5 of the best bargains in Premier League history as Swansea's Michu heralded as the snip of the season
MICHAEL Laudrup saluted Michu as “the bargain of the season” after the Spaniard’s goal set Swansea City on their way to a stunning 2-0 win away at Chelsea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
That was Michu’s 16th goal in all competitions this season, a brilliant return on the £2 million Swansea paid Rayo Vallecano for the 26-year-old last summer.
With Michu heralded as the snip of this season, here are five of the best bargains in Premier League history...
1. MICHU (Rayo Vallecano to Swansea City, £2 million)
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Michu was offered to and rejected by six other Premier League clubs before joining Swansea last summer — how the likes of Tottenham and Aston Villa must be cursing themselves now.
Although he finished last season as the top-scoring midfielder in La Liga, he arrived in South Wales as something of an unknown quantity.
His headline-friendly name and goal celebration were soon to become ubiquitous, though, as he scored two excellent goals on the opening day of the season in the 5-0 trouncing of QPR at Loftus Road.
The 26-year-old has now struck on 16 occasions in all competitions, and his predatory instincts have prompted Spain coach Vicente del Bosque to declare his intention to give Michu his first call-up this year.
2. ERIC CANTONA (Leeds United to Manchester United, £1.2 million)
Few players have embodied Manchester United’s hubristic domination of the Premier League quite like The King.
After winning the old First Division title with Leeds, the charismatic Frenchman joined United for £1.2 million shortly before the Premier League was born in 1992.
An enigma as much as he was a genius, Cantona scored 64 goals in 143 appearances — many of them works of art — though his time at Old Trafford was studded with controversy.
His karate kick on a fan at Selhurst Park was perhaps the moment when the red mist descended most violently, though his princely chip against Sunderland and the FA Cup final volley against Liverpool were just two of his sparkling collection of spectacular goals.
3. ROBIN VAN PERSIE (Feyenoord to Arsenal, £2.75 million)
Feyenoord’s asking price for their talented but tempestuous young forward was £5 million but Arsene Wenger managed to lure him away for just over half that amount in 2004.
Seen as a troublemaker in Holland, that reputation followed van Persie at Highbury where he was sent off early in his Arsenal career.
But, like Thierry Henry before him, van Persie was moulded from a left winger into a centre-forward and he flourished as a result, scoring 132 goals for the Gunners.
He claimed 59 of those in his last two seasons at the club, before joining Manchester United for £24 million last summer and continuing to score freely at Old Trafford.
4. JOE HART (Shrewsbury Town to Manchester City, £600,000)
Wayne Rooney has hailed his England team-mate as the best goalkeeper in the world, and the Manchester City stopper has given credence to that statement with some excellent displays for the Premier League champions.
Plucked from the lowly reaches of League Two with Shrewsbury Town in 2006, the then 19-year-old Hart cost City an initial £600,000.
During his teens, Hart played for Shrewsbury against Swansea City in the final match ever to be played at The Vetch.
He has since risen to more salubrious arenas such as the Bernabeu and Old Trafford, where he has played a pivotal role in Manchester City’s recent success.
5. NICOLAS ANELKA (Paris St Germain to Arsenal, £500,000)
Few Arsenal fans had heard of Anelka when the Gunners manager Arsene Wenger — who was himself still relatively new to the club — poached the French teenager from Paris St Germain in 1997.
The man who was to become known as Le Sulk helped propel Arsenal to the Double in his first full season, scoring one of the goals in the FA Cup final win over Newcastle.
Anelka was named PFA Young Player of the Year the following term and, although he spent only two years at Highbury, his impact was significant.
Arsenal made a huge profit when he joined Real Madrid for £22.3 million in 1999, before going on to play for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
And five of the worst Premier League signings:
1. ANDY CARROLL (Newcastle to Liverpool, £35 million)
After selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50 million on the final day of the 2011 January transfer window, Liverpool were in a desperate rush to spend their money.
They wasted it spectacularly, as Carroll reluctantly left his hometown club, failed to settle at Anfield and is now on loan at West Ham.
2. FERNANDO TORRES (Liverpool to Chelsea, £50 million)
No doubt the Spanish World Cup and European Championship winner is a wonderful talent, but watching him struggle at Stamford Bridge has been like seeing Bob Dylan bumbling his way through open mike nights at working men’s clubs.
3. BOSKO BALABAN (Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa, £5.8 million)
One of the Premier League’s most mystifying signings, the Croatian striker arrived at Villa Park in 2001 amid much anticipation but left almost unnoticed two years later after only eight league appearances and no goals.
4. ALFONSO ALVES (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, £12 million)
The Brazilian internationals came to the Riverside with a big reputation but left with little more than a bulging wallet as he mustered only ten league goals during his 18 months at the club.
5. FRANCIS JEFFERS (Everton to Arsenal, £8 million)
Arsene Wenger purred excitedly about capturing a “fox in the box” when he signed the 20-year-old striker, but four league goals in three years left this particular fox to rummage through the lower leagues.