When it comes to transfers, Liverpool – like most clubs – have certainly been hit-and-miss in the Premier League era.
For every successful big-money purchase (Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano) there has been an expensive flop (Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Christian Benteke), while some free transfers have shone and others have flattered to deceive.
The Reds have also signed many top players for extremely cheap fees, with some even going on to cement their place as Liverpool legends.
With that in mind, here is our Bargain XI from players signed in the last 20 years – when the Premier League money really started to change the game.
- Player must have been signed by the club, so no academy graduates
- Player must have cost under £10 million
- Only 2 free transfers allowed
- No current squad players allowed
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina – £6m
By the mid 2000s, Liverpool had lacked a genuinely top class goalkeeper since Bruce Grobbelaar was at the peak of his powers in the late 1980s.
Rafa Benitez acquired the signature of Pepe Reina from Villarreal for £6 million, though, and he proved to be an immediate success story.
The Spaniard was a model of consistency in the Reds goal, whether it be his decision-making, shot-stopping or leadership, and he won the Golden Glove award three seasons in a row (2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08).
There were very few better ‘keepers in Europe during Reina’s most impressive period at Anfield – what Liverpool could with him now.
Right-Back: Steve Finnan – £3.5m
One of the most unsung Liverpool players of the last 15 years, Steve Finnan proved to be a fantastic signing from Fulham.
The former Republic of Ireland international joined for just £3.5 million in the summer of 2003, and his steady performances at right-back were consistently good.
He may not have possessed the natural ability and athletic stature of someone like Glen Johnson, but he read the game superbly and had excellent end product.
Finnan won the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup with the Reds, and helped make Benitez’s Reds one of Europe’s most well-drilled sides of that time.
Centre-Back: Sami Hyypia – £2.5m
Liverpool have made some great bargain buys down the years, but Sami Hyypia surely has to be the greatest of them all.
Very few had heard of him when he arrived from Willem II in 1999, with Gerard Houllier bringing the giant Finn to Merseyside for just £2.5 million.
In the decade that followed, Hyypia cemented his place as one of the Reds’ best ever centre-backs, and captained the side for a few years in the early 2000s.
He was elegant on the ball, colossal in the air and a hugely popular figure among the fanbase. One of the Premier League‘s best ever defenders.
Centre-Back: Stephane Henchoz – £3.5m
Because of Hyypia’s brilliance, and the emergence of Jamie Carragher as a centre-back, Stephane Henchoz doesn’t always receive the credit he deserves.
He only cost just £1 million more than Hyypia – £3.5 million from Blackburn Rovers in 1999 – and was a huge reason for Liverpool’s success under Houllier.
He was a little ugly in style, and always looked absolutely shattered after about five minutes, but he never let the Reds down, and was the perfect foil for Hyypia.
The ex-Switzerland man appeared 53 times in 2000/01, as Liverpool won an unprecedented cup treble.
Left-Back: John Arne Riise – £4m
Widely seen as Liverpool’s most consistent left-back of the last 20 years, John Arne Riise joined from Monaco for £4million in 2001.
Within a few months, he had scored memorable goals against Everton and Man United – the crossbar is still shaking from his free-kick against United – and he added an extra dimension to the team.
Riise spent seven years at Anfield, scoring 31 goals in 348 appearances, and he was a key man in the Reds’ Champions League and FA Cup wins, in 2005 and 2006.
His disastrous Champions League semi-final own goal against Chelsea in 2008 has seen the Norwegian harshly judged by some fans, and his reputation tarnished a little, but he was a top player over a number of years.
Holding Midfield: Didi Hamann – £8m
Didi Hamann couldn’t be classified as a cheap signing when he arrived from Newcastle in 1999, but his worth to the team made him a steal.
The laid-back German was a superb screen in front of the back-four, breaking up opposition attacks and using the ball intelligently.
He won the treble in 2000/01, the Champions League in 2005 and FA Cup in 2006, scoring penalties in the shootouts in the latter two, and was a real fans’ favourite during his time at Anfield.
Everything Hamann did was made to look incredibly easy, and his expert positional sense meant his lack of pace was never really exposed.
Centre Midfield: Gary McAllister – Free
The greatest free signing in Liverpool’s history?
Eyebrows were raised when 35-year-old Gary McAllister moved from Coventry City to the Reds in the summer of 2000, but it proved to be a masterstroke by Houllier.
The Scot was a talisman throughout the treble-winning 2000/01 campaign, and his last-gasp winner against Everton at Goodison Park may well be the most famous Merseyside derby goal of the last 25 years.
McAllister brought experience and quality in abundance, and his exploits over a couple of years have earned him legendary status at Anfield.
Attacking Midfield: Danny Murphy – £1.5m
Danny Murphy doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves for a Liverpool career that had some exceptional moments, and it is easy to forget that he cost just £1.5 million from Crewe Alexandra in 1997.
The Englishman had creativity and an eye for goal from midfield, and he was a key player for the Reds during the early 2000s.
He scored three successive winners at Old Trafford, which is a remarkable feat, and 44 goals in 259 appearances is a good return from the middle of the park.
Murphy certainly had the ability to frustrate on occasions, hence his divisive nature, but he was an absolute bargain.
Right Forward: Vladimir Smicer – £3.75m
There were more gifted, heralded players during both the Houllier and Benitez eras, but Vladimir Smicer was a vital cog in the wheel during his six years at the club.
Signed from Lens for £3.75 million prior to the 1999/2000 season, the former Czech Republic man brought goals and industry to the squad, and never complained about his role as a squad player.
Smicer was an intelligent footballer who helped bring the best out of his teammates, and in 2005, he enjoyed his crowning moment in a Reds shirt.
He scored in the unrivalled Champions League final triumph over AC Milan, and converted his penalty in the shootout, as he finished his Liverpool career in style.
Left Forward: Maxi Rodriguez – Free
There wasn’t a huge amount of excitement when Maxi Rodriguez signed on a free transfer in January 2010, despite his international pedigree with Argentina.
He became something of a cult hero during a couple of years on Merseyside, however, oozing class and chipping in with a number of important goals.
A hat-trick away to Fulham in 2011 was particularly emphatic, but a late winner at Bolton and another treble against Birmingham further endeared Maxi to the fans.
Teammates often spoke about how magical the South American was in training, and he just had an effortless but hard-working style that made him easy to warm to. The fact that he cost Liverpool nothing feels like robbery.
Striker: Dirk Kuyt – £9m
Admittedly, Liverpool still paid a relatively sizeable £9 million on Dirk Kuyt back in 2006, but for the impact he made at the club, it has to be considered a bargain.
The Dutchman is unquestionably one of the most likeable, popular players to have represented the Reds since the Premier League‘s inception, but he also had great quality.
Like Germany and Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller, Kuyt didn’t necessarily look the part, but he was incredibly effective both on and off the ball.
71 goals in 285 matches is testament to that, especially when you consider he was often deployed on the right-hand side, and he scored endless big goals against the likes of Man United, Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and more.
Think you can do better? Let us know your bargain XI in the comments – using the same criteria.