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The best value-for-money January transfers in Premier League history

Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra

Who says you have to have your underpants pulled down in the winter window? Greg Lea recalls a clutch of mid-season transfer gems

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Mikel Arteta to Everton, loan (2005)

Many loan additions are supposed to be temporary stop-gaps to ease an injury crisis or boost a squad low on morale, but Arteta’s move to Everton from Real Sociedad in January 2005 always felt like one made with the long-term in mind.

The Spanish schemer, who instantly became integral as the Toffees finished in the top four, inked a five-year contract at Goodison Park in the summer after Everton made his temporary deal permanent for just £2m. Arteta was named player of the year in his first full campaign at the club, and was generally excellent right up until his departure for Arsenal in 2011. 

Emmanuel Adebayor to Arsenal, £3m (2006)

Many would attest – and with some justification – that Adebayor has been more trouble than he’s worth down the years. But it surely can't be denied that he was also a terrific footballer. 

While things eventually turned sour at Arsenal, the Togo international was excellent once he’d settled in north London following his £3m switch from Monaco in 2006. Twenty-four goals in 36 Premier League games in 2007/08 helped the Gunners sustain a title challenge for almost the entire campaign, while his sale to Manchester City three years after arriving pumped a cool £25m into the club’s coffers.

City fans will tell you it was worth every penny for that celebration. 

Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic to Manchester United, £12.5m (2006)

Evra Vidic

Two mainstays of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2006-13 Manchester United vintage were January signings, Evra joining from Monaco for £5.5m and Vidic from Spartak Moscow for £7m.

After tough starts, both turned out to be fantastic value for money: the duo turned out for a combined 679 United appearances, winning five Premier Leagues, three League Cups and the Champions League before their respective exits to Juventus and Inter in 2014. Not bad at all, Fergie. 

Christopher Samba to Blackburn, £400,000 (2007)

Samba’s move to QPR in January 2013 didn’t turn out too well, but the £400,000 deal that took him to Blackburn as a 22-year-old was a steal. The no-nonsense centre-back first arrived at Ewood Park in 2007 and soon established himself as a mainstay at the heart of Mark Hughes’ backline alongside Ryan Nelsen.

Samba played at least 30 Premier League games in each of his four full seasons at the club before hooking up with Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos at Anzhi Makhachkala in 2012 (who then signed him again in summer 2013, for the same £12m QPR had paid for his services a few months earlier).

Wilfried Zaha to Crystal Palace, £6m (2015)

Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra

Zaha's deeply unhappy time at Manchester United culminated in only two Premier League appearances for a team adjusting badly to post-Fergie life. As he later recalled to Shortlist in 2018: “I was dealing with it at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived. They hadn’t given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I’m living in this hell by myself, away from my family, and I thought: ‘If this doesn’t make me stronger, what will?’”

But the south Londoner found a happy home back at Palace. After initially rejoining the Eagles on loan at the start of 2014/15, Zaha's return was rubber-stamped for a snip at £6m in January 2014. Suffice to say he's made a mockery of such a price tag since.   

Ashley Young to Aston Villa, £8m (2007)

Ashley Young Villa

Martin O’Neill may have been pushing it ever so slightly when he claimed that Young was in the same bracket as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in December 2008, but Aston Villa had certainly got themselves a good deal when they secured his services for an initial £8m almost two years previously.

The former Watford winger spent four years at Villa Park before moving to Manchester United for £16m in 2011, landing the Midlanders a tidy profit.