogba's knack for the spectacular earned him a strong legion of followers when he was rising through the United youth system.
He hadn't done anything at senior level, mainly because he wasn't given a chance, but he and his agent attempted to strong-arm Sir Alex Ferguson during negotiations for a new contract.
United refused to cater to the Frenchman's demands, thus enabling Juventus to take advantage.
Pogba is a potentially world-class centre midfielder: strong in the tackle, technically superb and a goal threat from distance.
Ferguson may spend the next few years second-guessing his decision but if Pogba's notorious ego rears its ugly head at Juve, SAF will feel vindicated.
Signed from Palmeiras for €2 million
Cicinho started the season like a man possessed as he ramrodded the Getafe players with 12 tackles and three interceptions.
He then kept Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring or creating a goal during Sevilla's 1-0 victory over Real Madrid.
At one point, Cicinho was arguably the best right-back in the world on form, but his positioning and ball-winning has dropped off in recent months.
However, if he can regain his form of previous seasons, the Brazilian could be a terrifying prospect for the attackers of La Liga.
Signed from Racing on a free transfer
He currently averages 3.5 tackles per league game and completes 80.1 percent of tackles attempted.
For comparison's sake, Mikel Arteta accumulates 3.6 tackles per league game but only has a 66.2 percentage of successful tackles.
Another facet of Claudio's game is his ball-retention ability—he completes 90 percent of his passes.
Signed from Valencia on a free transfer
Barkero should never start over Míchel, who can thread that killer pass at any moment.
There's a lot to like about Míchel: he presses, is comfortable in possession, has creativity and is only 24 years old.
He has eight assists in 26 combined La Liga/UEFA Europa League games, which is a great return for a club like Levante, and it would be better if he didn't start 38.5 percent of those games on the bench.
Los Che said hasta luego to Míchel, anticipating he would develop at Levante, hence why management inserted a €420,000 buy-back clause.
Earlier this month, Inside Spanish Football's Tom Conn reported that Valencia will trigger that contractual clause this summer.
Signed from Houston Dynamo for £1.6 million
During Geoff Cameron's high school days, he was a stud attacking threat for the Providence Country Day School, once netting 17 goals and creating another 29 in one season.
That wasn't even his best season as he scored 18 goals and accumulated 33 assists the next year.
When Didier Drogba played right-back as a youngster, his uncle shouted: "What are you doing stuck back there? Get up front!"
Well, someone told Cameron to quit breaking all the scoring records like Archie Stark, and start making some tackles.
After Geoff finished his collegiate career, he didn't win the Hermann Trophy nor was he a highly coveted draft pick.
Of the 41 players selected ahead of him in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, only Roger Espinoza (drafted 11th overall by Sporting Kansas City; joined Wigan Athletic earlier this month) is playing for a team in one of Europe's elite leagues.
It gives you an idea of the MLS draft's hit-and-miss nature.
Cameron is a world-class ball-winner, who uses his physical presence to overwhelm his opponent.
He's played at right-back, left-back and in midfield. He probably could slot in at centre-back if needed.
Prior to joining Stoke City, Geoff spoke about he might transition to Premier League football (via Darrell Lovell at MLSsoccer.com): "I think overall, the Dynamo and Stoke are very similar in their work ethic and running hard and being physical and being hard workers overall."
Cameron's robust style of play is perfect for Stoke.
Signed from Levante for £2.7 million
Arouna Koné had many Fernando Torres-like moments at Sevilla. The Ivorian was shipped off to unfancied Levante on loan and scored 15 times in the league.
Just like with Felipe Caicedo, Levante signed Koné permanently and then sold him immediately to the highest bidder.
Koné has been forward-thinking when it comes to shooting, can create for his teammates and isn't afraid of taking players on.
He has played all three forward roles this season: right, centre and left.
When he returns from the African Cup of Nations, Roberto Martínez may opt to play a front three of Koné, Manchester United loanee Ángelo Henríquez and Shaun Maloney.
Signed from Valencia for €2.5 million
Aritz Aduriz isn't even close in terms of ability compared to Fernando Llorente, yet as the outcast continues counting down the days until he wears the Juventus shirt, Aritz has been a surprisingly good replacement.
Even though, he has gone missing against Barcelona and Real Madrid, you don't fluke 11 league goals.
Aduriz has scored 48 percent of Athletic Bilbao's goals in La Liga.
Signed from Cerezo Osaka for €1.2 million
Nürnberg manager Michael Wiesinger was a fool for leaving Hiroshi Kiyotake on the bench against Hamburg.
