A Team of Players Costing Under £10 Million That Would Win the EPL
You regularly hear Premier League managers moaning about the lack of value in the transfer market, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.
Contracts may not be worth the paper they are written on, but if one club wants to buy a player another does not want to sell, then the selling club are entitled to demand whatever they wish.
Yet this is why there are expensive and extensive scouting networks in place to pick out potential world class talent, and indeed many of the league's top performers have been accrued for sensible sums before their value rocketed.
To prove what could have been, I've assembled a side of players purchased for £10 million or under that I believe would win the Premier League if they were together.
What's more, all of these players were initially signed with half an eye on the future, so ageing bargain's like Dimitar Berbatov––on the way down after a previous big money move––have been left out of the equation.
I've also constructed players based on their last transfer meaning Robin van Persie and others have also missed the cut.
It was only when working my way through various squad lists that I realised just how many clever coup's there have been, so if I've missed somebody out, please let me know about it.
So here we go, a side of players all costing £10 million or less who I think would win the Premier League.
As always, don't hesitate to voice your opinion.
GK: Joe Hart
There are few better goalkeepers in the world than Joe Hart and certainly none of them were signed for as little.
Manchester City paid an initial £600,000 to Shrewsbury Town for the England Under-19 international in 2006, and even though that fee has risen with add-ons, the overall cost was peanuts given his quality and contribution to the cause.
Hart may have had a couple of dodgy moments over the past twelve months, but City wouldn't swap him for anyone, and even if they did, it would cost them a pretty penny to do so.
The 25-year-old has plenty of time left at the top, and if he can prove to be City's defensive mainstay for another few years, he could end up going down as one of the best value purchases in the history of the Premier League.
There's about £15 million difference in price between Hart and Manchester United's David De Gea––and I know who I'd prefer.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta
There was plenty of competition for the right back berth with Rafael, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic all coming into consideration, but I've gone for Pablo Zabaleta on the strength of a fantastic couple of seasons for Manchester City.
Zabaleta has been the stand out right-back in the Premier League all season, and the consistency and quality of his performances may well eventually earn him a place in the PFA Team of the Year.
The Argentine international arrived at City from Espanyol the day before Sheikh Mansour purchased the club in 2008, and his signing marked the watershed when cash began to override common sense.
Since then plenty of players have been purchased for considerably more than the £6.45 million City coughed up, but few have given as much value for money as the 28-year-old vice-captain.
Zabaleta's all-action displays from right-back have made him a cult hero amongst the Citizens following, and again, any replacement would likely cost much more than the fee City parted for their versatile defender.
In contrast, the same summer "Pab Zab" came to England, Chelsea splashed out £18 million on Jose Bosingwa. Enough said.
CD: Vincent Kompany
There's an argument to be had that Vincent Kompany is indeed the best central defender in the world at the moment, and certainly I would suggest he is by far and away the best in the Premier League.
The Belgian has been crucial to the Manchester City cause since signing in the summer of 2008, and the 26-year-old was the bedrock of City's Premier League success in 2011-12.
Kompany's leadership qualities from the back have earned him the Citizens captaincy and even in a stuttering defence of the title, he has mirrored the consistency of previous seasons.
He's strong, quick, dominant in the air and an excellent reader of the game––skills acquired for a ridiculously efficient sum of £6 million. Kompany was signed from Anderlecht for just £6.8 million before the Sheikh's came in, and City have since spent that on a second-hand kettle.
You'll do well to find better for less.
CD: Jan Vertonghen
If Arsene Wenger hadn't have dithered about in trying to sign Jan Vertonghen, then Arsenal may have stood a better chance in holding on to their north London supremacy.
By all accounts Wenger wanted to bring Vertonghen to the Emirates last summer, but Tottenham acted swiftly to acquire the Belgian. That pinch has helped Spurs steam past their near neighbours.
Even the frugal Daniel Levy didn't hesitate in paying Ajax just short of £9.5 million for the 25-year-old, and that coup has looked even better value the longer the season has gone on.
Vertonghen has impressed at either left-back or in the centre of defence as Spurs zone in on a top-four finish, and his quality will not be out of place should they end up in the Champions League proper next year.
The former Ajax man has been one of the top performers in the Premier League all campaign, mixing defensive defiance with a calm and assured ball playing ability.
LB: Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines has been one of the Premier League's top performers over the past few seasons, and his continued progression has seen him jostle for control of England's left-back slot with Ashley Cole.
