Premier League deadline day: Last-minute signings that turned out to be bargains
Transfer deadline is is often a law unto itself, a soap opera soaked in drama that defies any logic or reason.
If Peter Odemwingie isn’t turning up at random club car parks trying to force a move, then Harry Redknapp is rolling down his window and having a good ol’ chinwag with reporters. It’s truly a spectacle like no other!
For some managers, though, deadline day is a time of panic. The crisis klaxons seem to sound the minute Jim White puts on his yellow tie and fax machines across the continent go into overdrive, unless you’re in Madrid, of course. Sorry David de Gea.
With that, some weird and wonderful deals can sprout up, typically out of the blue. As managers roll the dice, last-minute gambles can often backfire, like Fernando Torres to Chelsea, Andy Carroll to Liverpool or Radamel Falcao to Man Utd.
But, there are some that go on to become absolute steals, Eleventh Hour deals that prove managers can have the Midas touch even in desperate times. Here are 16 such examples over the years.
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Fee: £5m plus William Gallas
Perhaps it’s a bit cheeky of us to put Cole in this list given that William Gallas was used in a part exchange, but only £5m was actually exchanged between Chelsea and Arsenal.
Cole was already one of the best full-backs in Europe when he left the Gunners but during his time at Stamford Bridge, he established himself as perhaps the best left-back in the world and his trophy cabinet from his time at the Blues only backs up that claim up.
From: Deportivo La Coruna
Arbeloa was a favourite during his two-and-a-half years on Merseyside, making the right-back slot his own and consistently performing for Liverpool.
The Spaniard only cost the Reds £2.6m when he moved to Merseyside in 2007 and his efforts earned him a move to Real Madrid two years later.
Johnson had already spent a year on loan at Portsmouth before the club signed him permanently on deadline day in 2007. The right-back would help to win the FA Cup in his first season after establishing himself in their back-line.
The defender impressed for England, was named in the PFA Team of the Year in the 2008/09 season and eventually earned a big-money move to Liverpool – a decent £4m move by the South Coast outfit!
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To: Stoke City
Goalkeeper Begovic joined Stoke as a backup on the last day of the 2010 winter window and worked his way to first-choice just 18 months later.
The Bosnian’s form helped establish the Potters as a consistent figure in the top flight and the shot-stopper’s excellent efforts earned him a move to Chelsea in 2015 as a result.
Rafael van der Vaart
From: Real Madrid
Still one of the most left-field transfers in Premier League history, supporters from across Europe couldn’t believe it when Tottenham signed Real Madrid playmaker Van Der Vaart in 2010 for just £8m.
The fee was simply too good to pass up and the Dutchman established himself as a fan favourite during his time at White Hart Lane, helping the club to reach the Champions League quarter-finals before they were eliminated by his old side.
To: Aston Villa
Questions were asked of Paul Lambert when he sanctioned a deal for Benteke but while most of the manager’s other signings at Villa flopped, the striker was a sure hit.
A powerful and consistent forward, the Belgium was Villa’s main front-man for three years and took the Premier League by storm before moving to Liverpool.
Another brilliant purchase by Tottenham, Spurs paid just £8m for the Frenchman from Lyon a decade ago.
Undoubtedly Lloris was on his way to becoming a top goalkeeper when he moved to White Hart Lane and now at 35 he has truly established himself in that bracket. Not only that, but he is also Tottenham’s captain! Not bad business at all.
Not many Everton fans paid much attention when their club brought in John Stones from League One Barnsley in 2013. The youngster was clearly a signing for the future, if he could make it in the top level.
However, three-and-a-half years later, Everton got over ten times back on their investment when Stones moved to Manchester City for £50m in 2016, having become an essential member of the Toffees’ defence.
From: Blackburn Rovers
To: Crystal Palace
Most people thought Dann’s crack at the Premier League had passed when he was relegated with Blackburn Rovers in 2012, the third relegation of his career.