No Nürnberg player averages 1.0 key passes per game let alone 2.8 like Hiroshi.
Kiyotake is one of two players to complete 2.0 dribbles or more per game.
What is Wiesinger trying to accomplish?
You don't leave your MVP on the bench, especially against a Hamburg side that lost 3-0 to Bayer Leverkusen the week before.
Signed from St. Pauli for €750,000
Oliver Baumann and Max Kruse are the two main reasons why little old Freiburg are in contention to make it into next season's UEFA Champions League play-off round.
At the standard they're playing, both will be sold to bigger clubs in the summer.
Baumann is a steady keeper, who has made some great saves. But, it's Kruse that really has caught the eye.
He has a good shimmy move to get past his marker whilst also having the capacity to create.
Someone like Sercan Sararer shows the downfall of over-complicating things. Sure, you can dribble past three players, but if you lose the ball trying to get past a fourth, it's more of a negative than a positive.
Max dribbles past one defender and then instantly plays an incisive pass.
That's his formula for creating more goal scoring opportunities (56) than Franck Ribéry (49), Toni Kroos (49), Thomas Müller (41) and Marco Reus this season (39).
Signed from Racing Santander for €200,000
Arsène Wenger once told Craig Foster at SBS' The World Game:
When people usually start to develop players, they start at 20 and go down. I believe it's reverse, we should start at five and go up.
Because, you build a player like a house. With the technical skill (first floor).
The second floor is the physical from 12-16.
When 18-20, the tactical knowledge.
And 20+ kicks in the mental side of it.
So, if you don't start at the basement of the house, the rest of the work is useless.
At the basement of the house is between 5-12.
If you have no technique at 12, you never have technique, so that means that's the most important age to develop players.
Pape Diop is immense from a physical standpoint, he has a dogged mentality to succeed and he reads the game expertly.
He has well-known technical deficiencies, which might explain why he never made the grade at Rennes.
For a No. 6 that makes backward and sideways passes, he still gives away the ball 29.9 percent of the time, which is unfathomable.
So, when talkSPORT said: "The midfielder [Diop] would be a like-for-like replacement for Alex Song," you had to facepalm.
Signed from Wigan Athletic on a free transfer
People talk about Yaya Touré as this box-to-box supremo, yet he has shirked his defensive duties this season, hence why he wins back the ball 2.0 times per league game.
Mohamed Diamé wins back the ball 5.1 times per game; 3.1 times more than Yaya.
Believe it or not, Mohamed has completed more dribbles (35) than Touré (25), even though Yaya is known for his powerful beast-like runs.
Diamé is raw from an attacking perspective but he offers the box-to-box threat Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes is missing from this Arsenal team.
Mohamed will also enforce in midfield and stick up for his teammates. You don't want to be on the receiving end of a Diamé tackle in a 50-50 contest.
The major reason against signing Mohamed has nothing to do with his ability or intangibles.
He has a heart defect, a condition which sunk possible transfers to Barcelona and Manchester United—that's how good he is.
We're not talking about knee problems or ligament issues—this is the heart. If it stops, you die.
Why burden the Gunners' medical staff with such a risk?
Leave it to the Hammers or the next club that signs Diamé with that ethical dilemma.
Signed from Hertha Berlin on a free transfer
Patrick Ebert looked like another run-of-the-mill midfielder in the Bundesliga.
The pedigree was there considering he was in a German Under-21s squad that contained the likes of Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Marcel Schmelzer, Jérôme Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Özil.
When Ebert was in the Bundesliga, he dribbled blind like Gökhan Töre, crossed like Theo Walcott and had a nonchalant view to the game like Ricardo Quaresma.
You wondered if Ebert would fall by the wayside as Thomas "Mozart" Broich did several years earlier.
Thankfully, Ebert has rescued his career in Spain whilst Broich has found fulfillment in Australia.
With Real Valladolid, Ebert has had moments this season where you think: wow, that's something Mario Götze does.
Patrick's crossing has been David Beckham-esque, and that's no exaggeration as he completes 30.7 percent of his crosses; accepted average is 20-25.
Signed from Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer
It's a toss up between Jussi Jääskeläinen and Simon Mignolet for the title of the Premier League's best goalkeeper so far this season.
Last September, the facial expressions of Hugo Rodallega were priceless, as Jääskeläinen denied the Fulham forward time after time during West Ham United's 3-0 win.
What makes Jääskeläinen's transfer even sweeter is that he came to the club on a Bosman.
Signed from Ajax for €400,000
Darío Cvitanich, the €400,000 man from Nice, has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals from 38 shots.
