Here are the 10 smartest transfers of 2013.
What are the prerequisites to make this list?
The player must have permanently transferred to a European club in 2013.
Key word being permanent, so no loan deals unless the loan and permanent transfer occurred in 2013.
Two examples of ineligible candidates would be Feyenoord's Graziano Pelle and Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado. Both signed permanent deals to their respective clubs in 2013 but started their loans in 2012.
The player must be considered a transfer success. This point is purely subjective, so feel free to comment below with signings you believe are smart that did not make this list.
The transfer fee (if there is one) has to be economically efficient, so don't expect to see Neymar or Gareth Bale on this list.
David Villa (Barcelona to Atletico Madrid for €5.1M [£4.3M]): Atleti received a bargain for a player of Villa's quality and he has scored eight league goals. So why isn't he in the final 10? He has struggled throughout patches of this season with niggling injuries. He is also the second option behind Diego Costa, who has netted 19 league goals and scored four times in the UEFA Champions League.
Jose Canas (Real Betis to Swansea City on a Bosman): Averages more passes per league game (68.6) than Steven Gerrard (67.7), Fernandinho (58.1) and Jordan Henderson (53.4).
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland to Liverpool for £9M [€10.8M]): The club upgraded from an error-prone Pepe Reina. Mignolet's reflex saves are compensating for Martin Skrtel being consistently caught out of position. Mignolet is crucial to the club's aspirations to win their first ever Premier League title.
Sokratis (Werder Bremen to Borussia Dortmund for €9.5M [£8M]): Seemed like an unneeded transfer at the time with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic the undisputed centre-back pairing. When comparing the three centre-backs, Sokratis is not only the last man standing but he has become Dortmund's best centre-back. Lesson of the transfer: Don't doubt Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp.
Vitorino Antunes (Pacos Ferreira to Malaga for €1.3M [£1.1M]): Underrated left-back who is an exceptional crosser of the ball.
When Monaco manager Claudio Ranieri played a front two of Emmanuel Riviere and Radamel Falcao against Montpellier, the Italian manager would not have expected Riviere to steal the headlines away from Falcao with a hat-trick—an achievement Falcao has yet to accomplish in Ligue 1.
Ranieri still sees Riviere as a secondary option which is why he has started 66.7 percent of his league games this season, which would be even lower if Falcao did not suffer a thigh injury.
Falcao is the primary receiver of incisive passes from James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho but you can make a statistical argument that Riviere is a better centre-forward right now than Falcao.
A smart transfer is when €4 million-valued Riviere outperforms €45 million-valued Falcao.
|Shots Per Goal||4.7||4|
|Shooting Accuracy %||57||63|
|Minutes Per Goal||137||112|
|Games (Starts)||15 (14)||15 (10)|
Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre spent €5 million on Raffael to effectively end any hope of €15 million-valued Luuk de Jong—a player Favre didn't want—succeeding at Gladbach.
Rather than Raffael and Max Kruse competing for the deep-lying forward role to play alongside No. 9 De Jong, Favre just canned the centre-forward position—his formation is a 4-4-2 with two deep-lying forwards.
Raffael, who struggled at Dynamo Kyiv and spent the latter half of last season on loan at Schalke, has had his career resuscitated by Favre again.
"I owe a lot to him [Favre]," Raffael said, via FourFourTwo. "He supported me in Zurich and later brought me to Berlin. This confidence I would like to repay."
Raffael's transfer was brilliant and this is evident in him keeping up with Barcelona's Neymar and Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, both who are worth 10 times more than Raffael.
|League Only||Raffael (€5M)
||Neymar (€57M)||Ozil (€50M)|
|Shots Per Goal||5.2||6.5||4.8|
|Key Passes Per Game||1.7||1.9||2.6|
|Dribbles Per Game||5.0||3.4||1.7|
Hugo Lloris, Mathieu Debuchy, Henri Bedimo, Etienne Capoue, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud—who is the odd one out?
It is Bedimo who has yet to move to the Premier League and has the lowest profile.
All the aforementioned players were members of the 2011 Trophees UNFP du football Ligue 1 best XI.
Lyon managed to sign Bedimo, Ligue 1's best left-back during Montpellier's championship winning season, for only €2 million.
To quote a tweet from French Football Weekly editor Andrew Gibney: "Henri Bedimo has been one of the best signings from this summer. Cheap, consistent and bloody excellent."
Fun fact: Bedimo has more league assists from left-back this season (five) than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi (four).
Pandurii Targu Jiu or Barcelona B?
Stuttgart went with Pandurii upon signing Alexandru Maxim for just €1.5 million.
Why did you mention Barcelona B?
It is a reference to major European clubs targeting Barcelona B's 17-year-old Antonio Sanabria who is valued at €4.3 million (per The Mirror).