Despite this Crystal Palace took a chance on the defender in 2014 and he went on to make over 180 appearances for the Eagles before leaving last summer.
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From: MK Dons
The Dele Alli of today would look out of place on this list. But before his form nosedive, the 37-capped England international struck 46 goals in his first three seasons in north London, also helping Mauricio Pochettino’s men reach the 2019 Champions League final, in which he started.
With a surfeit of wing-back talent emerging from Cobham, chiefly Reece James, Chelsea allowed Tariq Lamptey to move to Brighton for just £4m in January 2020. Having only made one Premier League appearance for the Blues, £4m looked like savvy business from both parties.
Brighton gambled on the unheralded youngster, and that gamble has more than paid off. He is now considered among the best wing-backs in the division (when fit), but his form has waned just slightly since sustaining a long-term hamstring injury in 2020/21. At 22, time is still on his side to rediscover his initial buzz.
From: Hull City
To: West Ham
A £22.5m fee for a Championship player certainly didn’t seem like a bargain when West Ham brought Jarrod Bowen to the London Stadium in January 2020, but given his current form and making it into the England squad, David Moyes has a player on his hands potentially worth triple that value.
The Hammers were in relegation trouble when they reached out to Hull, who knew they could demand a premium for their prized asset. Moyes gave the green light, and Bowen has now gone on to become one of the Premier League’s most devastating forwards, capable of unlocking doors, breaching nets and turning full-backs inside out. That £22.5m fee now looks an absolute snip.
To: Leeds United
There were, of course, two summer deadline days in the 2020/21 season. The first ending on October 5, and the second — for domestic signings only — ‘slamming shut’ on October 16. For the first, which allowed overseas purchases, Marcelo Bielsa strengthened his frontline with the acquisition of Raphinha from Rennes.
The Brazilian was a bit of an unknown entity on these shores, but he quickly set to work transfixing terraces with his dazzling imagination and quick feet. Style and substance are rarely happy bedfellows, but Raphinha encompasses both; a player who would not look out of place in a YouTube highlight reel set to dubstep, but also a player who makes a tangible impression in the final third.
No wonder Barcelona came knocking.
Only three players in the competition’s history have reached 10 assists in fewer games than Dejan Kulusevski. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/CEaSNK1mlK
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Just what on earth was Juventus thinking? Fabio Paratici used all of his pulling power in Turin to lure the unfancied Dejan Kulusevski to north London, initially on loan, and the mercurial Swede has been a revelation in Antonio Conte’s attack since. Incredibly, he is the only player to register at least 10 assists in the Premier League since he joined Spurs on deadline day in January, and his playmaker wizardry doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon.
From: Real Madrid
“Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
Real Madrid galáctico Zinedine Zidane summed up his feeling when compatriot and pre-eminent defensive midfielder Claude Makélélé left Real Madrid for a burgeoning revolution at Stamford Bridge.
Such was Makélélé’s excellence in the role he played that position, sitting in front of the defence while retaining and recycling possession, would forever be associated with him. To say he played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s changing fortunes would be an understatement. Makélélé lifted two Premier League titles as well as three domestic cups.
As for Real despite their lavishing spending, they’d enter a bleak period and it wouldn’t be until Zidane joined the club’s backroom staff that Los Blanco‘s ushered in another dynasty.
— Luis Suárez (@LuisSuarez9) January 24, 2023
During a period when Liverpool was making head-scratching acquisitions this was an inspired one. In fairness, Luis Suarez had everything in his makeup to continue his insatiable appetite to score goals. Arsenal were reportedly sniffing around but it was the Reds who plunged and it proved to be one of the club’s greatest signings.
He would go on to bag 82 goals across 133 appearances and is still fonding remembered on the Kop. While he fell short when it came to bringing the big prizes, something the club rectified in the Jurgen Klopp era, the Uruguayan did win the PFA Player of the Year in 2014.
Barcelona would call and his eventual switch to Spain netted Liverpool a tidy profit in the region of £42m.