Here’s the European football transfer steals XI for the 2012-13 season.
These 11 players aren’t just economically efficient transfers, but they’ve performed at an elite level.
So, what isn’t transfer steal?
Mario Mandzukic (£12.1 million), Matija Nastasic (£12 million) and Christian Benteke (£7 million) are great transfer deals, but they aren’t transfer steals.
One word will help you distinguish what is and isn’t a transfer steal: cheapskate.
Signed from Kaiserslautern for €1.5M
Eintracht Frankfurt manager Armin Veh described how important Kevin Trapp was to the side (per FOX Sports): "That was a major investment [€1.5 million]. For us, it was like the €40 million Bayern spent on Javi Martinez."
The analogy is a reference to Bayern Munich taking a calculated risk that Javi Martinez will be at the club for the long haul.
To give you a clearer idea of how frugal Frankfurt are, the €1.5 million they invested in Trapp is the most money the club have spent since buying Habib Bellaid (€2.5 million) from Strasbourg in 2008.
Signed from Heerenveen via Free Transfer
In Voetbal International's latest Team of the Month, Daryl Janmaat accumulated 80 percent of the reader's votes, giving you an idea how good he has been recently.
It was bizarre that Gregory van der Wiel had a stronghold on the RB position in the Dutch national team, despite his form being significantly inferior to Janmaat, who has carried his Heerenveen displays over to Feyenoord.
If you're a Gooner, you might be thinking: "Is this guy good enough for Arsenal?"
Yes, but you guys don't need him, unless you want to copy Chelsea and start stockpiling right-backs.
Should Bacary Sagna leave in the summer, why go out and sign Daryl when there's an impressive young gun in Hector Bellerin at the club?
Signed from Corinthians for €3M
Roma and Corinthians didn't expect Marquinhos to blossom into a world-class defender so quickly.
He reads the play so quickly that you can only assume he's guessing where the opposing player is going to move.
That kind of intuition is special, and it's why he has won 89 percent of his tackles.
Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach for €4.7M
Chelsea and Barcelona should have made Dante their highest paid defender considering both clubs need a dominant centre-back like Dante.
Bayern Munich signing one of the Bundesliga's in-form CB for only €4.7 million is a main reason why the Bavarian club have the most stingiest defence in Europe this season.
Dante was an absolute steal for Bayern München. He was bought for just €4.7M. Yes, €4.7M. One of the best centre-backs in Europe.— Santo (@Zizouology) February 12, 2013
Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for €600K
Bastian Oczipka does win back the ball a lot (2.6 tackles per game and 1.5 interceptions per game), but you wince when you see him charge forward and leave gaping holes at the back.
Serie A teams should really look to bring in Bastian, who's a better dribbler than the majority of midfielders in Europe.
The reason why I say Italian clubs is because they tend to play a 3-5-2 formation.
Oczipka's playing style is suited more to the wing-back role rather than as a left-back.
Signed from Fiorentina via Free Transfer
Riccardo Montolivo typifies what Serie A managers expect in their players: versatile, high football IQ and the ability to adapt.
Against Barcelona, he got stuck in and made 12 tackles over the two games.
Generally, he plays in a very aesthetically pleasing fashion as midfield conductor.
Signed from Racing via Free Transfer
You have to applaud West Bromwich Albion's scouting system which picked up an elite defensive midfielder in Claudio Yacob on a Bosman.
Though, it wasn't as if he was a nobody considering he was in the Argentine national team setup, as he explained to The Guardian's Stuart James:
I played with Aguero for Argentina when we won the Under-20 World Cup in Canada.
I trained with Tevez when I was with Argentina when I was 18. We were preparing for the Under-20 World Cup and we played against the full national team in a practice match.
What separates Claudio from just another run-of-the-mill midfielder is that he can pass, move into position to receive a pass and make that pass whilst also being an enforcer.
His 3.7 tackles per league game is better than Javi Garcia (1.2), Yaya Toure (1.1) and Jack Rodwell (0.8) combined.
Signed from Arsenal for €3M
Arsene Wenger has done it again.
Just when you think he's lost it, his conniving transfer market genius has shone again.
When the deal was announced, you probably thought: "only €3 million for a player of world-class ability?"
Wenger demanded a €4.2 million buyback clause, and Carlos Vela already knows what's in store for him.
Read his comments (from Football Espana): "Logically I think it is best to cancel the buyback clause, but we have to see what happens, if the President’s pocket stretches a little or not."
Real Sociedad are one of the many clubs that have fallen to Arsene's negotiating prowess.
The Spanish club will make just a €1.2 million profit, so why on earth did they set the buyback clause so low?
Vela has been extraordinary, scoring five goals and accumulating five assists in his last 10 league games.
With Serge Gnabry waiting in the wings, buying back Carlos is meant for a quick pay-day, so there should be a team willing to fork out €20 million-plus for Vela.
Signed from Rayo Vallecano for £2M
With a Premier League body, a Premier League playing style but with La Liga smarts—people shouldn't be shocked at Michu's success.
Matt Salveta, a Bleacher Report commenter, predicted early in the season that Michu would finish with 20 league goals.
With eight EPL games left, Michu needs three goals to make Salveta look like a psychic.
Signed from Zenit St. Petersburg for £660K
If you ever wanted an example of a footballer being a risk-taker, go watch Szabolcs Huszti, who'll either turn the ball over with a ridiculously low IQ pass or create a goal with a sublime pass.
Looking at his career choices, he is prone to making bad decisions and him possibly moving to a Premier League club (via Sky Sports) isn't a wise idea.
Mirko Slomka's fast-paced and up-tempo approach at Hannover 96 is ideal for Huszti.
Signed from Trabzonspor for €5M
Galatasaray took advantage of a release clause in Burak Yilmaz's Trabzonspor contract to buy him on the cheap.
That was exactly what happened when Real Madrid signed Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund.
Nuri never got a fair go at Real, but Yilmaz has lived up to expectations.
Last season, he scored 35 goals in 43 games for Trabzonspor. He already has 26 goals in 33 games for Gala.
UEFA once again made another questionable call by revoking Zlatan Ibrahimović's UEFA Champions League suspension, so he can face Barcelona.
Yet, UEFA didn't do the same for Yilmaz, who was suspended for the second leg against Real Madrid.