Liverpool have made a host of bargain signings over the years, with Jurgen Klopp‘s squad including a number of them. But what is the club’s best XI of sub-£10m buys?
The Reds’ transfer activity in the Premier League era has gone through a series of phases, with periods of questionable ins and outs followed by stretches of outstanding business.
Under Klopp, and with Michael Edwards overseeing acquisitions, Liverpool have struck upon a well-oiled setup, while Fenway Sports Group advocate a ‘buy low, sell high’ approach.
And it is ultimately more satisfying to see a bargain signing establish themselves as a key figure, vindicating the club’s faith and meticulous work in recruitment.
Over the years, there have been many to grace the pitch at Anfield, but who have been the best?
- Players must have been signed for under £10 million
- Only players from the last 20 seasons can be considered
- No academy products, only first-team signings
- It should fit into a defined formation; in this case, 4-3-3
Here is our bargain XI from Liverpool’s Premier League era—based on the criteria above—with three of them among Klopp’s current crop.
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina (£6m, 2005)
It was 14 years between Liverpool signing their last top-class No. 1 to their current incumbent, and in that time the fee required to land a player like Alisson has rocketed.
Reina arrived from Villarreal following the Reds’ Champions League triumph and, despite Jerzy Dudek’s heroics in Istanbul, was a much-needed addition who went on to provide the platform for an impressive run under Rafa Benitez.
The Spaniard did drop off as the years went by, but at his best Reina was a brilliant shot-stopper with a real presence in the area and stellar distribution; and, crucially, he embraced the values of the club.
Eight years as first choice, four trophies and three consecutive Golden Glove awards for £6 million. Bargain.
Right-back: Steve Finnan (£3.5m, 2003)
Given academy products are disqualified, the pool of right-back options in the past 20 years is significantly slimmer than if Trent Alexander-Arnold was available for selection.
But one of the most underrated players of the ’00s certainly fits the bill in this XI, with Finnan proving a hugely dependable talent in his five years at the club.
His defining moment may have been a half-time withdrawal in Istanbul, but the Irishman deserves to be acknowledged as part of the bedrock of Rafa’s reign.
Centre-back: Joe Gomez (£3.5m, 2015)
Prior to Gomez’s rise to prominence alongside Van Dijk, Daniel Agger would have been a dead cert in one of the centre-back roles in this XI.
But at just 22, the Englishman has already merited his inclusion, as an accomplished all-round centre-back who has allowed Klopp to transform his approach from the back.
He was signed from Charlton for just £3.5 million, and though this may now have risen to £6 million, he still more than warrants a place in this selection—and could go on to dominate best-of lists in years to come.
Centre-back: Sami Hyypia (£2.5m, 1999)
The ultimate bargain signing for Liverpool, Hyypia was plucked from relative obscurity and went on to establish himself as one of Europe’s best modern-day defenders, and wore the captain’s armband for the Reds.
A dominant, no-nonsense presence who was also able to play football, the Finn set the tone for centre-backs to follow on Merseyside—and it proved difficult to do so.
Agger was heir apparent, but injury problems stymied his progress, and it is only now, in Van Dijk, that Liverpool have found a natural successor to Hyypia.
Left-back: Andy Robertson (£8m, 2017)
Many doubted Robbo on his move from Hull to Liverpool; few, if any, do now.
A throwback signing with a fairytale story behind it, the Scot endured a slow start at Anfield but has gone on to cement himself as first-choice left-back and key to Klopp’s system.
That his move was effectively a swap deal that saw Kevin Stewart head the other way is even more impressive, and like Gomez, though the fee may now have reached the £10-million mark due to add-ons, it is still way, way less than he is truly worth.
Central Midfield: Didi Hamann (£8m, 1999)
Back in 1999, Didi was far from a ‘bargain’ signing for Liverpool.
But his impact on the changing face of the Reds’ midfield, and the experience he brought in the engine room through the treble season in 2000/01 to the glory days under Rafa—winning nine trophies along the way—more than repaid the outlay.
Now he can certainly be considered a bargain.
The seventh-most expensive signing in the English top flight in 2019/20, for example, was Tanguy Ndombele for £53.8 million—or £40 million more than Hamann when factoring in inflation.
