Tottenham’s 19 best bargain signings of the PL era: Kulu, Son, Defoe…

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Tottenham Hotspur's Dejan Kulusevski celebrates scoring against Aston Villa at Villa Park, Birmingham, April 2022.

Tottenham haven’t always been a member of the Premier League’s elite, and so they’ve often needed to scour the transfer market for bargain buys.

Since the start of the Premier League era, the north Londoners have had an eye for a great deal, whether that meant taking a punt on a prodigious youngster or giving an older player their first shot at the Premier League.

Here are a few of the smartest pieces of business they’ve done since 1992.

Jurgen Klinsmann – £2m

Spurs manager Ossie Ardiles hailed Klinsmann as “one of the best players in the world” when the German arrived after the 1994 World Cup, and the £2million fee shrunk with every appearance.

The frontman hit 20 league goals in his one full Premier League season, before later coming back for a nine-in-15 loan stint, but his impact on the club went beyond the goals.

Without his arrival, we might not have seen supporters as open to foreign imports in the years that followed. Indeed, who knows if some of the others on this list would have arrived if attitudes had stayed as they were.

READ: A celebration of Jurgen Klinsmann & a signing that changed English football

David Ginola – £2.5m

Ginola was hardly an unknown quantity, having starred for Newcastle United’s nearly-men in the 1995-96 season, so the £2.5million Spurs forked out on the Frenchman certainly feels on the low side.

He was able to fit some sensational performances into his spell in north London, earning him a PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1999, and arguably played his best club football in a Tottenham shirt.

Simon Davies – £700,000

Any move for a talented youngster is a bit of a gamble when you have no idea how they’ll progress, but the deal for Davies was well worth the sub-£1million fee.

The Welshman joined from Peterborough as part of a deal that also included Matty Etherington – who also did a decent job for Spurs before becoming the makeweight in a deal for Fredi Kanouté – and became a key cog in the Spurs midfield.

Davies was at Tottenham when he scored the most famous goal of his career, a strike for Wales in their victory over Italy, and he racked up nearly 150 games for the London club.

Jermain Defoe – £7m + Zamora

West Ham were reluctant to let Defoe go immediately after their relegation from the Premier League in 2003, but 15 goals in 23 league and cup games was enough to show he was worthy of playing at a higher level.

Spurs swooped in with a bid of £7million plus out-of-favour forward Bobby Zamora, and Defoe scored 64 goals in his first, four-year spell at White Hart Lane before netting even more when he returned from a year at Portsmouth.

West Ham did alright out of the deal, too, with Zamora scoring the 2005 play-off final winner that took them back to the Premier League.

Paul Robinson – £1.5m

Spurs did pretty well out of Leeds United’s 2004 relegation, with goalkeeper Robinson joining on the cheap a few years after frustrating Barcelona with a superb Champions League performance as a 21-year-old.

Robinson was already in the England set-up when he arrived and would go on to establish himself as No.1 for both club and country.

Sure, there might have been a few less-than-impressive performances, but to get a top international goalkeeper for that sort of money can’t be knocked.

Michael Carrick – £3.5m

West Ham were desperate to keep Carrick for their promotion push, even if Defoe was forced to leave early, but defeat in the 2004 play-off final meant he was on his way.

Spurs got two good years and a £15million profit from the England international, with his performances in the 2005-06 campaign very nearly propelling Martin Jol’s side into a Champions League spot.

Of course, they may still have some regrets after seeing how he stepped up to the next level at Manchester United.

Aaron Lennon – £1m

Another recruit from Leeds, Lennon had a season at Championship level before moving south for not much at all.

The winger scored 30 times in more than 300 games at Tottenham, eventually leaving for Everton in 2015, and travelled to two World Cups with England during that spell.

One of his best goals for the club came early on in that stint, a winner in a come-from-behind win over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

Danny Rose – £1m

Seeing as the other ex-Leeds players did so well, you can’t blame Spurs for taking a punt on another of the Yorkshire club’s top talents.

Rose was an England Under-17 midfielder when he arrived and played the occasional game in the middle of the park at club level, but has since become an important player at left-back under Mauricio Pochettino.

His time with Spurs fizzled out in the end, with his latter days best remembered for his appearances in the All Or Nothing documentary and asking whether AC Milan were interested – an enquiry as heartbreaking as it was optimistic – but the value they’ve got from the six-figure signing is immense.

Gareth Bale – £7m

If we’re talking about markups, the near-£80million profit Spurs made on Bale isn’t too shabby.

He might have taken a while to justify the money paid to Southampton for a player who had yet to play a minute of top-flight football, but his performances changed that long before he left for Spain.

