Less than a million
Virgil van Dijk completed his £75m move from Southampton to Liverpool at the start of the January 2017 transfer window. That hefty fee made the Dutchman the most expensive defender in the history of the game, but not every Premier League footballers was signed for such big bucks.
In this slideshow, we take a look at 18 top-flight players who cost their current clubs less than £1m.
18. Jack Stephens (Southampton), £150,000
The sale of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool will increase Stephens’ chances of playing time at Southampton, which has been limited so far this season. Saints paid Plymouth £150,000 back in 2011 for the then 17-year-old defender, subsequently sending him on loan to Swindon, Middlesbrough and Coventry. Having represented England up to U21 level, he made his first Premier League appearance in 2017.
Stephens, who can play at both right-back and centre-back, signed a new long-term contract in summer 2017. Even if he doesn’t make it as a first-team regular at the club, Southampton stand to make a healthy profit on the 23-year-old.
17. Andrew Surman (Bournemouth), £500,000
After a successful season on loan at Dean Court in 2013/14, Surman joined Bournemouth on a permanent deal for £500,000. The former Southampton and Norwich man then played 41 league games as Eddie Howe’s charges won promotion to the Premier League the following year, with Surman contributing three goals along the way.
The South African-born midfielder was ever-present in Bournemouth’s debut top-flight campaign, before helping the Cherries to their highest ever league finish when they ended the 2016/17 season in ninth.
16. Adam Smith (Bournemouth), £250,000
Eddie Howe remains reliant on a number of Bournemouth players who represented the club in the lower leagues, with right-back Smith among them. A former Tottenham youth player, the defender – then on loan – turned out for the Cherries back in their League One days, before joining them as a permanent employee in their promotion season from the Championship.
Reports last summer suggested Mauricio Pochettino was weighing up the possibility of bringing Smith back to north London, while Chelsea and Leicester have also been linked with him in the past.
15. Joel Ward (Crystal Palace), £400,000
Ward looked set to join Ipswich in summer 2012, but Crystal Palace ultimately won the race for his signature by offering Portsmouth £400,000. The then-22-year-old was handed the unenviable task of replacing Nathaniel Clyne at right-back at Selhurst Park, but Ward did so with aplomb and remains an important first-team figure five-and-a-half years on.
The defender recently played his 200th game for Palace, a handful of which came as a midfielder under Tony Pulis. He’s also been deployed at left-back and centre-back during his time at the club, which could come to an end when his contract expires in June.
14. Sam Vokes (Burnley), £350,000
Vokes is one of very few players who have been at Burnley throughout Sean Dyche’s tenure, the striker moving to Turf Moor three months before the ex-Watford coach’s appointment in October 2012. The Welshman cost £350,000 and initially struggled to force his way into the starting XI, with 33 of his 46 league appearances in his debut season coming from the bench.
Vokes hit 20 goals the following year, though, as Dyche’s side won promotion to the Premier League; he then failed to find the net in the top flight, but helped the Clarets return at the first time of asking with 15 goals in 43 games. He’s since scored 13 times in the first division, taking his overall Burnley tally to 57.
13. Craig Dawson (West Brom), £270,000
The Rochdale-born defender swapped his hometown club for West Brom in 2010, with £270,000 sent in the opposite direction. Dawson featured in only 21 Premier League games in his first three years at The Hawthorns, before belatedly nailing down a place in the Baggies’ first team in 2014/15.
He’s tended to play whenever fit since the start of that campaign, and has long since repaid his relatively paltry transfer fee. If Jonny Evans is sold this month – Arsenal and Manchester City are thought to be circling – manager Alan Pardew may choose to bring Dawson infield from right-back to centre-half.
12. Steven Davis (Southampton), £900,000
Southampton have seen plenty of players come and go during their current stay in the Premier League, but Davis has been at St Mary’s from the start.
Signed for £900,000 from Rangers in summer 2012, the Northern Ireland international has been a reliable figure in central midfield for Saints under five different managers, playing 213 games in all competitions and helping Southampton to their highest top-division finish in 31 years when they finished sixth in 2015/16. With 18 months remaining on his contract, Davis looks set to be part of the St Mary’s furniture for a while longer yet.
11. Marc Pugh (Bournemouth), £100,000
When Bournemouth were ordered to pay £100,000 in compensation for signing the winger-come-midfielder after his Hereford contract expired in 2010, vice-chairman Jeff Mostyn described the fee as “quite excessive”.
He probably has a different view now. Pugh remains at Dean Court almost eight years on, having played more than 300 games for the club. The Burnley academy graduate spent his first three seasons at Bournemouth in League One, before helping Eddie Howe’s side into the Championship and then the top tier – where he has appeared in more than half his club's games.
