For Little or Nothing

If you are reading this and you support a Premiership team, then it is more than likely that on more than one occasion you have been left frustrated by the form of your side’s ‘big money signing’.

Now don’t get me wrong, big money signings will always create a sense of excitement and hype, but what about the little bargain buys and free transfers of recent years? Some of these players who cost mere peanuts have been some of the Premiership’s all time greats, and here we will look at a select few from down through the years.

Demba Ba, West Ham to Newcastle – Free

We start with Demba Ba, a striker who cost Newcastle absolutely nothing and yet has gone on to become probably the signing of the season.

When Newcastle were looking to replace Andy Carroll, you may have expected them to invest their €35 million in a new, expensive striker, but instead they kept their options open and settled for Ba who had been impressing at West Ham last season following his January move from Hoffenheim. He certainly didn’t disappoint at Newcastle either, currently boasting a record of 16 goals so far this season and is the fourth top scorer in the League behind Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie.

He may have struggled to spare Senegal’s blushes at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, but he won’t mind if he helps guide the Geordies towards a European adventure next year, which is now beginning to look like a realistic goal.

Sami Hyypia , Willem II to Liverpool –  £2.5 million

When he first arrived from Dutch side Willem II in 1999, Liverpool fans were understandably scratching their heads, asking ‘Sami who?’ Little did they know however, the big centre-back was going to become a Kop icon and one of their greatest foreign signings of all time.

He arrived at Liverpool virtually unknown to English football, but ten years and ten trophies later he left for Germany as a hero following a tearful last game against Tottenham Hotspur in May 2009.

He was a huge influence on his team mates at the club and a real leader as well which prompted Gerard Houllier to hand the big Finn the captain’s armband. A legend who spent a decade at Anfield, and for such a low price.

Sol Campbell, Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal – Free

Another centre-back and one who is considered one of the ultimate freebies in Premiership history.

It should go without saying really, Campbell was no longer of the Spurs fans’ good books when he made a move to their close rivals Arsenal, but really it was the best possible move for his career.

Following eight seasons at Spurs, Sol joined the Gunners in 1999 as the first high profile Bosman Ruling transfer. His impact at the club is there for all to see, two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two Community Shields and he was also a part of the ‘Invincibles’ side of the 2003/04 season. He was a crucial figure in Arsenal’s most successful period under Arsene Wenger and almost ended his time at Highbury is style as he opened the scoring in the 2006 Champions League Final, however after losing Jens Lehmann to a straight red card Barcelona used their one man advantage and eventually triumphed 2-1.

Interestingly enough, the former England international has never been signed for a fee. Following Arsenal, he played for Portsmouth, Notts County and Newcastle; all of whom signed him for free.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Molde to Man United – £1.5 million

Another largely unknown player who arrived for peanuts and went on to become a club hero after one night at the Nou Camp in 1999.

Alex Ferguson signed the Norweigian striker from Molde for just £1.5 million in 1996. His impact in his first couple of years was impressive, with 30 goals in just two seasons. He scored a further 18 in the 1998/99 season, but none more historic than in the 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich when his injury time winner at the Nou Camp ensured the Red Devils were Champions of Europe and his name would be written into United folklore forever. Amazingly, that one goal may also have saved his career as United had already accepted a bid from Spurs, but ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’ refused to move.

In what was also an injury plagued career at Old Trafford, Solksjaer scored 126 goals, and won six Premier League titles, three Community Shields, two FA Cups and one Champions League title.

Robin Van Persie, Feyenoord to Arsenal – £2.75 million

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be well aware by now that Robin Van Persie has been in explosive form for Arsenal this season. One must wonder how much he is worth now, but in 2004 he cost the Gunners only £2.75 million!

Despite just two trophies to his name since joining the club, that should not undermine just how good he has been on front of goal. Prior to the 2010/11 season, the Dutch striker had been plagued by injuries, but now fully fit and in the form of his life, he is banging in goals for fun once again and his overall tally at Arsenal now stands at 128, with 55 of those coming in the past two seasons which is really quite remarkable. Arsene Wenger faces a difficult task of holding onto him next season, but if he succeeds in doing so and adds to some of the quality around him, their long wait for another trophy could finally come to an end.

If not for those persistent injuries, you can’t help but wonder how much closer he would be to Thierry Henry’s club record of 229.

Jay-Jay Okocha, Paris Saint Germain to Bolton Wanderers – Free

Jay-Jay Okocha – so good, they named him twice – and he cost Bolton Wanderers nothing.

Following his release by PSG in 2002, Sam Allardyce at a time when he was at his best as a wheeler dealer, convinced the Nigerian midfielder the Reebok Stadium was where he should be. In his four and a half years at the club, he proved to be a sensational midfielder who was capable of lighting up any game with his skills and captained them to a Football League Cup Final and also played a role in bringing European football to the Reebok Stadium for the first time in the history of the club.

Unfortunately he has no major trophies to his name from his time there, but Okocha will always be hailed as one of the finest free transfers in Premiership history and will forever hold a place in the hearts of the Trotters faithful.

Eric Cantona, Leeds United to Man United – £1.2 million

Well what can you say about this bit of business? Probably the greatest bargain buys in Premiership history and of United’s all time greats.

After short spells with French side Nimes and Leeds United, the latter of which he had a massive influence on as he helped guide them to the League title in 1992. Howard Wilkinson to this day must regret letting go of the star forward for just £1.2 million to a struggling Man United side.

His impact was monumental, he inspired United to four League titles, the 1992/93 title being their first in 26 years, two FA Cups and three Community Shields.

Cantona was also a figure of some controversy while at Old Trafford for his ‘kung-fu kick’ on a Crystal Palace supporter which, to this day, he admits was a great feeling and is happy that he created a memory such as that for the United fans to treasure. He was subsequently arrested for his actions and sentenced to 120 hours of community service and was also banned for football for the remaining four months of the league season.

Controversy aside, Cantona is one of the greatest stars to have come to England since the Premiership was formed in 1992, and his impact on United was incredible and they may not have gotten to where they are today without him.


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