Fifty-three goals in 204 games isn’t bad for someone who spent a lot of that time out wide and at left-back, but 26 in his all-conquering final season felt like it was worth millions on its own. He had his moments when he returned on loan, too.

Kyle Walker – £4m

Simon Davies and Matty Etherington. Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton. Spurs love a double signing.

Walker looked like the real deal pretty soon after arriving in a deal alongside his Sheffield United colleague, with productive loan spells at QPR and Aston Villa cementing his status as ‘one for now, not just for the future’.

Spurs got 200 games out of the defender, turning him into an England regular, before Manchester City came along with a bid in the region of £50million that doesn’t even seem that excessive by today’s standards.

Rafael van Der Vaart – £8m

Looking back, Spurs being able to sign a player of Van der Vaart’s quality for that price at that time in his career feels preposterous.

Any suggestions that he wouldn’t be able to cut it in the Premier League were quickly dismissed as he helped turn Spurs into the sort of team that could go toe to toe with some of Europe’s best.

It’s just a shame he couldn’t stick around to do it for a little longer.

READ: Remembering Rafael van der Vaart’s glorious two years at Tottenham

Scott Parker – £5m

It’s not often you can get the reigning FWA Footballer of the Year for peanuts, but Spurs did just that after West Ham’s relegation in 2011.

Parker was coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and his influence helped his new club launch a title charge under Harry Redknapp – albeit one which eventually petered out.

He played 30 times in each of his two seasons at White Hart Lane, both of which saw Spurs cement themselves as a team capable of finishing in and around the top four spots.

Jan Vertonghen – £12m

An eight-figure fee for an Ajax defender in 2012 wasn’t as obvious a bargain as Parker at the time the respective deals went through, but Tottenham got a lot more value out of that particular deal.

The Belgian became an integral member of the squad as Spurs have gone from strength to strength under Mauricio Pochettino and went on to make over 300 appearances for the club.

Vertonghen isn’t just one of Spurs’ biggest bargains in the Premier League era, he’s one of their most important signings full stop.

Hugo Lloris – £11m

Signed in the same window as Vertonghen, Lloris has been of similar importance in helping Spurs take themselves up to the next level.

He might have the occasional error in him, but you can’t knock a man who has won a World Cup and captained Spurs to a Champions League final.

If and when the Frenchman leaves, he’ll be very tough to replace.

Christian Eriksen – £12.5m

Most of Tottenham’s summer 2013 signings went horrible wrong, most notably Paulinho and Roberto Soldado, but the deal for Eriksen went very, very right.

Another Ajax alumnus, the Dane took a little while to kick into gear, but his value to the team has only increased with time.

No player made more appearances for Tottenham under Pochettino than the Dane, which tells you everything about how integral a role he played in their best side of the modern era.

Might a romantic return be on the cards when his contract expires at Brentford? Signing him on a free would be the only thing better than signing him for £12million originally.

Dele Alli – £5m

Another bargain from the lower leagues, Dele had already tasted first-team action as a teenager with MK Dons before Spurs snapped him up, and the decision to send him back on loan for half a season seems smarter by the day.

They got themselves a future England regular for the same price as more experienced flop Benjamin Stambouli, who joined a few months earlier.

The midfielder might have eventually left for free, having spent a long time looking the shadow of the player he was once, but £5million was still a tiny fraction of his true worth to Spurs, given how good he was between 2015 and 2018.

Crazy to think now that he scored 18 Premier League goals back in 2016-17. We’d love to see him recapture that magic again.

Son Heung-min – £22million

Considerably more expensive than most of the other names on this list, but £22million for one of the Premier League’s most lethal forwards still represents ridiculous value.

He’s scored 127 goals in seven seasons with Tottenham and just seems to be getting better and better and better. The South Korea international is worth at least four times what they originally paid for him now.

READ: The 4 players Spurs signed alongside Son Heung-min and how they fared

Kieran Trippier – £3.5m

Liverpool might have become the masters of signing relegated players in recent seasons, but Spurs got there first when Trippier joined from Burnley in 2015.

Initially brought in as competition for Kyle Walker, he was been able to step into his predecessor’s shoes and hold off the more expensive Serge Aurier.

The England international went on to underline his quality as a La Liga title winner with Atletico Madrid.

Dejan Kulusevski – £25million

Forget Son and Kane, it’s Kulusevski who makes Conte’s Tottenham tick. Indispensable.

READ MORE: Seven Spurs signings who were meant to be the business…but weren’t

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every French player to appear for Tottenham in the Prem?