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Bargain Bucket: The best free transfers and loans of the window

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The old saying is that the best things in life are free, and previous seasons’ loan stints for Romelu Lukaku and Daniel Sturridge have taught us that the saying holds its weight in the Premier League as well.

So when it comes to loans and free transfers, which Premier League clubs have done well in this summer’s window?

[ RELATED: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup ]

Well for starters you have to wonder what’s in the water at Sunderland that kept them from signing three legit players to contracts (or at least transferring them and getting some dough before they skipped town on frees). A trio of solid Premier Leaguers have left the Stadium of Light for other PL locales, including Craig Gardner (West Brom), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City) and Jack Colback (Newcastle United).

Queens Park Rangers gets on our list twice as recipients of Rio Ferdinand, who’s worth a look just for leadership (granted the Loftus Road club isn’t brimming with inexprience) and a great loan deal for Juve’s Mauricio Isla.

Bonus points from some low-risk, high-reward moves, including striker Bafe Gomis joining up –and potentially replacing — Wilfried Bony on a free, Everton rolling the dice on Christian Atsu and Frank Lampard’s intra-ownership group move from NYCFC to Manchester City.

As for the best, here are our top five bargains of the window so far:

5. Didier Drogba, free to Chelsea
When you can bring in a club legend with this much UEFA Champions League experience, at little to no risk to your pocketbook, you do it. The reception he received on Saturday at Stamford Bridge says it all.

source: Getty Images4. Ryan Bertrand, loan from Chelsea to Southampton
The goodness of this move is more a product of desperation after the Saints sold a wealth of talented backs, but Bertrand is a low-cost fix while they develop their academy.

3. Philippe Senderos, free from Valencia to Aston Villa
A welcome addition to the Premier League, Senderos has already helped Brad Guzan and Aston Villa to its first consecutive clean sheets to start a season since 1999.

2. Saphir Taider, loan from Inter Milan to Southampton
Watch out for this kid, who has a chance to be absolutely magical. And considering he came the other way on loan in exchange for getting rid of misfit Dani Osvaldo… there’s a bit of a double bonus here.

1. Bacary Sagna, free from Arsenal to Manchester City
Say what you will about his age, but adding a world class outside back to its ranks is a brilliant move for loaded City. When it comes time to make a run for the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League title, this move will ring out.

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.