2011 Transfer Hound: 12 Bargain Buys from Relegated Clubs Around Europe
The end of the season brings with it the polars of emotion—one end of the table is bathed in triumph; the other, heartbreak. Relegation brings with it a heavy blow in pride, stature and essentially, in financial health too. Unable to sustain high wages or in need to refinance their debt situations, these clubs have little choice but to sell their star talent.
Here's a look at some of the best players onboard the sinking ships of relegated clubs around Europe and who may prove to be a bargain worth fighting for.
West Ham United: Scott Parker and Demba Ba
1. Scott Parker (Central Midfield)
Awarded FWA Footballer of the Year for 2010-11 and earning it in a manner that has a set a new standard for fearlessness and sheer determination, Scott Parker has the spent the past year consistently outworking and outshining his teammates. Winning his first England cap in five years while overcoming the passing away of his father, Parker is a fantastic player in his prime and undoubtedly set to be coveted by a number of clubs across Europe. While having remained fiercely loyal to the club despite interest in January, Parker's sale could hold the financial keys to recovery for West Ham.
Price: The club can hope to hold out for about £10m for a player of his ability, bearing in mind that he will be on the wrong side of 30 next season.
2. Demba Ba (Striker)
The Senegal international has had a bright start in English football, netting five goals in his first 11 games. Was coveted by Blackburn in the January transfer window before moving to the Hammers from Bundesliga outfit, Hoffenheim. Has immense quality and will likely allow West Ham to recover a good deal of the £7m they paid for him just a few months back.
Best of the Joker's Pack:
Thomas Hitzlsperger (Central Midfield)
Matthew Upson (Defender) - Out of contract in June
Carlton Cole (Striker)
Robert Green (Goalkeeper)
Blackpool: Charlie Adam
3. Charlie Adam (Central Midfield)
Blackpool's stylish midfielder Charlie Adam has found room to blossom in England that was never afforded to him with Rangers. The Seasiders skipper, who almost left in January, will be the subject of frenzied speculation over the coming weeks and will certainly be linked again to Liverpool and Tottenham, who had bids rejected for him during the transfer window. Sir Alex Ferguson is also reported to be a big admirer of his fellow Scot and describes Adam’s set-pieces as being worth £10m alone
To score 12 goals from midfield in a relegated team is a remarkable achievement. Where Blackpool's talisman goes next and how he fares will be fascinating to follow.
Other players worth a second look and half:
DJ Campbell (Striker)
Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Striker)
Matthew Gilks (Goalkeeper)
Birmingham City: Ben Foster and Roger Johnson
4. Ben Foster (Goalkeeper)
Outstanding at Birmingham since his career stalled as third-choice flapper at Old Trafford, Foster has long maintained a reputation as a future England No. 1 that has been dented by the emergence of Joe Hart. Foster, now 28, has recently taken time out from his England career to focus on his club commitments and will be a likely target for Spurs and city rivals, Aston Villa.
5. Roger Johnson (Central Defender)
Outstanding at the back all-season for Brum in partnership with Scott Dann, Johnson has been a big part of the St Andrews side that won their first major trophy in almost half a century with their victory over Arsenal in the Carling Cup final this year. In the prime of his playing ability at 28, Johnson is being eyed by a number of clubs across England and might prove a great bargain buy, despite club chairman Peter Pannu insisting the club would only accept sizeable bids.
Jokers in the Pack:
Lee Bowyer (Central Midfielder) - Out of contract
Seb Larsson (Right Midfielder) - Out of contract
Scott Dann (Central Defender)
Craig Gardner (Central Defender)
Sampdoria: Poli, Palombo and Mannini
6. Andrea Poli (Defensive Midfielder)
A key player in the Sampdoria side that finished fourth in 2009, the 21-year-old Andrea Poli now finds himself facing a long season in Serie B. There is much promise, however—interest from the Milan-based giants is likely to materialize, failing which a number of clubs both in Italy and abroad are likely to queue up for the highly-promising tenacious midfielder.
7. Angelo Palombo (Box-to-Box Midfielder)
Club captain and Italian international Angelo Palombo is perhaps the only player in the relegated Sampdoria side to have escaped the fan's collective fury. Instead, the all-action midfielder was lauded for his efforts and now finds himself in an unenviable position—torn between staying with the club or looking to ply his trade elsewhere. At the peak of his career at 29, few managers will contest that a player of his attitude and work rate is not at least deserving of European football.
8. Danielle Mannini (Left Winger)
Having played across a remarkable four leagues of Italian football, Mannini might not be quite queuing up to leave Sampdoria just yet. A troubled 2007 season saw the left-winger nearly being banned for a being late to a drugs test, and one unimpressive spell at Napoli later, Mannini joined Sampdoria in 2009. Sparkling in his first season then fading with the rest of the squad in the next, the promising Mannini is proving to be one of Italian football's enigmas. Will certainly catch the eye of several managers with his athleticism and potential, but the 27-year-old may yet persist with the club.
Jokers in the Pack:
Brescia: Andrea Caracciolo
9. Andrea Caracciolo (Striker)
An extremely complicated playing career landed 29-year-old Caracciolo at his seventh club, Brescia, in 2008. A towering presence at over 6'4", Caracciolo has seen his seen himself replaced at his past clubs by the then emerging talents of Amauri, Di Michele, Qualiarella and Fabrizio Miccoli. However, his 51 goals in 99 appearances for cyclical underachievers Brescia has seen the former Italian-international become a key fixture for the club and can be considered an outstanding prospect in his current form. The only shining light at the relegated club this season with 12 goals in 30 appearances, Andrea Caracciolo is one of the fantastic bargain buys of the summer.
Almeria: Pablo Piatti
10. Pablo Piatti (Left Winger / Forward)
At only 22 and in his third season at the club, Almeria's young Argentinian flyer has notched up 100 appearances for the club, recording 20 goals and eight assists in the process. Part of the Aregentina U-20 World Cup squad in 2007, Piatti could be considered to have somewhat fallen short of the potential that he has been associated with but has still provided his Andalusian employers with moments of candent genius since his arrival from Estudiantes in 2008. With intelligent control of the ball, speed across the ground and precision in front of goal, the 21-year-old has all the attributes required to become a genuinely world-class attacking player.
A hidden jewel of the La Liga, Piatti's future unquestionably lies away from Almeria.
Hercules: Kiko, Royston Drenthe and Nelson Valdez
11. Kiko Femenia (Right Winger)
Scouted by Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, Hércules’s Kiko Femenia looks destined for the Spanish top flight since impressing for his club over the past three years. Breaking through to the Hércules first team aged 17, he has established himself as a game changer in his 36 appearances for the club. Scoring three goals and using his dribbling and pace to set up many attacks, he became a member of the Spanish national youth teams. He should push for the senior squad in the next few years. At only 20 years of age, Kiko is an outstanding talent whose availability will have alerted the scouts of Europe's elite.
Price: £10m (Buyout clause)
12. Nelson Valdez (Forward)
One of Hercules' star signings despite a less than glittering four years at current Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, fans may look back at Paraguayan Nelson Valdez and lament that his eight goals in 25 appearances were just not enough for the club. The energetic forward's future certainly lies away from Almeria, and at only 27, has an opportunity to show more of the ability that allowed him to score a match-winning brace against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in September 2010.