Who have been the signings of this extraordinary and surreal season in the Premier League? It is a relevant debate because shrewd buys and the discovery of hidden gems might be paramount for cash-strapped clubs whenever the transfer window opens after the coronavirus pandemic.
Based on each player’s impact and value for the money, here is this commentator’s Top 10. Feel free to argue!
Note: Transfer fee information sourced from transfermarkt.com.
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Signed from Sporting for £50 million
Even with a fee that could increase by another £15m, Fernandes looks like a sensational signing. He followed in the footsteps of Sporting predecessors Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani to Manchester and, in just nine games, has transformed United with his dynamism and creativity, always taking the ball on the half-turn and aiming to make something happen.
Offering a constant threat to score and set up — he has three goals and four assists, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are unbeaten since he arrived — the 25-year-old is an instant cult hero at Old Trafford. You can only wonder how different United’s season would look had he been signed last summer.
Signed from Liverpool for £20m
After scoring eight goals while on loan, Ings made the permanent move to St Mary’s, and his record of 15 goals in 29 league appearances — Saints have scored 35 total — has been vital in keeping Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side out of the relegation places. Nobody is happier with Ings’ career revival than his old teammates and fans at Anfield, where he was hugely popular.
Signed from Chelsea for free
The 34-year-old was frozen out by Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea last season, when he made only two league appearances. But his old England manager, Roy Hodgson, refused to believe that this great professional was washed up and signed him on a free transfer. Cahill’s nous and leadership help make Palace one of the best defensive units in the country.
Signed from Ituano for £6m
Signed from Brazil’s lower tiers for a fee that is peanuts in Premier League terms, the lively 18-year-old was expected to have a settling-in season with Arsenal’s Under-23s. That changed when he scored four goals in his first two senior team starts, and Martinelli has gone on to total 10 for the season. That’s not bad for a boy who learned to play on the streets near Sao Paulo airport.
Signed from Leicester for £78m
Admittedly not cheap, Maguire has emerged as a torchbearer on and off the pitch. Ever present in the Premier League, he was made captain by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is a big reason that United’s defensive record is better than it was last season. That wild celebration of his goal in the win at Chelsea was a very public display of Maguire’s devotion to the cause.
Signed from Everton for £3m
After a career riddled with injury at Everton, where he made just one league appearance last season, Irish international McCarthy was going cheap. It took him time to break into the Palace midfield, but he has started the past 11 games and is beginning to look like the good player he was at Hamilton, at Wigan and in his earlier days at Goodison Park.
Signed from Brentford for £20m
The French striker is an interesting character who curls up in the dressing room with a good book before matches. After he scored 25 Championship goals for Brentford last season, Brighton made him part of their revolution under Graham Potter. Quick and with clever movement, Maupay has provided eight top-flight goals and will be vital in the fight to avoid relegation.
Signed from Crystal Palace for £50m
Palace fans used to taunt the opposition with the chant, “Wan-Bissaka, your wingers don’t like him,” and it is still true now that Wan-Bissaka has moved to Old Trafford. Tenacious and with seemingly telescopic legs, he is a formidable foe for rival attackers. The attacking side of his game needs work, but he is only 22, and the large fee United paid looks to have been good business.
Signed from Real Madrid for £41m
Although he was at Real Madrid as they won three straight Champions League finals from 2016 to 2018, Kovacic never got to play in those showpiece occasions. The same happened when Croatia reached the World Cup final two years ago, but the 25-year-old is a high-class technician at his best, and the money Chelsea paid to make his loan move permanent is surely well spent.
Signed from Rennes for £27m
Watford paid a club-record transfer fee for the rangy winger, and after a slow start, Sarr showed his quality with two of the goals in a 3-0 win that ended Liverpool’s 27-game unbeaten start to the campaign. The Senegal international could give the Hornets another dimension if he is able to fulfill his obvious potential.
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Best (and worst) of the rest
After the aforementioned 10 names, other candidates missed out for a variety of reasons. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, for example, had scored five league goals in 16 games and shown an Eden Hazard-like dribbling ability before injury struck on New Year’s Day.
Youri Tielemans, signed by Leicester for £40m after impressing on loan, is not in after losing his place just before the shutdown; perhaps that is a case of a fine player feeling the pace of his first full English season. Phillip Billing of Bournemouth and Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa are two others who have had decent debut campaigns with their new clubs.
Takumi Minamino, an absolute steal for Liverpool at £7.25m from Red Bull Salzburg, has not played enough for the champions-elect to warrant consideration. It will be a surprise if he does not go on to enjoy a fine Anfield career as a midfield prompter.
Others signings have simply failed to fire: Newcastle’s Joelinton cost £40m but has scored just once in the league, while £55m Tanguy Ndombele arrived at Tottenham when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge but has struggled to make an impact under Jose Mourinho.
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