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5 best midfield bargains of the 21st Century

N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi both were bargain signings for their clubs

Today’s transfer market is so crazy that it is difficult to choose an adjective to describe it in the best possible manner. Swansea are demanding £50m for Gylfi Sigurdsson, Leipzig want £70m for Naby Keita and Manchester City just made Kyle Walker the most expensive defender and English player by signing him for £50m!

The catalyst to this scenario was definitely the record breaking move of Paul Pogba for £89m! Imagine the things you can buy with that money, but only after you finish reading this, because that’s a lot of money and it would take you a while to figure out what to do with £89m.

Clubs with talented players in their ranks know that the Big Shots of Europe will not hesitate to meet the blown up transfer value evaluations simply because they can. These days, it is hard to get a bargain transfer but that wasn’t the case not so long ago.

Also read: Most expensive XI in world football at the moment

In today’s market Philippe Coutinho could be worth over £80m but in 2013, Liverpool signed him for just £8.5m and look at how incredible that deal turned out to be. This was certainly a bargain price for a midfielder, but the following five midfield signings are even better.

Note: The ranking has been done based on the player’s quality, impact at the club and transfer fee. This list doesn’t include free transfers.


#5 N’Golo Kante - From Caen to Leicester for £5.6m in 2015

Kante played a major role in one of the greatest stories in sports history and without him, it would have never happened.

The Frenchman helped Caen earn promotion to Ligue 1 in his debut season for the club and then followed it up with an impressive first season in the French top flight. He caught the eye of several clubs, with Leicester being one of them.

Kante rejected Leicester’s initial approach as he was holding out for a move to Marseille and frankly I’m glad Marseille didn’t approach him. He eventually signed for the Foxes for just £5.6m!

Although Kante’s teammate, Riyad Mahrez won the Player of the Year award for Leicester’s fairytale season, Kante’s contribution was well recognised with him being named in the Team of the Year.

However, it was only when he moved to Chelsea the following season that people took full notice of Kante. At Leicester, there were several stories to focus on, but at Chelsea, all eyes were on the Frenchman.

It’s also hard to believe that Leicester sold Kante for just £32m last season! I’d go as far as saying Chelsea got an equally good bargain as Kante went on to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season and FWA Footballer of the Year for 2016/17

#4 Toni Kroos - From Bayern Munich to Real Madrid for £25m in 2014

Kroos has won two Champions League titles with Real Madrid already

Now people might wonder how £25m is a bargain. Let me explain.

In the same window that Real Madrid signed Toni Kroos, Liverpool signed Adam Lallana for £25m, Ander Herrera moved to Manchester United for £30m and Manchester City signed Wilfried Bony for £25m.

These players are all fantastic but Kroos is in a league of his own. In fact, one can also argue that the only central midfielder who can match up to the phenomenal German currently is his teammate Luka Modric.

Kroos for £25m was definitely a bargain as he provided a long term option in midfield and took over seamlessly from an ageing and outgoing Xabi Alonso.

Now 27, the German has 18 major honours to his name including a FIFA World Cup and a treble with Bayern Munich.

#3 Frank Lampard - From West Ham to Chelsea for £13.60m in 2001

Lampard went on to become Chelsea’s all time leading goalscorer

Back in 2001, £13.60m was surely a fee that raised eyebrows but it was not too expensive either because in the same summer Juventus signed Gianluigi Buffon for €52m (roughly £45m in 2001) making him the most expensive goalkeeper on the planet even today, and Real Madrid broke the world transfer record by signing Zinedine Zidane for £50m.

Zidane was 29 years old then and Lampard was 23, so there is no doubting that Chelsea got a bargain deal. Think about it, if you compare the impact the two players had at their respective clubs without comparing the players, the Lampard deal looks like a masterstroke.

The Englishman was signed before the Abramovich era began but he was one of the very few who stayed on and became a crucial member of the team.

Lampard spent 13 seasons at the club, winning as many honours, while also scoring 211 goals from midfield. This makes him Chelsea’s all time leading goalscorer and also the fourth highest goalscorer in Premier League history.

#2 Marco Verratti - From Pescara to PSG for £10m in 2012

Verratti had never played top flight football when PSG signed him

In 2012, the world started taking notice of Paris Saint-Germain after they made some high profile signings including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Motta from Serie A.

They also signed another player from Italy. A diminutive 19-year-old Italian midfielder named Marco Verratti who had just helped Pescara earn promotion to the Italian top flight.

Verratti arrived for just £10m and became an undisputed starter for a star studded team. However, he never went under the radar while playing alongside such superstars and always gave the impression that he was destined for greatness.

It needs no saying that today Verratti is one of the best midfielders on the planet and he’s just aged 24. Barcelona are keen on signing the Italian international but they will have to break the world record transfer fee for that to happen.

Verratti has been with PSG for five seasons and has been named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year as many times.

#1 Kaka – From Sao Paulo to AC Milan for £7m in 2003

Kaka was the last player to beat Ronaldo and Messi to the Ballon d’Or

Kaka is the last person to have beaten Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or and that was a good 10 years ago.

Milan signed Kaka for just £7m and when the Brazilian arrived at the club as a 21-year-old he had already won the FIFA World Cup in 2002 albeit as a squad player.

His impact with Milan was instantaneous as he went on to score 10 goals in 30 league games in his debut season, helping them secure the Scudetto. He went on to play 270 games in six seasons, scoring 95 goals as well as winning several team and individual honours, including the UEFA Champions League and Ballon d’Or.

He moved to Real Madrid in 2009 for a world record transfer fee of £65m only for the Los Blancos to break it two weeks later by signing Cristiano Ronaldo for £80m!

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Edited by Staff Editor
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