The 28-year-old Liverpudlian has been a beacon of consistency for Everton, defending stoutly and adding a dangerous dimension to their play with his regular forays forward.
Baines has clocked up a goal almost ten games since joining the Blue half of Merseyside, and the stats show he is also one of the divisions most regular and efficient creator of chances.
On current form Baines would probably command the left-back slot in anyone's "Best Premier League X1," and he certainly fills the criteria in this side.
There are bound to be rumours linking Baines with a move away from Goodison Park this summer, but even if the Toffee's decided to cash in on their man, they will comfortably command much more than the £7 million they paid Wigan for him in 2007.
CM: Cheick Tiote
Newcastle United are a one club lesson in how to scout properly and purchase sensibly, and Cheick Tiote is arguably the pick of the many astute purchases the Magpies have made.
The Ivory Coast international arrived at St James's Park from FC Twente in the summer of 2010 for a bargain fee of just £3.75 million, and the 26-year-old has proven to be worth every penny.
Tiote's powerhouse performances in the centre of midfield were instrumental to Newcastle's fifth-place finish last season, and that form has led to him being linked with a move away from the north-east.
Plenty of midfielders have since arrived in the Premier League for plenty more than it cost to get Tiote, but few offer the quality and drive he does, and there would almost certainly be a place for him in any team in the country.
Alongside Cheick Tiote I've gone for Tottenham's Brazilian bruiser Sandro, and it proves what value can be found that these two arrived in the Premier League for a combined fee of under £10 million––or one-fifth of Fernando Torres, as it's more commonly referred to.
Sandro has grown accustomed to the rigours of English football over time and prior to him being ruled out for the season with injury, the 23-year-old was one of the most effective midfield enforces in town.
Strong and quick, Sandro breaks up plenty of attacks and wins loose balls but compounds that with clever and controlled distribution to set others on their way.
He's another that would go for multiples of what he cost if anyone dared enquire about taking him away from White Hart Lane.
RM: Hatem Ben Arfa
On his day Hatem Ben Arfa is as devastating a winger as any in the Premier League, and he's another Newcastle got hold of for a ridiculously modest sum.
After seeing his career stall at Marseille, the Magpies paid just over £5 million for the French international, and his electric displays have been of the standard expected of a player who costs much more.
Ben Arfa's deceptive dribbling proved the perfect foil for Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse last year as Alan Pardew's side finished fifth, and although he hasn't matched those heights this campaign, the 25-year-old would definitely do a job for any team in the division
Small, quick, tricky and slick, the Tunisian-born player has the ability to genuinely become one of the league's best players, and it would be interesting to see how effective he would be for one of the top sides.
LM: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is the hottest property in the Premier League at the moment, and his destructive performances for Tottenham may even see him crowned PFA Player of the Year.
All of this has come about from an inauspicious start to life in north London as Bale initially went a record 24 league games without a win for Spurs following a £7 million switch from Southampton in 2007.
That hoodoo has long since been lifted, and Bale's devastating pace, direct dribbling and lethal left foot make him one of the most unplayable players in the world.
A hat-trick away to Inter Milan in 2010 highlighted his class, and the Welsh wonder has elevated his game to another level of late, scoring 20 goals in just 33 competitive appearances in all competitions this season.
An absolute steal at £7 million.
There are no official awards for "Bargain of the Season" but if there was, then Michu would have had the honour sewn up long ago.
The Swansea City striker has already rattled home 19 goals in all competitions during his debut campaign and was instrumental in his side's Capital One Cup success.
Aside from his goals, the 26-year-old Spaniard looks a class act and fits in seamlessly with Michael Laudrup's graceful passing game.
Quite how Swansea procured him from Rayo Vallecano for just £2 million is a bit of a mystery. Michu found the net 15 times for a side who only narrowly avoided relegation from La Liga and few Premier League fans were that well-versed with the former Real Oviedo trainee.
But that just goes to show what can happen when players are signed on ability rather than reputation, and the amount of strikers bought for more who have done less runs long and deep.
ST: Javier Hernandez
Sir Alex Ferguson loves his goalscorers and even more so when he can pick them up on the cheap.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came from nowhere to become a cult hero at Old Trafford, and Javier Hernandez has followed those footsteps.
The 24-year-old is equally effective either starting or coming off the bench, and his predatory penalty box prowess means he scores goals at all levels of the game.
Competition in the striking slots at Manchester United means his appearances are limited, and it would be interesting to see who would have the most goals if he was given the same amount of minutes as Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie.
Goals win games, and Hernandez has contributed enough of both to justify his price numerous times over.