How does a club owner, chairman or sporting director know his club has achieved it’s aims? At the very top of the football pyramid, winning silverware or Champions League qualification with it’s attendant financial rewards are the principal target. Second tier teams are happy to qualify for Europe while run of the mill clubs are driven by the need to avoid relegation as it is usually followed by financial ruin.
Somewhere in between are teams that take pride in giving big spending clubs a good run for their money and the occasional bloody nose. As a rule of thumb, such clubs are guided by financial prudence especially in the transfer market where they never bite more than they can chew. Such clubs are never in trouble over Financial Fair Play because they almost always add value to their players and sell at a profit.
Brighton and Hove Albion is the English Premier League club that best epitomizes this module because they have been posting a surplus on transfers for the last three seasons. Across Europe, it is Spanish club Girona and German Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen that have taken it a notch further by challenging for silverware while posting a transfer market surplus.
These two clubs dominate my best value for money signings of the season. Bayer Leverkusen’s barnstorming start to the season which has witnessed them put together a 31-match unbeaten run with a 90 percent win rate – 27 wins in 31 matches – implies their manager Xabi Alonso did the best business in the transfer market.
Ensnaring Alejandro Grimaldo from Benfica on a free transfer, then transforming him into the best attacking full back in the game and top dead ball expert in the Bundesliga is the stuff of legend. Grimaldo’s TEN goals and NINE assists to date imply he’s by far the best value for money signing of the season anywhere in Europe’s top five leagues.
Inter Milan’s French forward Marcus Thuram whose TEN goals and SEVEN assists in the club’s march to a treble of Serie A, Super Coppa and European titles belies the fact that he arrived on a free transfer from Borussia Moenchengladbach. To suggest Lillian Thuram’s son is working a treat for Nerrazzuri manager Simone Inzaghi is an understatement. He’s a runaway success.
A clutch of Girona players are in third spot. Foremost among them is Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk who was snapped up from Dnipro for €7.5m but has already contributed 14 goals in the club’s unlikely Liga Santander title challenge. But not to be dismissed is Daley Blind’s arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich, Eric Garcia’s successful loan from Barcelona and keeper Paul Gazzaniga’a arrival on a free transfer from Fulham.
The overall second best value for money signing of the season is Real Madrid star midfielder Jude Bellingham whose €105m price tag is a pittance for a 20-year-old who is breaking all sorts of records. The new Santiago Bernabeu favourite’s 20 goals to date is the best return from a midfielder this century and for quickness has surpassed the figures of luminaries such as Alfred Di Stefano, Raul Gonzalez and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Coming in a close third is Bayern Munich forward Harry Kane whose 28 goals and eight assists in 27 matches is a better return than Thomas Tuchel dreamed of when he pressured the club board to sign him from Tottenham Hotspur for a record fee. It would be a personal tragedy if Leverkusen’s rampant form denies Kane domestic silverware.
Honorable mentions go to RB Leipzig creative influence Xavi Simons who has scored seven goals and assisted nine times after arriving on loan from Paris Saint Germain, Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka who is topping several Bundesliga midfield metrics, Inter Milan’s €6m Swiss keeper Yann Sommer whose 19 clean sheets imply the Nerrazzuri boast the best defense in Europe’s top five leagues and Chelsea’s Cole Palmer who is bright spot on Chelsea’s rather trepid season.
Best value for money signings of the season
1- Yann Sommer (Inter Milan),
2- Josep Stanisic (Leverkusen),
3- Alejandro Grimaldo (Leverkusen),
4- Daley Blind (Girona),
5- Eric Garcia (Girona),
6- Granit Xhaka (Leverkusen),
7- Xavi Simons (RB Leipzig),
8- Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid),
9- Harry Kane (Bayern Munich),
10- Artem Dovbyk (Girona),
11- Marcus Thuram (Inter Milan)