Which player was the best bargain of the Premier League era ?

After Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood branded Gareth Bale 'cheap' for £86m, we look at some transfer bargains that might suggest otherwise.

Tim Sherwood made many a bold claim in his pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon, not least that Tottenham would be title contenders had they held on to Gareth Bale last summer.

The Tottenham boss also claimed that Real Madrid got the Welshman on the cheap, and that £86m was a bargain despite the record-breaking fee. 

The Premier League has seen some outrageous amounts of cash thrown at players who have failed to deliver under the pressure of their price-tag - Andy Carroll's sale to Liverpool for £35m back in 2011, Andriy Shevchenko's £30m arrival at Chelsea in 2006 and Fernando Torres' for £50m move to Stamford Bridge are prime examples of clubs paying well over the odds.

But the Premier League has also had a knack of landing some absolute steals over the years, and here are some bargains that make Bale's £86m move seem rather extortionate:

Eric Cantona (Leeds United to Manchester United - £1.2m)

Cantona transfered from Leeds United to Old Trafford in November 1992 and became one of United's greatest ever players. The Frenchman scored 64 goals in total for the Manchester United, and became a fan favourite for his elegant, yet thoroughly effective style of football.

Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich to Chelsea - free)

Michael Ballack came to Chelsea in 2006 as one of the best central midfielders in world football. After fending off interest for his signature from the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, Ballack joined Chelsea and went on to win three FA Cup's and a Premier League title with the Blues.

Michu (Rayo Vallecano to Swansea City - free)

Michu proved one of the steals of the century for Swansea City back in 2012, as the Jack's signed the silky Spaniard from Rayo Vallecano on a free transfer. Michu scored 18 Premier League goals in his debut season at the Liberty Stadium, and helped guide the club to their first major piece of silverware, winning the League Cup.

Thierry Henry (Juventus to Arsenal - £10.5m)

Henry arrived at Arsenal in 1999 after manager Arsene Wenger saved him from his torrid time with Italian giants Juventus. The French striker scored 144 goals for Arsenal, and led them to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups during his time at the club. His second spell, this time on loan at the club in 2012, also goes down as a top bargain after his late goal against Leeds United saw Arsenal progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup that season.

Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal - free)

Often regarded as one of the best ever free signings in world football, Sol Campbell's free transfer from Tottenham to Arsenal was also as controversial as a transfer gets. Nevertheless, Arsenal gained a great, international centre-half that would go on to be first-choice centre-back for their unbeaten 2003/04 Premier League season.

Vincent Kompany (Hamburg to Manchester City - £6m)

Vincent Kompany was a relatively unknown figure when he arrived at Manchester City in 2008, but has gone on to be one of the world's best defenders. Kompany captained Manchester City to their first trophy in decades when they won the FA Cup in 2011, and quickly followed it up with their first ever Premier League triumph. He is adored at the Etihad, and for just £6m must go down as one of the best bargains in English football. 

Paolo Di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday to West Ham United - £1.5m)

Following his push on referee Paul Alcock in 1998, Di Canio was rescued by West Ham United after becoming an outcast at Sheffield Wednesday. The fiery Italian scored 48 goals in his time with the Hammers, and still ranks among the best goals in Premier League history with his scissor kick volley against Wimbledon in 2000. Di Canio didn't just provide great skill at Upton Park, but became a crowd favourite with his flamboyant personality.

Ashely Cole (Arsenal to Chelsea - £5m)

Ashley Cole was sold by Arsenal to rivals Chelsea on the final day of the transfer window in August 2006. He was bought for £5m with centre-half William Gallas going to the Emirates as part of the deal. Cole has won multiple trophies with Chelsea including the Premier League, Champions League and numerous FA and League cups. He is often regarded as the best left-back of the Premier League era, and has been an invaluable asset to Chelsea since his arrival.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United - 12.2m) 

Then there's Gareth Bale's Real Madrid counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star joined Manchester United for a fee of just over £12m and went on to be the best player in the world during his time at Old Trafford. Ronaldo's rise saw the club win three successive Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009, as well as a Champions League triumph. 68 goals across two seasons made him the football's hottest property, and until Madrid's signing of Bale, was the most expensive player in history after his £80m move to the Spanish capital. Interestingly, Arsenal also turned down the option to sign Ronaldo as a young boy. 

Finally, there's Luis Suarez (Ajax to Liverpool - £22.8m)

Luis Suarez arrived at Liverpool in the January transfer window of 2011, and has scored 80 goals in just over three years with the Anfield club. Although his price-tag may still seem relatively high, it's nothing in comparison to the going rate of a player with Suarez's ability. The Uruguayan is one goal off a landmark 30 this season, and may well prove the catalyst in winning Liverpool their first league title in 24 years. If Bale is worth £86m plus, where do you start the bidding for Suarez ? £120m ? £150m ?

So, after looking at some of the best transfer bargains we've seen during the Premier League era, is Gareth Bale really considered cheap at a world-record £86m ? Probably not.

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