Top five: Bargains of the last 20 seasons
Andrea Pirlo, Fabio Cannavaro & Henrik Larsson were all bargain signings for their respective clubs
In an age where football clubs pay fortunes for footballers, occasionally the odd player becomes available for either a bargain fee - or even absolutely free of charge.
Here are the biggest bargains since the start of the 2012/13 campaign.
5. Riccardo Montolivo | Fiorentina to AC Milan (May 2012) | Free transfer
At the end of the 2010/11 season, Fiorentina captain Montolivo refused to sign a contract extension at the Florentine club. His refusal shocked Serie A and, as expected, Europe’s top clubs came knocking.
Milan won the signature of the Italy international and, after a shaky start at the San Siro, he has came into his own and is now recognised as one of the world's best deep-lying playmakers.
4. Eric Cantona | Leeds United to Manchester United (November 1992) | £1.2m
In November 1992, when Sir Alex Ferguson had identified that the club needed a new striker - after failing with moves for Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane - a few eyebrows were raised when they signed Eric Cantona from Leeds, a player who had only scored three goals in the English First Division.
But five highly successful years followed, and scoring over 60 goals and making almost 150 league appearance, not to mention his assist tally, the transfer fee should have been 10 times what United paid.
3. Henrik Larsson | Feyenoord to Celtic (July 1997) | £650,000
When Wim Jansen signed Henrik Larsson from Feyenoord in mid 1997, not many knew his name, and nobody expected him to become the Glasgow-based side’s greatest ever player after the start he had at Parkhead.
In his first match, he gave the ball away to a Heart's attacker who went on to score that would see Celtic beaten 2-1, and in his second game he scored an own goal. But after the blip was over, he became one of Europe’s most lethal predators. A seven-year stay with the Scottish giants resulted in over 200 goals for the Hoops before the Swedish wizard got the move that his talent deserved.
2. Fabio Cannavaro | Inter to Juventus (August 2004) | Swap deal
On summer transfer window deadline day 2004, one of the most bizarre swap deals football has ever witnessed took place, as Juve picked up one of the world's best defenders in exchange for their third-choice goalkeeper Fabian Carini.
At Juventus, Cannavaro was noticed on the world stage for Juve, after a string of incredible performances in Serie A and the Champions League. He then went on to superstardom and won the 2006 Ballon D’or - the only defender to ever have done so after being by far and away the best player at the FIFA World Cup 2006. Though, sadly, after the Calciopoli scandal, he moved on to Real Madrid for around £7m.
1. Andrea Pirlo | AC Milan to Juventus (May 2011) | Free transfer
In May 2011, when Juve announced that they had signed Andrea Pirlo on a free transfer, it was a shock to see that the Old Lady had just signed Serie A’s best midfielder for absolutely nothing.
He has been touted as the catalyst that turned Juve into a team that were languishing in mid-table to unbeaten Serie A champions. His exploits at Euro 2012, especially in his games against England and Germany where he dictated the game, completely showcased just how good of a player the Turin giants had picked up.
Playing a pivotal role in Juve’s so far successful 2012/13 campaign has him still rated amongst the best midfielders in the game, despite being 33 years old.
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