Fernando Torres, who is paid higher wages per year than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, has netted seven Premier League goals from 51 shots.
There's nothing too much to note about Darío's game aside from him getting into good positions and finishing. Seems like a simple concept, but Torres struggles.
Signed from Auxerre for €2 million
Alain Traoré can shoot from long-range, provides clear-cut goal scoring opportunities and has been a spark for Lorient.
In a 2-0 win over Saint-Étienne, he demonstrated his high vertical leap, as he outjumped 6'3" tall Moustapha Bayal Sall—Alain is just 5'9".
If you're checking out Traoré during the African Cup of Nations, he may not be at his best because he's playing with an injury—talk about patriotism; Adel Taarabt wouldn't have done that for Morocco.
Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for €600,000
Eintracht Frankfurt have two full-backs with world-class potential: Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Jung.
They have a goalkeeper in Kevin Trapp, who is playing the best football of his life, and a dominant presence in midfield via Sebastian Rode.
Alexander Meier's soft touch coupled by his bulk means he can be unstoppable at times, while Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner have been valuable contributors.
Point being, this is a very good Eintracht side, hence they're fourth in the Bundesliga.
Oczipka has left holes at the back because of his attacking endeavours but he has more assists in league play (seven) than Cristiano Ronaldo (four).
Signed from Genoa for £2 million
Several years ago, Chico did an old-fashioned man-marking job on Xavi, to which the Barcelona maestro said (via fcbarcelona.cat):
It was exasperating. I hope that it does not happen again.
I have no personal problem with Chico, on the contrary we swapped shirts afterwards, but in a football sense I did not like it.
During some of the game I was in despair.
It was without doubt one of the most uncomfortable experiences in the last ten or 12 years on the pitch, but I think, and I have read, that the coach (Juanma Lillo) is not going to ask him to do that again and I want to thank him.
On form, Chico is the No. 1 centre-back in the Premier League this season. He's a lock for the PFA Team of the Year.
Makes 89.9 percent of his passes, cuts off 3.4 passes per game and completes 3.4 tackles per game.
Do you think he'll be a national teammate of Xavi soon?
Signed from Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer
René Adler is inspiring his once-inept defenders to overachieve as they know there is a security blanket right behind them.
Michael Mancienne is one of those defenders and he now makes less bone-headed decisions. He'll be out for the next month or two, so let's see if Hamburg's defence miss him.
There's still numerous defensive breakdowns throughout a game that are covered by Adler's brilliance.
He's so outstanding that Hamburg have conceded the fifth-least amount of goals in the Bundesliga.
Signed from Rayo Vallecano for £2 million
Michu is the greatest fantasy football player ever.
He was cheap, not many people started with him at the start of the season, and he was classified as a midfielder even though he was a forward.
See, this is what happens when you play for Rayo Vallecano. No-one bothers to update your position, not even UEFA, let alone the guys deciding the positions of footballers in fantasy games.
Then-Rayo manager Ramón Sandoval decided to move Michu into a deep-lying forward and he started poaching goals, something that has continued in his time so far with the Swans.
Signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach for €4.7 million
Dante is the best centre-back in the world right now by a significant margin, so the €4.7 million paid for him is the most economically efficient summer transfer.
Look, when teams like Barcelona and Chelsea have problems at centre-back, you begin to appreciate Bayern Munich's decision-making.
Was it an obvious signing? Duh.
But, Barça and the Blues have consistently made illogical transfer decisions, so you have to give credit to Die Bayern for being a well-run organisation.
They actually have people in management who have high football IQ.
GP = games played; GC = goals conceded; SCPG = shots conceded per game
If Arsène Wenger wants Olivier Giroud's confidence levels to sink to the depths of Fernando Torres, Le Professeur will start the Frenchman up front by himself against Dante and Daniel van Buyten (Jérome Boateng is suspended and Holger Badstuber ruptured his cruciate ligament).
Alternative (and the logical solution): start Theo Walcott as the No. 9.
As great as Dante has been, he has a minor issue with sticking his leg out but oddly enough, he hasn't picked up as many yellow cards as he should.
Theo's pace and directness will certainly test Dante. Perhaps, the Brazilian might not even be the issue, maybe it's DVB.
He was turned inside-out by Diego Milito in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, so you'd hate to think what Walcott could do to the Belgian.
Bayern should comprehensively beat Arsenal but the Bavarian club has a tendency to somehow lose games they shouldn't, like those against Chelsea, BATE Borisov and Bayer Leverkusen.
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