Kasper Schmeichel

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Klopp tabs Matip as ‘one of the best pieces of business’ for Liverpool

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On Friday, in Liverpool’s run-up to a Premier League battle with Sheffield United, Jurgen Klopp labeled Joel Matip as “one of the best pieces of business we did in the last few years.”

He’s not wrong.

“In a world of big transfer fees, to sign a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer is incredible,” Klopp said. Again, he’s not wrong.

The 28-year-old signed on a free from German side Schalke back in the summer of 2016, and he has become a fixture of the Liverpool defense, standing strong next to Virgil Van Dijk as part of one of the best back lines in Europe.

It essentially happened by accident. Matip, signed as nothing more than defensive cover for a squad that included Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez, and Ragnar Klavan. Yet he started 27 matches that season, forging a partnership with Lovren with Sakho on his way out, Gomez still too young for a consistent role, and Klavan down the depth chart. The next season van Dijk was brought in and yet Matip pushed through hamstring and ankle injuries to make 22 starts. Last season, en route to a vicious title challenge and a Champions League crown, Matip again was not meant to start, but with Lovren and Gomez both injured, Matip formed a critical partnership with van Dijk and has led by example.

So who else has come from relative obscurity on a savvy bit of business to take a starring role? Here are the five best bits of business in the Premier League currently playing for the club that snagged them, outside of Klopp’s prized center-back of course.

5) Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City (Leeds United, $2 million)

Goalkeepers never draw the same massive transfer fees as their outfield counterparts, but even so, the Leicester City shot-stopper has been a true man of the badge since joining in 2011, making 341 appearances for the Foxes and proving a key cog in the legendary run to the title a few years back. That team was full of great value players (more on that in a bit), and while they cashed in on some, the son of the legendary Manchester United goalkeeper stuck around the club he loves.

4) Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur (MK Dons, $6 million)

As just a teenager, Alli was sent to Spurs in the winter of early 2015 and immediately loaned back to MK Dons for the rest of the season. Immediately, they had to know their mistake. Alli was selected as the Football League Young Player of the Year in April, and his career skyrocketed from there. Providing both a physical presence and free-flowing nature on the ball, Alli has proven a versatile option in midfield for Spurs, and while he struggles to maintain consistent form, his best is both fearsome and artistic. Still just 23 years old, it seems the best may be yet to come for the England midfielder who has already racked up 187 appearances for the London club.

3) Andy Robertson, Liverpool (Hull City, $10 million)

Sure, Joel Matip came for free, but he still might not be the best bit of business on the club. Andy Robertson, Liverpool’s stellar left-back, signed for $10 million and looks to be the makings of a downright star. At 25 years old, he also looks set to be a Red for quite some time, giving the club incredible value for its money. $10 million in today’s market doesn’t net teams what it used to, making it all the more impressive the Reds could snag a player of his promise for such a price. Along with Trent Alexander-Arnold on the other side, the Reds appear set for a long time with one of Europe’s best back lines.

2) Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea (Marseille, $9 million)

The Blues are known for splashing the cash, but the then-23-year-old Spaniard came over from Ligue 1 in the summer of 2012 to little fanfare. He has gone on to make 345 appearances for Chelsea, serving as captain for many and proving a versatile and consistent option along the defense. Perhaps the most stunning part of Azpilicueta’s career is that he only has 25 caps for Spain, a shockingly low number for such a valuable player at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Still, his service to Chelsea has been a far cry from his measly up-front cost.

1) Jamie Vardy, Leicester City (Fleetwood Town, $1.5 million)

Much has been made of Vardy’s story, having come from the semi-professional ranks and risen up to a Premier League title. For what he’s given Leicester City – 277 appearances and 110 goals, including 83 Premier League strikes in 182 appearances – the fee is next to nothing. Not many could have predicted what Vardy would provide, or that he’d become a regular for the England national team before the rise of Harry Kane, but now the tale has been written. Vardy will go down as one of the most undervalued transfers in Premier League history, deservedly so.

Leicester City wins as new manager Rodgers looks on (video)

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  • Vardy scores 9th of season
  • Gray instrumental for Foxes
  • Leicester fired Puel earlier this week

Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy scored as Leicester City topped Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 on Tuesday at the King Power Stadium.

New manager Brendan Rodgers was in the stands for the win, which saw the Foxes pull to within five points of seventh place Wolves and Watford.

Brighton is just three points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gray’s goal came after 10 minutes, with Wilfried Ndidi winning possession for Leicester and sending Youri Tielemans on his way to setting up the opener.

It could’ve been 2-0 in short order had Mat Ryan not made a nice save on Gray.

That seemingly snapped Brighton to life, and Pascal Gross‘ deflected offering made Kasper Schmeichel react quickly to keep Leicester in front.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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Leicester doubled its lead through Vardy, who likely will have reveled in returning to the score sheet following his tumultuous relationship with the fired Claude Puel.

This was very much a team goal, with Tielemans, Ricardo Pereira, and James Maddison all part of the build-up.

That’s when Brighton pulled a goal back through Davy Propper, his first Premier League marker coming when he took a touch off a deflected cross and beat Schmeichel.

