Johnny Evans only cost £3.5m, but which other players are available for less than their value thanks to a minimum fee release clause?
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City) – £12m
I’m not quite sure that Shaqiri perfectly fits into Jurgen Klopp’s demands for high-intensity pressing, but it will certainly be fun watching his face after a 50th sprint of the game to try and win back possession.
That said, who cares if he’s a natural fit when he will cost as little as £12m after Stoke were relegated to the Championship? That’s less than 40% of the cost of Moussa Sissoko, and £3m less than Sam Clucas cost Swansea City last summer. Even if he doesn’t work out, a top-half Premier League club could sign Shaqiri and sell him for a profit a year later anyway.
Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria) – £22m
Now we’re talking. Torreira is the third-youngest member of Uruguay’s World Cup squad after Rodrigo Bentancur and Maxi Gomez. His opportunities might be slightly limited in Russia, but the midfielder has kicked on at Sampdoria this season having joined from Pescara in 2016. He was also born in Fray Bentos, which makes me think about The Office. Lovely.
Unsurprisingly given his youth and low release fee, Torreira is a young man in demand. Arsenal have been strongly linked with a move over the last week, with the Daily Mirror reporting that Unai Emery is keen to pay up. They believe that Arsenal will face competition from Everton and Roma for his signature. At a touch over £20m, there should be others in the queue too.
Jean Michael Seri (Nice) – £40m
It does seem inherently ridiculous that a 26-year-old with 16 caps for the Ivory Coast who has never won a trophy and who has played just 19 matches in the Champions League or Europa League can cost £40m and still be considered a bargain, but there we are. Welcome to 2018, where inherently ridiculous is the new norm.
In fairness, that’s a slightly uncharitable assessment of Seri. The Nice midfielder has been linked to Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea over the last two years, and Stamford Bridge would seem to be his most likely destination thanks to Danny Drinkwater’s total underperformance.
Given that Fred, Fabinho and Naby Keita have all cost north of £40m (and one more than £50m), Seri’s release fee of £40m sounds about right. Now hope that he forms a wonderful relationship with N’Golo Kante.
Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla) – £35m
Probably the one on this list who stretched the term ‘bargain’, given that N’Zonzi turns 30 before 2018 is out. But he has improved hugely since leaving the Premier League, winning the Europa League with Sevilla in 2016 and forms part of the France squad for this World Cup. Anyone that makes that list is worth considering signing. Arsenal are the likeliest suitors, particularly given Unai Emery’s previous working relationship with the midfielder.
“As a successful man, Unai Emery knows what line the club keeps,” Sevilla’s director of football Joaquin Caparros said earlier this week. “If he wants N’Zonzi, he will have to call and put the bid in. And the bid is the clause. If you put that bid in, then there are no more negotiations.”
Dries Mertens (Napoli) – £25m
Paying £25m for a 31-year-old seems a touch excessive, but Roma paid £23.5m for Gabriel Batistuta way back in 2000. Allow for inflation, and why not?
The issue comes not in paying Mertens’ release clause to Napoli, but persuading the Belgian that he should leave Serie A. Having scored 46 league goals in two seasons to establish himself in the Belgium first XI at the World Cup, you can see why.
“I had the chance to go to China, you earn twice as much there as you do in your entire career, but my wife didn’t want to live there, so I’ll never play there,” Mertens said in a recent documentary on Napoli. “I’m very happy at Napoli and I still have two years left on my contract.” Good plan, sunshine.
Daniel Storey – £427m