Money makes the world go round; and that old mantra is nowhere truer than in the big European football leagues, as the continent’s top clubs jostle to get the cash out of the door to secure the world’s best playing riches.
There have been some eye-watering transfer fees in the Premier League in recent years. Virgil Van Dijk’s £75m move from Southampton to Liverpool, in 2018, has transformed Jurgen Klopp’s Reds from a swashbuckling also-ran to this season’s runaway leader.
Manchester United have tried to respond by shelling out £80m to bring Harry Maguire from Leicester City, and only time will tell if that bold investment is to pay off. The same can be said for Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe who moved to the Emirates in the summer but hasn’t exactly looked like a £72m player.
We SBOTOP football fans can all point to a transfer at our own club which has been money well spent, I’ll throw my hat in as a Burnley madman and say Ashley Barnes at £500k wasn’t a bad punt!
But which three players have represented the very best value in Premier League history? Well folks, here’s my selection.
3: Thierry Henry to Arsenal from Juventus for £14M in 1999
When Arsene Wenger took over as head coach at Arsenal and transformed the Gunners from turgid 1-0 specialists to the English version of the Ajax’ ‘total football’ team, the Frenchman turned to his homeland to find the finesse he was looking for. And the epitome of that was Thierry Henry.
He arrived at Highbury as a speedy winger with an eye for goal but left eight years later with two Premier League titles and two FA Cups, and he had become the perfect striker, swift of foot, sharp of mind and with a stunning array of finishes.
Henry’s partnership with Dennis Bergkamp in the Arsenal Invincibles team of 2004 was arguably the best the Premier League has ever seen, and the question is; what this current Arsenal team would give for a leader and a truly world-class player like Henry?
2: Roy Keane to Manchester United from Nottingham Forest for £7m in 1993
Red Devils fans can point to any number of players who have represented fantastic value over the past three decades. The enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona arrived in 1992 for £1.6m and was there right at the start of United’s resurgence.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney both made big impacts for Manchester United once they had become established as the best side in England, but Keane, the tough-tackling Irishman, was there at the start too.
For neutrals, one of the best Premier League battles in the late nineties was the frequent clashes between Keane and Arsenal’s midfield general Patrick Vieira. The United man summed it up succinctly, saying: “I can’t think of any other word that springs to mind when I was going into battle with Arsenal. Hatred was the word.”
As well as being a hard man and a hot head off the pitch, Keane wasn’t a bad player either; he scored 33 goals in 326 games for United at a time when the Red Devils won the league seven times in ten seasons.
1: Sergio Aguero to Manchester City from Atletico Madrid for £36m in 2011
Manchester City had been in the shadow of their neighbours for over 20 years when striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the Etihad as the Sky Blue revolution was gathering momentum, and he will be forever remembered for his stunning 93rd-minute strike as Manchester City won their first Premier League title in 2012.
The Argentine hit man is one of the best players Manchester has ever seen, and his goal tally of 180 in 261 appearances speaks for itself. During his spell in Manchester, the Sky Blues have won four Premier Leagues and two FA Cups, including two domestic doubles. The pre-season Premier League 2020 predictions backed a third successive league title for the Sky Blues but while they are well off the pace, Aguero could easily still win the Golden Boot. He’s in joint third place on 16 and just three goals behind Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.
So there we have it. Three brilliant players who have helped to change the course of history at their respective clubs, and all three were worth every penny.
Back to the now; the English Football League has issued an open letter announcing that the Championship, League One and Two will recommence behind closed doors when it is safe to do so. I expect the Premier League to follow suit, but with the UK lockdown just extended to May 7th, we have at least three weeks to wait.
Rest assured folks; we’ll be back with all the latest Premier League 2020 news as and when it arrives.