Who is the Premier League’s biggest bargain? It’s a debate that has raged back and forth for decades – and now Alan Shearer has given his verdict.
Having spent his entire 19-year career in English football’s top-flight, a spell which saw him become the all-time top Premier League goalscorer, Shearer certainly saw his fair share of talented footballers.
Their criteria was players who were ‘pinched from their club’, rather than those who were cheap or free transfers, but who clinched top spot in Shearer’s list?
Here, the legendary striker explains his decisions…
10. Paolo di Canio
An Italian maverick who needs no introduction.
He initially arrived in England with Sheffield Wednesday, where he spent two seasons, and it was while playing for the Owls where he infamously pushed over referee Paul Alcock.
Di Canio then joined West Ham for a bargain £1.5m in 1999 – and immediately earned hero status among the Hammers’ faithful.
The Italian scored 51 times in 141 games in all competitions for the Hammers, including that sensational volley against Wimbledon, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players to represent the east Londoners.
Shearer said: “We shouldn’t laugh, but I’m sure we will. Do you remember the incident with the referee Paul Alcock? He was a maverick, and definitely different.”
9. Andy Robertson
Plucked from Hull for £8million in 2017, Robertson took a while to find his feet at Anfield.
But the Scottish defender has become an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s squad, proving influential in the recent Champions League and Premier League triumphs.
Liverpool’s struggles have been well documented this season but Robertson’s influence should not be forgotten – and his club performances have helped him become Scotland’s permanent captain.
Shearer said: “He very rarely misses a game – he is relentless and just keeps playing. I remember a few years ago, Ian Wright saying in the Match of the Day office that he’d seen him play a few times, and he was going to be a top player.
“He had a shocker that day and we gave him a caning. Every time we see him now, he’s like ‘I told you about him’.”
8. Lucas Radebe
Radebe arrived as a largely-unknown defender when Leeds signed him from South African side Kaizer Chiefs in 1994.
In fact, he was only included in the £250,000 deal which brought Phil Masinga to the club so that he could help his compatriot settle.
But despite injury several injury setbacks, Radebe became a Leeds legend and made 236 appearances during 11-years at Elland Road.
Shearer said: “He struggled with injuries, but what a bargain. He was reliable, quick, and could play. It was for nothing – they literally nicked him.”
7. Riyad Mahrez
The Algerian star is one of two players from Leicester’s historic title-winning 2016 squad to feature on this list.
And there’s no disputing the inclusion of Mahrez, who signed for the Foxes – then playing in the Championship – for just £450,000 from French club Le Havre.
He helped the club earn promotion to the top flight, and then starred in the memorable title triumph, before sealing a dream move to Manchester City for more than £60million.
Mahrez has since added another title crown to his trophy cabinet at the Etihad – and is on track for a third this season.
Shearer said: “He is brilliant. The thing with Mahrez is that most of the time we and defenders know what he is going to go, but not many people can stop him. He does it so well, and so quickly, that it can be impossible to stop him.”
6. Robin van Persie
Big things were expected of the Dutchman when Arsenal signed him from Feyenoord for £2.75m in 2004.
And despite scoring a whopping 132 goals in 278 games, the only trophy he won during his time with the Gunners was the FA Cup.
Van Persie made a controversial move to fierce rivals Manchester United in 2012, signing in a £24million move, and won the Premier League in his maiden season at Old Trafford.
It’s fair to say he played a massive part in that title triumph too, having scored 26 top-flight goals in what proved to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge of the Red Devils.
Shearer said: “He was a phenomenal goalscorer. He used to bury chances for fun. He was quick and had a great shot on him. He used to get it away so quickly too. He was just a brilliant player and delivered performances and goals.”
5. Kolo Toure
Toure has a distinguished career in the Premier League, playing for the likes of the Gunners, Manchester City and Liverpool.
He now sits behind Brendan Rodgers in the dugout as first-team coach at Leicester but he remains a favoured figure at the Emirates.
Back in 2002, Toure was signed by Arsene Wenger after a trial from Ivorian outfit ASEC Mimosas for £150,000 – and it proved a great piece of business.
The centre-back was part of the 2004 Invincibles team that won the Premier League, and also lifted the FA Cup twice during seven years with the north Londoners.
Shearer said: “For the appearances, and the number of years he played, it was an unbelievable bargain.”
4. Seamus Coleman
Perhaps a surprise inclusion, given Coleman and Everton have been unable to bring silverware back to Goodison Park.
But there’s no denying the Irishman’s impact in Merseyside since arriving from Sligo Rovers for a bargain £60,000 back in January 2009 – and he is now the club’s captain.
Coleman has gone on to make 342 appearances for the Toffees, scoring 26 times and providing 30 assists; a contribution which has seen him become a Toffees legend.
Shearer said: “There isn’t any harm in not winning anything! He has had a serious injury, but the number of games he’s played for the fee says it all. The Everton fans love him.”
3. Peter Schmeichel
Another player whose arrival perhaps didn’t excite fans at the time – but he certainly proved his critics wrong.
Having established himself in the Denmark national team, Schmeichel made the move to Manchester United from Brondby for £505,000 in 1991.
The goalkeeper played a whopping 398 games for Ferguson’s side, and was a part of the treble-winning 1999 team.
The Dane certainly enjoyed a glittering spell at Old Trafford, winning 15 trophies including five Premier League title crowns.
Shearer said: “Look at the influence he had and what he did for the club. It was the size of him. He was a character and a giant of a player.”
2. Eric Cantona
Another maverick striker, Cantona is perhaps unfortunate to miss out on top-spot in Shearer’s list.
He took little time to settle at United after joining from Leeds for £1.2m in 1992 – and went on to win nine trophies in five years including four Premier League titles.
Cantona was certainly a controversial character, but there’s no denying his ability on the pitch, and he’s widely regarded as one of the greatest attackers to play for the Red Devils.
He brought an end to his United career in 1997, after scoring 82 goals in 185 games, to retire from football.
Shearer said: “He was arrogant, but he could be with the ability that he had. If we put him at number one, I wouldn’t argue because of what he achieved, what he did and the respect he earned.”
1. Jamie Vardy
Few would argue against this decision.
Vardy has risen from non-league football to become one of the greatest Premier League strikers of all-time.
Leicester forked out £1million to secure his services from Fleetwood and, like Mahrez, he helped them secure promotion from the Championship before starring in the 2016 title triumph.
He has 144 goals for the Foxes, 115 of which have come in the top-flight, and famously turned down a move to Arsenal to remain at the King Power.
Despite entering the twilight years of his career, the 34-year-old is still doing the business for Leicester and has contributed 12 league goals in his side’s pursuit for a top-four pursuit this season.
Shearer said: “To come from non-league football, to be one of the best strikers in the best league in the world in my opinion, is just phenomenal. It just gives everyone who plays at that level hope.
“It is one thing getting there, but it is another thing staying there because everybody knows his game and what he is good at but there are not many people who have been able to stop him. It is a great story.”