Following on from my earlier feature, ‘top 10 transfer flops in Europe this season’ I felt it was only fair to take a look at the bargains too, for sometimes the cup is half full rather than empty and we should not always dwindle on the negatives. The same rules apply as the last, it excludes the Premiership as I think we’ve all seen those sorts of lists before – so let’s take a gander shall we.
Falcao – The Columbian frontman has taken to European football like a duck to water for Portuguese clubs Porto this year. Having signed from Argentinean side River Plate, where his record was solid if unremarkable, he’s seamlessly slotted into the rigours and demands of football on the continent this term. Brought in as a replacement for the departed Lisandro Lopez, big shoes to fill it has to be said, after he fled to French side Lyon in the summer, Falcao has scored 20 goals in 24 league games, as well as 4 in 7 in Europe, quite the transition and the £3m they paid for his services looks a snip (albeit for only 60% of his rights. He could be the latest in a long line of Porto success stories to fly the nest come the summer for what will undoubtedly be a sizeable profit.
Sami Hyypia – Bayer Leverkusen’s fine domestic form can be largely be attributed to their great defensive record, marshalled by none other than Liverpool legend (and he most definitely is) Sami Hyypia. Seen as being surplus to requirements at Liverpool last year by manager Rafa Benitez, he was allowed to be released by the club at the end of his contract. Snapped up on a free transfer by Bayer manager Jupp Heynckes, he has been in a mainstay in their surprising challenge at the top of the Bundesliga this term and at present lie 3rd in the league and with the joint 3rd best defensive record, quite an improvement of last season’s 9th place finish and 8th best defensive record.
Lucio – Signed for around £3.5m in the summer by Serie A leaders Inter Milan, Lucio has proved to be quite an astute piece of business on manager Jose Mourinho’s part. The Brazilian has formed an excellent partnership at the heart of the Nerazurri’s defence with Walter Samuel and compliments the brutal Argie’s style perfectly balancing it with a certain degree of class and poise, and they have formed arguably the finest defensive partnership in Europe this season.
Bryan Ruiz – Another striker to have struck gold since moving in the summer, Costa Rican striker Ruiz has taken the Eredivisie by storm this year for Steve McClaren’s FC Twente. With 22 goals in 29 starts this year, his powerful style and eye for goal have meant the £4m Twente spent on him to bring him to the club from Belgian side Gent in the summer looks nothing other short of a bargain.
Yoann Gourcuff – It beggars belief that nobody else fancied taking a punt on Bordeaux attacking midfielder Gourcuff in the summer after proving pivotal in steering Laurent Blanc’s side to the title last year whilst on loan from Ac Milan. Having made his move permanent in the summer for £12m rising with appearances, Milan’s loss is certainly Bordeaux’s gain, as despite a wobble of late, Gourcuff’s side still remain in the driving seat for the title with 2 games in hand just a point off the summit, the Frenchman’s return home has proved a great success with 9 goals and 9 assists in 36 games so far this term and should he prove himself to a wider audience at the World Cup for Raymond Domenech’s France side, Bordeaux could be beating off offers in the summer.
Fabio Quagliarella – Napoli’s recent resurgence owes a lot to home-grown talent Quagliarella’s return to his native Naples. Napoli last year were overly reliant on the skill of Ezequiel Lavezzi and as such their season ended in nothing more than mid-table obscurity. The signing of the Italian national team striker has seen their form sky rocket and they are currently challenging for a top 6 place in Serie A helped by their new signing’s guile and poise in front of goal to the tune of 8 goals, the £13m spent on him is showing signs of reaping considerable dividends for his new club.
Javier Saviola – Professional benchwarmer at Real Madrid for two seasons, the diminutive forward has been dealt a fresh hand and with it, a new lease of life at Portuguese side Benfica this term. Signed for £4m in the summer, his side currently sit top of the league and he has combined with Di Maria and Oscar Cardozo to devastating effect at times this season, and a return of 17 goals in 36 games across all competitions is quite a nifty return for a striker that many feel has failed to get the best out of his ability at times.
Djibril Cisse – Having flopped at Liverpool and again to an extent after a promising start at Sunderland, Cisse seemed destined to never fulfil the budding potential he showed during his time at Auxerre under Guy Roux. But after a change of scenery, he now finds himself in the Greek Super League for leaders Panathinaikos where he has banged in 22 league goals in 27 starts, and he has a whopping 28 goals in total this term. This form has alerted the attention of the French national team, and although at present still an outsider for the squad, the pacy striker remains a possibility should he continue his excellent club form and at just under £7m up front (£18m with various bonuses) he represents something of a bargain for the Greek side.
Miroslav Stoch – Chelsea youth team prospect Stoch has set the world alight at FC Twente in Holland this year. His direct and rapid style of play has delighted pundits and fans alike, with 8 goals and 7 assists in 26 games only serving to prove this further. Although only on loan, and that in itself represents a bargain, it is very rare for a loan signing, especially one so young, to have such a profound impact on a side’s campaign. At present, the 20 year olds team currently sits top of the league by four points, and this can largely be attributed to Stoch’s lively play. It remains to be seen whether he’ll find himself in an increased role back at parent club Chelsea next season, but one thing’s for sure, he won’t be short of takers if he finds himself on the periphery once more.
Pedro Leon – Getafe winger Leon has been a roaring success in La Liga this year with 6 assists and 6 goals in the league so far this season. Getafe struggled last season in the league and only avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season by a solitary goal with Real Betis dropping down to the second division. The winger was a mainstay in the Spanish under-21 side in years gone by and after transferring from Valladolid in the summer for just shy of £3m, it can only be a matter of time before he is given a chance to showcase his talents on the international stage, and at just 23 years of age, time is definitely on his side. Getafe currently sit in 9th, which considering last season’s struggles represents a fine return to form and Leon looks to be attracting the attention of some of the world’s biggest clubs.
Well there you have it, a fairly diverse list, but are there any notable omissions, you know the drill – fill them in below?
Written by James McManus