Why do major clubs join those types of rat races when they can just use their scouting network?
Stuttgart did that and found a Romanian diamond in the rough.
This season, Maxim has scored and created a combined 10 goals in the Bundesliga, two more than Borussia Dortmund's €27.5 million record signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Three years ago, Kelvin Leerdam was viewed as a liability, being a starter on a Feyenoord team that went on a six-game winless streak, which included a 10-0 humiliation to PSV Eindhoven.
When he established himself at right-back for Feyenoord during the 2011-12 season, he was usurped by Daryl Janmaat the following campaign.
Feyenoord management saw Leerdam as a handyman: an emergency right-back, could slot in midfield and be a subservient squad player.
Leerdam did not want this.
He moved to Vitesse on a free transfer and has flourished at right-back under manager Peter Bosz.
While Leerdam needs to work on his tackling (concedes 2.1 free-kicks per game), his positional sense in the opposing penalty box is remarkable.
He has scored more league goals (seven) than Vitesse No. 9 Mike Havenaar (five).
"He [Jean-Marc Bosman] gave his career to a court case to serve a cause," Bosman's lawyer Luc Misson said reflecting on the landmark Bosman ruling which enabled footballers to run down their contracts and sign for another club on a Bosman (free transfer), via Tom Fordyce at BBC Sport.
Here is the most important sentence in Fordyce's article: "Before Bosman, a player could not leave unless his club agreed to let him go."
There was no way Valenciennes was going to allow such an explosive but raw talent in Vincent Aboubakar to leave for nothing in a pre-Bosman era.
Lorient manager Christian Gourcuff, who once watched Aboubakar score two goals in eight minutes for Valenciennes against his team, is finally helping Aboubakar fulfill his potential (a la Alain Traore and Jeremie Aliadiere).
Aboubakar has scored 11 league goals this season, so expect Premier League clubs to target him in the January transfer window.
Mehdi Benatia is a fortress at the back, winning 50 headers, making 34 tackles, intercepting 50 (yes, 50!) passes in 16 Serie A games.
He and Leandro Castan provided the backbone to Roma going on a 10-game Serie A winning streak.
Benatia has played a main part in Roma still having the best defence in the league (0.4 goals conceded per game average).
Roma sold Marquinhos, a €7.4 million signing from Corinthians and their best centre-back last season, to Paris Saint-Germain for €31.4 million.
Barcelona and Chelsea, two clubs known for their big spending, need a world-class centre-back like Benatia, so Roma could make another substantial profit if they sell him.
How can this be smart? Isn't foolhardy a more appropriate word?
It is smart because Rossi is a high IQ footballer whose game is built around technical prowess rather than freakish athleticism.
If his knees weren't going to give way (that was the risk), Rossi would be his old self (he netted 32 times during the 2010-11 season for Villarreal).
With 14 goals and three assists in 17 league games, Fiorentina spent €10 million on Rossi, who has already tripled his transfer value.
Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre spent €7.5 million to assemble one of the most entertaining and productive attacking combinations in Europe—the Max Kruse (€2.5M) and Raffael (€5M) partnership.
Neither are No. 9s.
The Van Persie-Rooney partnership is of a higher calibre than the Kruse-Raffael combo but the United pairing are nowhere near as strong in taking on players (combined 2.6 dribbles per game).
Kruse (4.4) and Raffael (5.0) are both ranked in Europe's top leagues for DPG.
Only Gladbach have two players within the top 10 for DPG.
The next closest would be Schalke, a team with No. 2 ranked Julian Draxler (5.1 DPG) and No. 14 ranked Max Meyer (3.7 DPG).
Back to Kruse.
With eight goals and five assists in the Bundesliga and assuming Kruse keeps up the form, he deserves to make Joachim Low's final German squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Buying a goalkeeper of world-class ability in Diego Lopez for just €3.5 million would have to be one of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez's greatest ever deals.
Though, Perez inadvertently put Iker Casillas, Madrid born-and-raised and a living legend at the club, under duress.
Perez thought Lopez, a former Real academy player, was just cover; he was warming the benches at Sevilla and had not been relevant since his Villarreal days.
Whereas then Real manager Jose Mourinho knew he now could legitimately keep Casillas out of the starting XI (remember, Mourinho tried to validate replacing Casillas with Antonio Adan).
During Mourinho's tenure, he waged a cold war with Casillas.
Mourinho must have given Lopez some of the best pep talks ever because he played out of his mind.
Lopez saved Real so many times, but he also vindicated Mourinho.
The reason why this deal is smart is Perez will be able to sell Lopez, who has upped his transfer stock with a plethora of amazing saves, for a profit when Real manager Carlo Ancelotti reinstates Casillas as the permanent No. 1.
Casillas made 10 saves in the 2-2 draw against Juventus and he just needs that one extended run in La Liga to make a successful comeback.