Central Midfield: Gary McAllister (free, 2000)
Gary Mac’s time on Merseyside may have been short at two years, but the impact he had following his free transfer from Coventry makes him a no-brainer in this XI.
Gerard Houllier described him as his “most inspirational signing,” and for a variety of factors—from his on-pitch contribution to his role in ushering in the Gerrard era—this is difficult to argue with.
Central Midfield: James Milner (free, 2015)
For many years, McAllister would undoubtedly have been Liverpool best-ever Bosman signing, but now there is a strong case to suggest it is, in fact, Milner.
His switch from Man City in 2015 was seen as a coup at the time, particularly given Steven Gerrard’s exit to Los Angeles, but few expected him to produce as much and for as long as he has at Anfield.
A manager’s dream, Milner has led the club into a new era of success alongside Jordan Henderson, and his experience and winning mentality have provided Liverpool with the edge they have needed in big moments.
Winger: Luis Garcia (£6m, 2004)
Occupying one of the flanks is the scorer of some huge goals from Liverpool’s most successful runs, Garcia.
The Spaniard was brought in from Barcelona for just £6 million and went on to make 121 appearances for the club, scoring 30 times of which five came on the road to Istanbul in 2004/05—including winners against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea.
He meshed his silky approach with an exemplary work ethic, and would provide this XI with a cutting edge required ahead of a more industrious midfield trio.
Winger: Philippe Coutinho (£8.5m, 2013)
Coutinho may not be a popular figure on Merseyside now, but he was a hugely important player over his five years with the club and is undoubtedly one of the best signings of the Premier League era.
A rough diamond, he was signed from Inter Milan for a fee that reflected his diminished reputation in Europe, but given the freedom to showcase his talents at Anfield he flourished.
The Brazilian scored some phenomenal goals and set up many more—and Liverpool made a £133.5 million profit when he left in 2018, providing the funds to bring in both Alisson and Van Dijk to reshape Klopp’s defence.
Striker: Dirk Kuyt (£9m, 2006)
When it comes to strikers, Liverpool have made few genuine bargain signings in the past 20 years—more often than not, those who have scored the goals have required significant fees.
Though Fernando Torres (£20.2m), Luis Suarez (£22.8m), Daniel Sturridge (£12m) and Roberto Firmino (£29m) all proved to be relative ‘bargains’, the best to have been signed for under £10 million is Kuyt.
Squeezing the Dutchman in as a striker may be bending the rules somewhat, given his best years at Liverpool came as a winger, but he would shine in this XI as Garcia and Coutinho pull the strings.
A relentless runner, Kuyt left it all on the pitch and scored 71 times in 285 games for the club—including a brilliant hat-trick of tap-ins in the 3-1 win over Man United in 2011.
Jerzy Dudek (£4.85m, 2001)
A hero in Istanbul, and boasting a strong clean sheet record of 41 percent. Jerzy is a strong backup.
Daniel Agger (£5.8m, 2006)
Until Gomez’s rise, the second centre-back slot would have been Agger’s; a formidable defender with genuine ball-playing ability whose injuries robbed him of greatness.
Joel Matip (free, 2016)
A sensational signing on a free transfer, Matip’s fitness issues have deprived him of consistency under Klopp, but he has proved himself as a top-level defender.
John Arne Riise (£4m, 2001)
Riise would have dominated the left-back position prior to Robbo’s arrival, but now is forced to settle for a backup role behind the Scot.
Lucas Leiva (£5m, 2007)
Though not universally embraced throughout his run on Merseyside, Lucas remained a fixture at the club for 10 years, broke the top 50 for all-time appearances and played a big role in cultivating the club’s modern latin core.
Maxi Rodriguez (free, 2010)
Scorer of seven goals in the space of three games in 2011 and owner of one of the Kop’s best chants of the Premier League era; a cult hero, and a steal from Atletico Madrid.
Craig Bellamy (£6m, 2006; free, 2011)
Influential on the road to Athens in 2007 and invaluable in his experience under Kenny Dalglish—a controversial figure, but a useful squad player over two seasons, five years apart.