Today is a momentous occasion with the return of Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists for the first time in 2016. And with the transfer window in full swing what better way than something transfer related. After we put the Daily Star’s method of coming up transfer rumours into action on this week’s podcast it got me thinking about some of the bargains that the Premier League has seen and who better to rank some of the best than I, Ryan Christopher Butler. So here we are, looking at the top 5 bargain buys the Premier League has seen according to myself. Let’s crack on with number 5 straight away and a trip to Stamford Bridge.
5) Petr Cech (Rennes to Chelsea 2004, £7 million)
Now this one may seem odd as the fee is quite high for a goalkeeper, well it was back in 2004 when the Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri brought Cech to West London as part of the Russian Revolution. Little did we know at the time that the Czech Republic International would go on to be one of the best goalkeepers football has seen in recent years, arguably in the top 5 goalkeepers the Premier League has seen (another Ryan Butler’s Sporting List anyone?), a truly heroic keeper. I was there on the day Cech’s life was turned upside down when during Reading vs Chelsea a trailing Stephen Hunt knee caught the side of Cech’s head nearly ending his career. Without this injury Jose Mourinho and most Chelsea fans believe that Chelsea would have gone on to pip Man Utd in the title race, and based on his career statistics it is hard to disagree.
He went on to win 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Community Shields a Champions League and a Europa League in his time at Chelsea and was one of their most consistent and reliable players throughout. He is still excelling in England at Chelsea’s across London rivals Arsenal. He is looking to win his 5th Premier League title and his side are in a great position to do just that.
4) Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich to Chelsea 2006, Free)
This transfer makes the list because quite simply it was a free transfer. Unbelievable really when you look at Ballack’s pedigree even before joining Chelsea. In the years before joining Chelsea he had won 3 out of 4 Bundesliga titles with Bayern as well as getting Germany to a World Cup runner up place in the 2002 tournament as well as a Third place medal in the 2006 World Cup. In the subsequent years at Chelsea he won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup as well as getting a Champions League runner up medal. He was a part of one of the most formidable midfields the Premier League has ever seen, joining Chelsea legend Frank Lampard in the middle and giving support to the then in prime condition Didier Drogba. Crazily Ballack only scored 16 goals in the League for Chelsea but it was his overall presence in the team that made his transfer fee (or lack of) completely worth while.
3) Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting CP to Manchester United 2003, £12.24 million)
Before a ball was kicked in the 2003/04 season a young Portugese winger signed for Manchester United for just over £12 million. In six short years he would become the most expensive player in the world and to many the best player on the planet. He would help turn Manchester United back into the title winning powerhouse they were in the 90s and at the turn of the millennium after being apart of three consecutive seasons without United really coming close to the league, something that hadn’t been seen or even comprehended until then. In his early years Ronaldo would see Arsenal go a season unbeaten followed by two years that threatened a Chelsea dynasty for years to come. It looked like it would be the end of his United career before it even began when Ronaldo and his famous wink towards Wayne Rooney in the 2006 World Cup angered the country and lead to question marks over his future in the lead up to the 06/07 season. However, within two years he would score 48 league goals and would fire the Red Devils to back to back Premier League titles and scored the opening goal in United’s infamous 2008 Champions League final win over Chelsea in Russia.
The following year he helped United win a third title in a row (for the second time in the Premier League era) and notched up another 18 League goals as well as helping United get to a second Champions League final in as many seasons. But it was clear during that season that he was always going to be heading to the holy grail that is Real Madrid come the summer of 09 and thus departed the Premier League, leaving it in a better state than he found it for the small fee of just the £80 million.
2) Thierry Henry (Juventus to Arsenal 1999, £11 million)
When making this list one thing I uncovered was that Arsenal fans and the English media questioned Thierry Henry’s ability and questioned whether he was worth the time and money Arsene Wenger had put into him after Henry failed to score in his first eight league games. Now we look back at his first and main spell at the Gunners where Henry notched 174 league goals in 254 games spanning over eight years In England. Basically in terms of the Premier League Arsenal spent £63,000 per goal. For me Henry is the best striker the Premier League has ever seen. In his prime Henry was unplayable, I mean seriously good. The goal scoring rivalry between the Frenchman and Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy helped shape the Premier League as one of the most competitive leagues in the world, capturing the hearts and imaginations of the world and helped the Premier League to expand to all four corners of the globe.
From 2001/02 Henry’s scoring record looks like this in the Premier League, 24 in 33, 24 in 37, 30 in 37, 25 in 32 and 27 in 32. How frightening is that? I mean seriously, no wonder Arsenal were considered one of the biggest teams in Europe throughout the decade.
During his time at Arsenal Henry won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League runners up medal as well as countless individual awards such as being third (2006) and second in (2003) in the Ballon d’Or award, he won the PFA players player of the year for two years running between 2002 and 2004. Henry would also win the Premier League golden boot four times between 2001 and 2006. A truly inspirational footballer who will be remembered as a Premier League legend…one that nearly never happened.
1) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Molde to Manchester United 1996, £1.5 million)
Now the other boys at Severn Sport will accuse me of being biased towards Manchester United with this one but to put this in perspective take a look at that price tag. For those who weren’t familiar with the Premier League during the mid 90s there was a young striker running the joint called Alan Shearer at Blackburn Rovers. Manchester United were looking to sign the England captain and were looking like spending big bucks on him, as it transpired Shearer went on to sign for Newcastle United for £15 million. For just a tenth of that price United went for the unknown baby-faced assassin in Solskjaer to back up the departing Eric Cantona, the ever growing Andy Cole and the experienced head in Teddy Sheringham who would join later on.
In just six minutes into his Man Utd debut Solskjaer adhered himself to the Old Trafford faithful by scoring against Blackburn coming on as a substitute; something Solskjaer would develop a reputation for doing.
Solskjaer would go on to score 18 league goals in his maiden season for the Red Devils and in the following seasons would develop into a fan favourite for his insane ability to score important goals at vital moments in games. None more so than the winner in that famous 1999 Champions League final vs Bayern Munich. Doing what he did best and coming off the bench to score the winning goal in arguably the most important game in the history of Manchester United in the Premier League era. At that point no one had ever won the treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, something no one has achieved since. I can remember it like it was just yesterday. The ball goes out for a corner after Teddy Sheringham’s equaliser 30 seconds into stoppage time at the end of the final. ITV’s Clive Tyldesley with Big Ron Atkinson setting the scene….”You have to feel this is their year…….Beckham, into Sheringham AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT!” The goal that launched Manchester United into the super stardom stratosphere of global recognition they have never left. Arguably had Solskjaer not scored that goal Manchester United would not be the global brand and footballing success they are today….well not exactly today but you know what I mean. And all for just £1.5 million.
And that concludes this weeks edition of Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists. Check back next week for another list concocted by yours truly. For now I will direct you to this week’s episode of the Severn Sport podcast available now on the Severn Sport app on iOS and Android now!