“They got HIM for HOW MUCH?!”
It doesn’t always have to be a negative, even accusatory question. It can be asked with genuine, pleasant surprise as well, as it was surely asked throughout last season regarding Michu.
Just under a year ago, Swansea City acquired the then-26-year-old attacker from La Liga minnows Rayo Vallecano. He was coming off a campaign in which he had scored 15 La Liga goals, and the £2 million the Welsh side spent on him was barely noted at the time.
But Michu ended up being one of the bargain buys of the summer—his 18 Premier League tallies nearly doubling the 10 scored by Aston Villa’s £18 million striker Darren Bent (3) and West Ham’s Andy Carroll (7), who had been signed for £35 million by Liverpool before going on loan at Upton Park.
Even Fernando Torres, who joined Chelsea for an astronomical £50 million in 2011, found the back of the net on just eight occasions.
Over the next few weeks and months the transfers that will garner the most attention will no doubt be those that involve the most money, such as the deals already agreed involving Jesus Navas, Neymar and Radamel Falcao. But arriving quietly at various clubs throughout the continent will also be players for whom little was paid but who will go on to out-perform their more expensive counterparts.
Following is a look at 20 of them.
Mark Schwarzer’s five-year stint at Fulham came to a close earlier this month when the London club acquired Netherlands number-one Maarten Stekelenburg from Roma.
At 40 years of age, he is hardly a spring chicken but, given that he recorded eight clean sheets last season and posted 10 wins while helping the Cottagers avoid relegation, he will surely prove to be a valuable pickup for a club in need of cheap, reliable goalkeeping.
Schwarzer has recently been on duty with Australia and has no intention of retiring from international football.
It’s hard to believe Christian Eriksen is still only 21.
But the Denmark international, who recently won a third consecutive Eredivisie title with Ajax, has been thrilling scouts for four years already, and it looks as though this summer he’ll finally opt to make a move.
Borussia Dortmund, who have already expressed interest in him, are thought to be his most likely destination, although Liverpool have previously expressed interest as well. (Sky)
But, with Mario Gotze departing Dortmund for Bayern Munich, there’s an opening in Eriksen’s preferred position at a club that plays some of the most eye-catching football in Europe.
After an impressive season in which he finished among Ligue 1’s top 10 goalscorers while helping diminutive Evian avoid relegation, Saber Khelifa has admitted he wants to “move away from France.” (Sky)
Southampton and West Bromwich Albion are reportedly among the clubs interested in the 26-year-old forward, who was playing his club football in his native Tunisia until two years ago.
Evian are thought to want €6 million in exchange for his signature.
Sofiane Feghouli has played two full seasons at Valencia since going on loan to Almeria, but with Los Che burdened by debt, he may well have to be offloaded in the summer as the club attempts to bring in some much-needed cash.
Liverpool have been linked with the £9 million midfielder for some time, although the longer they wait the more his price will likely decrease—such is the reality at Valencia, who are known to be in selling mode. (Express)
The 23-year-old can operate in a playmaking role on either flank and has scored six goals in each of his last two campaigns.
For a serviceable centre-back, never mind one who could end up starring for you for many years to come, £2.5 million is a relative pittance.
But that’s exactly what Southampton are set to pay Barcelona of Guayaquil for Ecuador international Frickson Erazo, who has previously been linked to Manchester United.
Erazo, 25, is one of the most Europe-ready defenders currently playing his club football in South America and could be set to hook up with the Saints at some point in the next few months. (Daily Mail)
Uber-talented attacker Mauro Zarate is currently locked in a battle with Lazio over his playing future and the €5 million the Rome club would like for his signature will only be diminishing by the day at this point.
The 26-year-old Argentine is a bit of a hot-head, but if a club were to feel the price for him is right—as Tottenham Hotspur have supposedly thought, previously—he could all of a sudden be on the move this summer. (Metro)
Two years ago, Kevin Gameiro joined PSG from Lorient for €11 million, but given the further investment at the capital side that followed, did not get the playing time he expected at Parc des Princes.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi holding down PSG’s striking positions, the 26-year-old France international could be on the move again, with both Everton and Liverpool having previously expressed an interest. (Caught Offside)
Gameiro scored eight goals in 25 Ligue 1 matches last season and could be acquired for as little as €6 million.
Mathieu Flamini departed Arsenal in 2008 after his contract expired, and the same thing is set to happen this summer after the 29-year-old failed to agree to an extension at AC Milan.
The Frenchman struggled to earn a regular spot in the centre of midfield over five years at the San Siro, but when given playing time in the second half of the just-completed season, he proved himself a serviceable asset to manager Massimiliano Allegri.
