Liverpool are constantly in the world media gossip columns as summer approaches as a result of speculation over their transfer targets for the coming months, with fans hoping that any new signings will live up to the high expectations placed on them.
The Reds enjoyed a thoroughly successful most recent transfer window, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho arriving in January and having an instant impact on the team's Premier League form. In time, they could yet both be seen as two of the side's best signings, especially the Brazilian who joined for a particularly low fee considering his quality.
Picking Liverpool's five best transfer signings of the entire Premier League era is no easy task as the criteria to judge them on can change from one year to the next, but to try to do so, the quality and consistency provided to the team has been taken into account. In addition, the price tag of the player, trophies they contributed to and the quality of Liverpool teams they played in are all worthy of consideration.
That said, the Reds' managers down the years have managed to pick up some fantastic signings—but here are the top five.
Of course, the list is going to be filled with players who arrived at the club for lower-than-average fees, on account of the increased cost/quality ratio they provided Liverpool with. That's not to say that slightly more expensive signings weren't important or good transfers—just that, of course, the expectation of them was higher, too.
Luis Suarez is arguably Liverpool's best signing in a decade, but his £22.8 million fee dictates that this should pretty much be the case. As such, he isn't included in the list.
Honourable mentions go to Dietmar Hamann, who joined the Reds for £8.0m in 1999 from Newcastle United and won two FA Cups, two League Cups, three minor trophies, one UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League—not a bad return from his 283 matches in Red.
Steve Finnan also deserves a mention. Despite enduring a tough first campaign at Anfield, he became one of the most reliable and consistent parts of the team under Rafa Benitez and saw off challenges from the likes of Josemi and Jan Kromkamp to keep his place, making 217 appearances all told. He won the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup a year later, and he cost Liverpool only £3.5m from Fulham.
Finally, Daniel Agger has also provided seven years of excellent service so far for Liverpool and shows no signs of letting up yet. The Reds eventually got their man for £5.8m from Brondby, and he has made over 200 appearances for the first team, winning an FA Cup and a League Cup trophy to date. Agger is Liverpool's best defender, shows many qualities which the team needs more of within its members and will likely play a big part in the resurgence of the club in the years ahead.
Into the list then, and at five is Liverpool's own weapon of Manc destruction, midfielder Danny Murphy.
Signed from Crewe for just £1.5 million in 1997, Murphy took nearly three seasons to really establish himself as a first-team member. However, once he had become part of Gerard Houllier's midfield, either in a right-sided or central role, he displayed his best football of his career in an attack-minded position.
Murphy was, of course, part of the team which completed the remarkable treble in 2001, but he also won the 2003 League Cup having missed the '01 version through injury.
His finest moments in Red perhaps came against Manchester United, as he three times netted at Old Trafford to give Liverpool victory—and his medal won in the League Cup final was against the same opposition. Murphy was voted fans' player of the season for that campaign, and he played 249 matches for the Reds in total.
Not bad for one-and-a-half million quid.
In at No. 4 is Liverpool's present first-team goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
The Spanish custodian has been the undisputed first pick between the sticks since he arrived in the summer of 2005, and though he has suffered with his form at times over the past two years, he has provided the Reds with years of unblemished and impressive performances.
Record after record have tumbled with Reina in goal. He won the Golden Gloves award three seasons in a row, kept 50 league clean sheets in only 92 appearances after joining—quicker than club legend Ray Clemence—and went 11 matches in a row without conceding a single goal between late October and mid-December 2005.
Now having played very nearly 400 matches for the club, he has completed eight years as first choice, and whether he is still at the club next season or not, has more than paid back the £6 million that Liverpool paid Villarreal for his services.
Former Liverpool right-back Markus Babbel was a free transfer signing from Bayern Munich in 2000, and though his time at the club ended on an unsavoury note, he was a fantastic acquisition who proved himself one of Europe's top defenders for the first year or two.
His first season saw him play a huge 60 matches in all competitions, scoring six goals along the way, as he helped the Reds to the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup. He proved an important player at both ends of the pitch with several of his goals coming late in matches, while he also found the back of the net after just three minutes against Alaves in the latter competition's final.
Steady in defence, with huge reserves of stamina and a good header and crosser of the ball, Babbel was an integral part of Houllier's team until he was struck down with illness. He played only 13 more first-team games for the Reds after that initial wonderful season and, frustrated with his inability to find his best form perhaps, suffered bouts of poor attitude in training and reserve fixtures.
Babbel left on loan and later permanently with just that one brilliant season and three major trophies to his name, but he was inarguably a great signing who just suffered a terrible stroke of luck with contracting Guillan-Barre syndrome, which left him in a wheelchair for a spell and ultimately unable to resume his top-level career.
A second free transfer signing from the same summer as Babbel, Gary McAllister came to Anfield from Coventry as a 35-year-old, much to the surprise of pretty much everybody in the football world.
In a youthful and energetic team, though, his range of passing and control over a game, as well as his experience, made for a cracking mix, and he became more influential as the first season wore on, eventually being a huge part of the treble-winning team.
His biggest moments, of course, came when he scored a penalty in the UEFA Cup final and then provided the free kick for the game-winning goal, as well as his penalty against Barcelona in the semifinal.
He totalled 87 games and nine goals in his two seasons at the club and will forever be remembered for his wondrous 40-plus-yards free kick in the final seconds of the Merseyside derby against Everton, securing Liverpool a late 3-2 victory.
By some distance Liverpool's best signing in terms of value, quality and longevity, as well as trophies won, has to be Sami Hyypia.
A proper Liverpool club legend, Sami was brought in by Houllier for £2.5 million from Willem II and won no less than 10 trophies in his 10 seasons at the club, during which time he played 464 times. He captained Liverpool on a temporary basis when needed before being named the regular skipper, he lifted the UEFA Cup after skippering the side on the day and was phenomenal, one of the best in Europe, as he helped the Reds win the Champions League in 2005.
Unbeatable in the air, calm in possession, able to use either foot and almost flawless in his tackling, Sami was a superb servant to Liverpool and deservedly got a wonderful send off from the Anfield crowd when he finally departed.
Sami Hyypia, the Finnish honourary Scouser and Liverpool's best Premier League era signing.
For consistency, all player stats and transfer data from LFChistory.net