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An astonishingly good Premier League XI that cost less than Arsenal’s Declan Rice bid

Arsenal look set to sign Declan Rice from West Ham United, having tabled a Premier League record £105million bid for the England international midfielder.

Manchester City have reportedly withdrawn from the race for Rice’s signature, putting Mikel Arteta’s Gunners in pole position to sign the 24-year-old. Arsenal’s bid is said to have reached West Ham’s asking price, but details over the structure of the deal are still being negotiated.

We’ve put together a full XI of Premier League bargain signings that cost less than Arsenal’s bid for Rice. Note: we’ve not included academy graduates, free transfers or youth-team signings. This XI is made up entirely of senior players that were signed for transfer fees.

GK: David Raya – £3million

No goalkeeper in the Premier League last season than David Raya, who is now regularly called up to the Spain national team and has garnered interest from the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham.

Brentford signed their No.1 for just £3million from Blackburn Rovers back in 2019. Four years and over 150 appearances later, they value him at over 10 times that – Thomas Frank has publicly stated that the Bees’ asking price is £40million.

One of many examples of Brentford’s exceptional recruitment strategy.

RB: Kieran Tripper – £12million

Perhaps Atletico Madrid didn’t get the memo that Newcastle United were suddenly richer than God when they came in for Trippier in January 2022, allowing him to go for just £12million.

But the La Liga giants told the title-winning right-back that they wouldn’t stand in his way if a Premier League club came calling and they stayed true to their word.

The experienced England international is already the Magpies’ club captain and his leadership has proven instrumental as they’ve transformed from relegation-battlers to a Champions League club over the course of his 18 months at St. James’ Park.

READ: An XI of Premier League signings who changed everything

CB: Manuel Akanji – £15million

Viewed as a relatively modest addition to bolster Pep Guardiola’s defensive options when he signed from Borussia Dortmund for just £15million, Akanji proved to be so much more than a squad filler.

The 27-year-old made 48 appearances – 40 starts – as Manchester City claimed a historic-making treble in his debut season at the Etihad. Exceptional value for money.

CB: Fabian Schar – £3million

Lining up alongside Newcastle team-mate Trippier in our bargain XI, Schar was one of those players in Eddie Howe’s squad that was there before the takeover and fought to keep his place in their starting XI.

With the injection of quality around him, the Swiss centre-back took his game to new levels last term as Newcastle ended the campaign with the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League.

It’s easy to forget now that he cost just £3million from Deportivo La Coruna following their relegation from La Liga in 2018.

LB: Pervis Estupinan – £17million

The most expensive player in our XI at £17million, Estupinan is nevertheless among the biggest bargains.

Brighton signed the Ecuadorian from Villarreal to replace the outgoing Marc Cucurella, who left for over three times as much at £56million. The fact that he’s proven to be an upgrade on Cucurella is testament to the Seagulls’ outstanding scouting network.

Estupinan is surely worth at least three times what Brighton paid for his signature a year ago.

RW: Michael Olise – £8million

What Olise lacks in post-match interview charisma he makes up with his ability on the pitch.

The winger was a joy to watch as Roy Hodgson steered Crystal Palace to midtable safety and he’s now among the club’s most lucrative assets. The France Under-21 international is also eligible to play for England and it would be no surprise to make

DM: Moises Caicedo – £5million

In January, before Rice emerged as Arsenal’s top target, Brighton rebuffed a £60million bid from the Gunners for their Ecuadorian enforcer.

Caicedo is undoubtedly among European football’s very best defensive midfielders. It’s only a couple of years since Brighton paid just £5million to sign him from Independiente del Valle.

Whatever the Seagulls are paying their head scout, it’s not enough.

Moisés Caicedo in action for Brighton & Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium

READ: 10 players who have increased the most in value since last summer: Caicedo, Saka, Osimhen…

CM: Rodrigo Bentancur – £15.8million

Another player at the more expensive end of the scale, Bentancur has made the £15.8million fee that Tottenham paid Juventus for his signature look like a bargain.

Bentancur’s injury coincided with Spurs’ form dropping off a cliff last season. Tottenham have made plenty of missteps in recent years but the Uruguayan was a brilliant addition and will surely be a key player for Ange Postecoglou when he returns from his long lay-off.

LW: Gabriel Martinelli – £6million

An early indication that Arsenal are once again moving on the right track under Edu, Gabriel Martinelli is undoubtedly one of the Premier League’s standout signings of recent years.

The dazzling winger cost just £6million from little-known Brazilian club Ituano in 2019. Fast forward four years and he’s undoubtedly worth at least 10 times that.

Martinelli recently signed a contract that ties down his future at the Emirates until 2027. Arsenal have uncovered and nurtured an absolute world-beater.

ST: Julian Alvarez – £14.1million

Last year Manchester City sold Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling for a combined £92million and replaced them with Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez – all the while making a profit.

Last season the 23-year-old forward won the treble with Manchester City and the treble with Argentina. He’s yet to establish a place in Pep Guardiola’s favoured starting XI but he was an incredibly useful rotation option.

In a world where forwards now regularly go for £60million plus, it blows our mind that the hottest young talent in South American football cost just £14.1million.

ST: Ivan Toney – £5million

Ollie Watkins is a brilliant footballer and was always going to be difficult to replace when Aston Villa signed him from Brentford for a club-record £28million in 2020.

But if there’s one club you’d back to do their business well, it’s Brentford. They signed Toney from Peterborough for a fraction (£5million) of the fee they received for Watkins and sure enough he proved an instant hit.

After scoring 31 Championship goals in his debut season to fire the Bees to promotion, Toney has since established himself as one of the Premier League’s very best centre-forwards.


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TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every Premier League club’s record signing?