15 current Premier League stars who were signed for £1 million or under
5. Wes Morgan (Nottingham Forest to Leicester), £1m
For a long while it seemed certain that Morgan would end his career at Nottingham Forest, his hometown club for whom the defender played over 400 games. Yet although he stayed put in the East Midlands, Morgan did leave the City Ground, joining Leicester for £1m in January 2012.
Play-off heartache followed in his first full season with the Foxes, before Nigel Pearson’s side earned promotion in 2013/14. The subsequent great escape – Leicester survived relegation after winning seven of their last nine games – preceded the most unlikely title triumph in English football history, with captain Morgan becoming only the third outfield player in Premier League history to play every minute of a title-winning season.
4. Harry Arter (Woking to Bournemouth), £4,000
After failing to make the grade at first club Charlton, Arter dropped down to the Conference South to launch his career in 2009/10. Bournemouth were impressed with what they saw 80 miles up the road and duly agreed to sign the midfielder for £4,000 at the end of that season – an astonishing deal for a player who’s been so key to their progress since then.
Arter took a while to get going at Dean Court and was loaned out to Carlisle in 2010/11, but he became a regular starter the following season and subsequently helped Bournemouth into the Championship. Two years later it was the Premier League.
3. Seamus Coleman (Sligo Rovers to Everton), £60,000
Undoubtedly one of the best bargain buys in Premier League history: Everton paid just £60,000 to secure Coleman’s services in January 2009.
The right-back joined from Sligo Rovers after Willie McStay, who played with then-Everton manager David Moyes at Celtic, recommended him to the Toffees. Although his debut was delayed as he recovered from surgery on an infected blister, Coleman played 40 games in his first full season at Goodison Park.
The Irishman has racked up 247 appearances for Everton in total, and is currently closing in on a comeback to first-team action after recovering from a broken leg. Before that he was arguably among the league’s top three right-backs.
2. Jamie Vardy (Fleetwood to Leicester), £1m
Vardy’s story is well known by now, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. The England striker was playing his football for Stocksbridge Park Steels as recently as 2010, supplementing a meagre weekly income by working in a factory making medical splints.
Two years later, Leicester took a gamble by paying non-league Fleetwood £1m for their star man – and Vardy has continued his speedy ascent ever since.
He wasn’t a guaranteed starter in his first season with the Foxes, but 16 goals in 2013/14 helped fire Nigel Pearson’s charges into the top flight. Vardy was integral to keeping them there in 2014/15, preceding an extraordinary 24-goal campaign in which he and Leicester made history by winning the Premier League.
1. Riyad Mahrez (Le Havre to Leicester), £450,000
Few – if any, let’s be honest – Leicester fans had heard of Mahrez when he rocked up at the King Power Stadium in January 2014. Four years on, the winger is indisputably one of the greatest players in the club’s history.
Although guilty of consistency in his first Premier League season of 2014/15, Mahrez was sensational as the Foxes won the title in 2015/16, and his decline the following campaign wasn’t as terminal as many claimed.
Mahrez could be on the move this month, even if recent reports that suggested he was on the verge of joining Liverpool were wide of the mark. Even if Leicester do lose him, the fee involved will be substantially more than £450,000. Or even £45m at this rate.