Since the turn of the century there have been a number of low-key, cheap signings who went on to turn in to superstars. They are now some of the world's best footballers for both club and country. Here is a team made up of the best transfer bargains of the 21st Century.
Goalkeeper | Joe Hart | Manchester City
Hart was signed for a tiny sum of £100,000 after being spotted by Tim Flowers who was Manchester City's goalkeeping coach at the time.
Hart was signed from Shrewsbury Town and then continued on to a number of loan spells before claiming both Manchester City and England number one jerseys.
He has appeared 30 times for England and over 200 times for Manchester City, including a crucial role in the 2011-2012 Premier League victory.
Left back | Leighton Baines | Everton
Baines signed for Everton from Wigan for just £5 million in 2007. He was an impressive regular for Wigan and part of the team that won promotion in 2005. Baines has been integral in Everton's high finishes. Baines also amassed some personal milestones such as being in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year of 2011-2012.
Right back | Benoit Assou-Ekotto | Tottenham
The French-born Cameroonian signed for Tottenham for a sum thought to be around £3.5 million from Lens in 2006. He has been a solid player for Tottenham despite injury ruling him out for a large portion of this season. He is six matches shy of 150 Tottenham league games and has played on both sides of the defence.
He was crucial last season in Tottenham’s brilliant Premier League campaign when they finished fourth. He is also an accomplished international with 17 caps for Cameroon.
Central defender | Nemanja Vidic | Manchester United
Manchester United paid just £7 million for Vidic, who has established himself as a stalwart in the centre of defence and became captain in 2010. He is a regular for both club and country with 260 matches for United and nearly 60 for Serbia.
His no-nonsense defending style, aggression and passion for the game has made him a fans favourite. He has been a regular figure in the PFA Premier League Team Of The Year, making the cut in four of his eight seasons in the Premier League. While this season has been marred by injuries, he has still made 15 appearances in a season where Manchester United have completely dominated the division.
Central defender | Vincent Kompany | Manchester City
Signed from Hamburg for a fee believed to be around £6 million in 2008 he quickly established himself in the Premier League making 34 appearances in his first season. He has been the driving force behind City's dramatic shift in league position; their best finish being ninth in the season Kompany arrived. With him at the heart of the team they managed to finish fifth in 2010, third in 2011 and became champions in 2012 in a magical campaign.
Central midfield | Tim Cahill | Everton
Tim Cahill completed a move from Millwall over to Everton for a sum of just £1.5 million in 2004. He would transform into a crucial player, a fans favourite and a complete midfielder in the eight seasons he was at the club. He made 278 appearances and scored an impressive 68 goals and contributed 38 assists from the midfield role. He is also one of Australia's best footballers; being capped over 60 times scoring 27 goals. He is one of Everton's best-loved players and his versatility and passion for the game makes him shine above the rest.
Central midfield | Mikel Arteta | Everton
Arteta is another Everton player features. The Spanish maestro arrived at a similar time as Cahill, being signed in the 2005 January transfer window on loan. He was signed permanently at the end of season for just £2 million. He was considered one of the finest playmakers and creative talents in the Premier League and played over 200 games for Everton with 35 goals to his name and 41 assists. He was signed for a more substantial fee reported to be around the £10 million mark by Arsenal in 2011.
Left midfield | Gareth Bale | Tottenham
Tottenham managed to bag Bale for just £5 million in 2007. He did not have the most eye-catching start to his Tottenham career. In his first season he only managed 12 starts across all competitions. However, it is this season where Bale has really shone.
In 38 appearances he has managed 22 goals and Tottenham look a much weaker force without him on the left side of midfield. He is versatile and able to play a defensive role also where he began his career but his goal scoring is too valuable to play there. His outstanding performances have propelled Tottenham to third place in the league, with Champions League football looking a real possibility. Bale is also a key member of the national side, scoring 11 goals for Wales in just over 40 matches.
Right midfield | Cristiano Ronaldo | Manchester United
Ronaldo was possibly one of the best signings of all times. Whilst £12.2 million pounds is hardly a cheap transfer deal, the product of Ronaldo and the 68 million pound profit gained by Manchester United contribute to this being one of the most astute transfer deals of all times.
As a player he has everything, he is brilliant to watch and his pace, skills, goals and strength make him one of the best the world has ever seen. Manchester United got an excellent return on Ronaldo; he scored 118 goals in just 292 games despite him regularly playing on the wing. He broke the 20-goal barrier in his last three seasons at Manchester United as well as being named the World Player of the Year in 2008. His extraordinary transfer worth £80 million to Real Madrid only started another excellent chapter in Ronaldo's legendary career.
Striker | Robin van Persie | Arsenal
Robin van Persie is perhaps not a name many Arsenal fans now like to hear. Yet his move to Arsenal from Feyernood for just £2.75 million was a steal. His first years at Arsenal were dominated by injury but he still managed over 10 goals in his first three seasons. However it was the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 campaigns where he really shone. His incredible scoring record for those two years was 22 goals in 33 games in the first season and 37 goals in 48 games in the second. The Dutchman played exquisitely in both seasons and this is what led to his large money move to rivals Manchester United. Van Persie is also an established international with 34 goals in 74 caps.
Striker | Michu | Swansea
While he has only been gracing the Premier League for just one season it is clear he is one of the bargain buys of the decade. He cost just £2.2 million and has been a revelation for Laudrup's Swansea side who sit in the top half of the Premier League table.
He has scored 21 goals in just 38 appearances for Swansea. He has also adapted magnificently well as his position can vary from midfielder to striker. In addition Michu led Swansea to cup triumph in the Carling Cup. He is sure to earn a call up to the national team soon.
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