Southampton and Aston Villa would be keen to pick him up on a free transfer in what would be a low-risk transaction. (Mirror)
Jozy Altidore enjoyed a breakout season at AZ Alkmaar last term, scoring 23 Eredivisie goals and finding the back of the net 31 times in 41 matches in all competitions.
The 23-year-old has also rejuvenated his international career, and now it’s being reported that Fiorentina, Fulham, Napoli and Sporting Lisbon have all made inquiries about the United States Striker. (MLSSoccer.com)
Malaga’s European competition ban means the Spanish club will be having to sell some of its best players over the summer, and while playmaker Isco will likely generate the majority of the headlines, a serviceable player in Martin Demichelis will be available as well.
Last season, the Argentina international turned out 40 times for Malaga—nine of his appearances came in the Champions League—and his 3.3 tackles per match and 6.3 clearances helped his side to a sixth-place finish in the Spanish top flight.
The 32-year-old’s contract ran out at the end of 2012-13, which means he can be acquired on a free transfer.
Another Malaga veteran headed for the exit is Jeremy Toulalan, who has been the club’s defensive influence in the centre of the park the last two seasons.
At this point, Atletico Madrid would seem his most likely destination, and Los Colchoneros are thought to have already made a €5 million bid for his services.
Yossi Benayoun has bounced around London the last few seasons, representing each of Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham since 2010.
Last term, the 33-year-old made only 10 appearances in all competitions, but with his contract having run out at Stamford Bridge, he is available on a free transfer and could be a valuable pickup for a side looking for some energy and creativity in midfield without a desire to break the bank.
Another experienced player available on a free transfer is Claudio Pizarro, who scored 10 goals in only 16 matches in all competitions for Bayern Munich last season while also contributing seven assists.
Although he’ll turn 35-years-old in October, the Peru international is still capable of producing offense, as he proved two months ago in a two-goal, two-assist performance against Hannover.
In April, Jeremy Menez was the subject of an attack from the PSG ultras, and shortly after the incident, he announced his desire to leave the Ligue 1 side. (Mirror)
Having joined the French champions from Roma in 2011 for €8 million, the winger is likely to be made available for a similar fee this summer, and already Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have expressed an interest.
Menez’ best season was the 2011-12 campaign in which he scored nine goals and assisted 13 others.
A streaky goalscorer who earned himself a suspension from the France U-21s after going to a nightclub ahead of a crucial playoff against Norway, Wissan Ben Yedder would represent something of a risky summer acquisition.
But he did manage to come fifth in the Ligue 1 scoring race with 15 goals last season as his Toulouse side finished a respectable 10th in the table.
At this point his future remains uncertain, although he could likely be had for around €4 million. (Transfermarkt)
One of the things that makes Chris Brunt such an attractive signing is his versatility. Although he prefers to line up as a winger, he can also operate as either an attacking or defensive midfielder.
No doubt West Bromwich Albion, on the heels of an eighth-place finish in the Premier League, would prefer to keep the 28-year-old at The Hawthornes, but Scottish side Rangers are thought to be keen on him and are reportedly ready to make a £3 million bid for the Northern Ireland international. (Independent)
Last season, Guillermo Ochoa played in all 38 matches as Ligue 1 side Ajaccio managed to stay just above the relegation places, ensuring top-flight football for another season.
The 27-year-old Mexico international has previously been linked with Liverpool and Napoli, although in a recent interview, his agent suggested he would prefer to stay in France—albeit not at his current club. (Sportsmole)
How is it that a £10 million-rated player is considered a “bargain?”
Last season Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished second to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Ligue 1 scoring with 19 goals, came in fifth in assists with eight helpers and played a leading role for Saint-Etienne as the club finished fifth in the standings and qualified for the Europa League.
The 23-year-old Gabon international oozes energy and, even at £10 million, he would represent a good piece of business.
Tottenham Hotspur are thought to be keen on acquiring him. (Mirror)
Cagliari finished a respectable 11th in Serie A last season, and leading the way offensively for the Rossoblu was Marco Sau.
The 25-year-old scored 12 league goals for the Sardinia side in 2012-13, two of which came in a 2-2 draw with Inter last November.
Not surprisingly, the Nerazzurri are now one of the teams interested in signing the recently-capped Italy international. (FedeNerazzurra)
He’ll be 34 later this month, but Fabrizio Miccoli will also be available on a free transfer and is unlikely to remain at Palermo, who were relegated from Serie A in the spring.
Miccoli bagged eight goals and added eight assists for the Rosanero in 2012-13 and, given the absence of a transfer fee, would represent good value for an Italian side looking for a serviceable playmaker in the short term.
Parma are thought to be in play for him and are envisioning a Miccoli-Amauri partnership for next season. (Tuttoparma)