10. Charlie Daniels (Bournemouth), £150,000
Daniels scored one of the goals of the 2017/18 season so far when he arrowed a stunning shot into the top corner against Manchester City back in August. Opponents Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva would have been proud of such tremendous technique, but the strike was even more impressive given the man responsible cost his current club just £150,000.
Daniels joined Bournemouth from Leyton Orient in January 2012, when the Cherries were marooned in mid-table in the third tier. He’s been an integral part of the team ever since, playing 222 matches as the seasiders have risen from League One to the Premier League.
9. Julian Speroni (Crystal Palace), £750,000
The Premier League’s joint-longest-serving player (West Ham midfielder Mark Noble is the other) who’s now in his 14th season at Selhurst Park, Speroni cost Crystal Palace £750,000 when Iain Dowie signed him from Dundee in 2004. The goalkeeper had to remain patient early on in his career in England, playing just 15 league games in his first three campaigns, but he was virtually ever-present between the sticks from 2007/08 to 2014/15.
In that time Speroni won four Player of the Year awards, as well as helping the Eagles to promotion through the play-offs in 2013. A tally of 13 appearances so far this term means there are now only four men who have played more games for Palace.
8. Leon Britton (Swansea), £400,000
Britton played a significant part in Swansea’s rise from League Two to the Championship, making 295 appearances between 2002 and 2010. The midfield metronome then left for Sheffield United, but he returned to Wales a few months later after failing to settle in Yorkshire.
There’s some confusion over the fee involved, with Swansea initially claiming no money changed hands, but various add-ons seem to have taken the overall cost to £400,000. Still, that remains a brilliant bargain for a player who helped the Swans earn promotion, establish themselves in the Premier League and win the League Cup in 2013.
7. Steve Cook (Bournemouth), £150,000
Cook arrived at Dean Court when the Cherries were still a League One outfit back in January 2012. Former club Brighton – the defender didn’t celebrate when he scored against Albion on New Year’s Day 2017 – received £150,000 in return, an investment which must go down as one of the best Bournemouth have made in recent times.
Cook didn’t miss a game when the Cherries won promotion to the Premier League in 2014/15, and he played in all but two of the club’s top-flight encounters in the two seasons that followed. Still only 26, the ex-Eastbourne Borough loanee has plenty left to give.
6. Wes Morgan (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 depart 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 greatest title triumph in the history of the English game, with captain Morgan playing all 38 league games that term.
5. Simon Francis (Bournemouth), £25,000
After being let go by Sheffield United in 2006, Francis looked destined for an unremarkable career in the lower leagues. The defender certainly wouldn’t have expected to be playing week in, week out in the Premier League when he joined League One side Bournemouth from Charlton in 2011, but he’s been a key figure in the Cherries’ remarkable rise under Eddie Howe.
As of mid-January, Francis has played 274 games for the club in all competitions – which works out at just over £91 per appearance.
4. Harry Arter (Bournemouth), £4,000
After failing to make the grade at Charlton, Arter dropped down to the Conference South to launch his career in 2009/10. Bournemouth were impressed with what they saw and duly agreed a deal to sign the midfielder for only £4,000 at the end of that season, an astonishing fee for a player who’s been so integral to their progress ever since.
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 and, two years later, the Premier League.
3. Seamus Coleman (Everton), £60,000
Snatching undoubtedly one of the biggest bargains in Premier League history, Everton paid just £60,000 to secure the services of Coleman in January 2009. The right-back joined from Sligo Rovers after Willie McStay, who knew then-Everton manager David Moyes from the pair’s days at Celtic, recommended him to the Toffees; although his debut was delayed as he recovered from surgery on an infected blister, Coleman went on to play 40 matches 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 return to first-team action after recovering from a broken leg.
2. Jamie Vardy (Leicester), £1m
OK, Vardy’s story is well-known and technically his fee wasn't "less than" £1m, but that doesn’t make the tale any less extraordinary. The England international 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 hasn’t looked back since.
The striker wasn’t a guaranteed starter in his first season with Leicester, but 16 goals in 2013/14 fired Nigel Pearson’s charges into the top flight. Vardy then helped keep them there, before an extraordinary 24-goal campaign in which he and the Foxes made history by winning the Premier League. So, worthy of a little rule-bend to be in this list.
1. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), £450,000
Few Leicester fans had heard of Mahrez when he rocked up at the King Power Stadium in January 2014; four years on and the winger is indisputably one of the greatest players in the club’s history. Although guilty of consistency in his first 18 months in the East Midlands, Mahrez was sensational as the Foxes won the title in 2015/16, and his decline the following campaign wasn’t as pronounced as many claimed.
Mahrez could be on the move this month, with a number of clubs in the Premier League and around Europe linked with the tricky wide man. Even if Leicester do lose him, it’s safe to say the fee involved will be substantially more than £450,000.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.