Lewis Dunk wasn’t too far from equalizing with a header, but Leicester held onto its lead as the match reached its final quarter hour.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Clinical Palace defies Leicester City in big win (video)

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  • McArthur with two assists
  • Zaha scores twice
  • Batshuayi, Milivojevic also score
  • Evans with lone Leicester tally
  • Foxes out-attempt Palace 27-7

Crystal Palace made the most of their limited chances, a deceptive scoreline of 3-1 greeting their win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

James McArthur had two assists, while Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi, and Luka Milivojevic scored for the Eagles.

Jonny Evans had the lone Leicester goal.

Palace moves into 13th place with 30 points, six clear of the drop zone, while Leicester fails in its bid to go 10th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A pair of near-misses greeted Leicester City’s control of the first 10 minutes, as both Jamie Vardy and James Maddison came close to putting the Foxes ahead.

Leicester was clearly the superior side, and Palace was sloppy when it found a rare spell of first half possession.

So, of course, Palace scored first, as Leicester backstop Kasper Schmeichel was wrong-footed when Batshuayi swung his leg and redirected a James McArthur rip from distance.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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The Foxes leveled the score deservedly when Harvey Barnes‘ pass to Jonny Evans was met with a lunging leg that swung the ball past Vicente Guaita.

But Zaha restored Palace’s lead in the 70th, as Harry Maguire and the Leicester City defense completely lost track of the electric Ivorian for a back post finish of McArthur’s cross.

And wouldn’t you know it: A penalty! Evans took down Jeff Schlupp in the 82nd minute, and Milivojevic did what he usually does from the spot to make it 3-1.

Son scores again as Spurs beat Foxes (video)

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  • Spurs third team this season to reach 60 points
  • Foxes play well, but finish six points off seventh
  • Son scores again, Eriksen bags beauty

Heung-Min Son‘s 11th goal of the season put a cap on Tottenham Hotspur’s action-packed 3-1 defeat of Leicester City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Davinson Sanchez and Christian Eriksen also scored for Spurs — Eriksen’s a true spectacle (above) — who sit five points back of leaders Liverpool and meet the Reds on March 31.

Son’s 11 goals have come in his last 13 league matches dating back to Nov. 24. Crucially, he’s been red-hot in the absence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

Jamie Vardy scored his 100th senior goal after missing a penalty with his first touch of the game for Leicester City, who remains 12th on the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Harry Maguire nodded a long free kick on frame, and Hugo Lloris had to slap it over the bar in the name of safety. The ensuing ninth minutes corner was popped over the frame, and Spurs were off the hook.

Harvey Barnes pulled a Leicester shot wide of the far post off a James Maddison feed moments later.

The other side saw a penalty shout become a yellow card to Heung-min Son for simulation after Maguire got a piece of his ankle in the box and Son hit the deck. If it would’ve been awarded, you’d say Son embellished but the contact was sloppy. Shoulder shrug emoji.

Danny Rose continued a fine run of form in the early stages, and had an 18th minute run and shot foiled by Kasper Schmeichel‘s right arm.

A designed set piece allowed Spurs to break through in the 34th, as Christian Eriksen spotted a just onside Sanchez for a 33rd minute header. The goal was the Colombian’s first for Spurs.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Leicester’s second half was much improved, with Ben Chilwell getting a left-footed shot on target.

That’s when Jamie Vardy got his final instructions, but he wasn’t introduced until after James Maddison won the Foxes their penalty after coming together with Jan Vertonghen.

Vardy came on for Gray, and Maddison gave him the ball. His first touch of the game came from the spot, and Lloris saved the effort!

Three minutes later, Ricardo Pereira‘s clearance skills doomed Leicester for a second-straight week. His effort his Oliver Skipp and wound up on the boot of Eriksen, who ripped a classy long strike past Schmeichel.

Here’s a stat!

Lloris then stopped a hard Barnes drive at the other end, as the Foxes did not quit.

And Vardy got his goal anyway, sliding in front of Toby Alderweireld to get onto the end of a Pereira cross from the right.

Just as Leicester seemed prepared for stoppage time heroics, Son dribbled the better part of 60 yards after meeting a Moussa Sissoko clearance. He beat Schmeichel 1v1 from outside the 18 to close out the win.

Man Utd resists Leicester charge to win again (video)

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  • Spectacular Pogba pass cues up Rashford (video)
  • Solskjaer remains unbeaten as Man Utd boss
  • Leicester out-attempts Utd 17-10

A ninth-minute goal was just enough for Manchester United, who held off a hard second-half charge from Leicester City to post a 1-0 win at King Power Stadium on Sunday.

Paul Pogba set up Marcus Rashford for the lone goal, as United pulls ahead of Arsenal before the latter faces Man City at the Etihad Stadium. The Red Devils are currently two points back of fourth-place Chelsea.

Leicester remains 11th with 32 points, six points back of seventh-place Wolves.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Luke Shaw found Marcus Rashford in the fifth minute with an incisive cross to the back post, but the young English forward popped a high-probability header over the goal.

Rashford scored on his second chance, a silly giveaway from Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira allowing Paul Pogba to send a delightful ball over the top that the striker settled and finished with class.

It stayed 1-0 past halftime. David De Gea reacted quickly to stop Jamie Vardy‘s acrobatic volley of a free kick that popped forward off the wall.

And substitute Romelu Lukaku stung a shot off Schmeichel in the 86th.

Harvey Barnes zipped down the left to set up Vardy near the penalty spot, but the English striker couldn’t get enough on his first touch hit to really trouble De Gea.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]