Football is about winning, and managers are constantly under increasing pressure to deliver results to keep board members and fans happy, as well as keep the media off their back.
One way of improving their chances of delivering positive results is to strengthen the team and the best players are becoming more and more expensive with every passing transfer window.
Sometimes, it comes down to extensive scouting and a bit of luck to find the bargain signings who will turn out to be worth much more than what was paid for them.
Here is a list of five of the best bargain signings during the Premier League era.
Before joining Manchester United, Cantona had already helped Leeds United become English league champions in his first ever season playing in the country, netted a hat-trick in the Community Shield at Wembley, and became the first player to score a hat-trick in the newly created Premier League.
So, it was somewhat of a surprise when he left Yorkshire to move to United for just £1.2 million in November 1992. Especially when you consider Alex Ferguson was prepared to pay £3m for David Hirst from Sheffield Wednesday shortly before.
This bargain signing proved to be a masterstroke by Ferguson as Cantona completely transformed the United team. Their upturn in form saw them win the first ever Premier League title and made Cantona the first player to win back-to-back English top-flight titles with different clubs.
In his controversy filled United career, he scored eighty-two goals in all competition and helped them win four Premier League titles and two FA Cups.
Anelka was just seventeen-years-old when newly-appointed manager Arsene Wenger paid £500,000 to bring him to Arsenal from Paris Saint-Germain in 1997. It proved to be a shrewd and extremely profitable piece of transfer business.
Although he struggled to get into the first team for a while, when he did he was instrumental in Arsenal winning the double in 1997/98. He then top-scored for The Gunners the following season before being sold to Real Madrid for £22.3 million.
Although the fans turned against Anelka, he was still a fantastic signing who returned a Premier League title, FA Cup trophy, and almost £20m profit in the space of just over two years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
“The Baby-Faced Assassin” appeared on Ferguson’s radar after scoring forty goals in fifty appearances for Molde in Norway and breaking into the Norwegian national team.
United paid just £1.5m to bring Solskjaer to England in 1996, after both Everton and Manchester City had turned down the chance of signing him. Fans and critics were skeptical as many were expecting Ferguson to break the transfer record to sign Alan Shearer. Newcastle did that shortly after by signing Shearer, in a deal which a recent Betway blog post believed would be worth £200m in the transfer market today.
Solskjaer turned out to be a much cheaper signing and proved a fantastic acquisition, providing further proof of Ferguson’s brilliant eye for talent.
He went on to spend eleven seasons at Old Trafford, scoring 126 goals and helping them win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and The Champion’s League.
His injury-time winner in the 1999 Champion’s League final ensured his place as a United legend and earned the club a lot more money than the relative pittance they paid for him.
Australian international Cahill had made 250 appearances in all competitions for Millwall before Everton signed him for just £1.5m in 2004. He was supposed to sign for Crystal Palace but that was cancelled due to a row over a payment to his agent, and Palace’s loss became Everton’s gain.
He made an immediate impact in the Everton first team, scoring eleven league goals from midfield to be the clubs top scorer and was voted Fans Player of the Year in his first season.
That was the start of an eight-year stay on Merseyside which saw him score sixty-eight goals and create numerous goals for his teammates. He helped Everton to the FA Cup final in 2009 and to qualify for European competition on more than one occasion.
“Ronaldo during the 2006–07 season” (CC BY 2.0) by AtilaTheHun from Manchester, England, Via Wikimedia Commons.
A transfer fee of more than £12m in 2003 was by no means a bargain. In fact, it made the Portuguese youngster the most expensive teenager in the history of English football. But, when you look back at this signing with hindsight, it becomes the best Premier League bargain signing ever made.
In six seasons at Old Trafford, Ronaldo netted 118 goals, won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champion’s League, and the FIFA Club World Cup. Then, in 2009, he was allowed to join Real Madrid for a then world-record transfer fee of £80m.
Ronaldo had become one of United’s best ever players, helped the club become the best in the world, and returned a profit of almost £68m in the space of six years.