Premier League transfers: Lowdown on summer signings
- From the section Football
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The new Premier League season is just over a month away and the 20 top-flight clubs have been predictably busy, amassing over 30 new signings already.
We know all about the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sadio Mane – two of the highest-profile deals so far – but what of the lesser-known imports to the English game?
Who, for example, comes from the land of ‘the great chess players?’ Who has become the fourth most expensive Nigerian player of all time?
And who used to work as a butcher for 30 euros a week? This is your essential guide to what we can expect from the Premier League’s lower-profile additions this summer.
Granit Xhaka, Borussia Monchengladbach to Arsenal
Age: 23 Cost: £35m Position: Midfielder
Career so far: Made his professional debut with Basel in his native Switzerland and won two league titles and one domestic cup before moving to Monchengladbach in 2012. During four years with the German club he picked up 23 yellow cards and five reds, and captained the side to fourth place in the Bundesliga.
What type of player is he? A combative yet creative midfielder known for his vision, accurate passing and hard tackling. He was second only to Xabi Alonso for completed passes in last season’s Bundesliga, yet he also managed to get sent off three times for his club last term.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Arsenal and Arsene Wenger certainly think so. Could be a star of the 2016-17 campaign.
What has been said about him? Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Switzerland manager, called him the ‘young Bastian Schweinsteiger’.
Loris Karius, Mainz to Liverpool
Age: 23 Cost: £4.7m Position: Goalkeeper
Career so far: Made his Bundesliga debut with Mainz aged 19 and by the following season had become first-choice goalkeeper. Played every league game last season, saving two penalties and keeping nine clean sheets.
What type of player is he? Describes himself as “a modern, offensive goalkeeper”, who is “willing to take risks”.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? He cost almost exactly half the fee Liverpool paid for Simon Mignolet in 2013, but after a mixed three seasons at Anfield, Karius could well usurp his more experienced, more expensive rival and start the season as first choice.
What has been said about him? Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “He has developed into a very good goalkeeper since his return to Germany. I know he will add to the quality we have in this position.”
Havard Nordtveit, Borussia Monchengladbach to West Ham
Age: 26 Cost: Free Position: Defensive midfielder
Career so far: After reaching the Norwegian Cup final with FK Haugesund at the end of his debut season he was signed by Arsenal aged 17. But in four years with the north London club he did not play a single game and left for Monchengladbach after a series of loan spells in Spain, Germany and his homeland. He missed just three league matches last season as Monchengladbach came fourth, and played in all six of the side’s games in the Champions League group stage.
What type of player is he? He began his career as a defender but Nordtveit played the majority of last season as a defensive midfielder – alongside new Arsenal signing Xhaka – although he can also feature at centre-back and right-back.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Nordtveit will feel he has something to prove having missed out on a chance to play in the English top flight during his years at Arsenal, and his consistently impressive performances in Germany and in Europe suggest he is well placed to do just that.
What has been said about him? Monchengladbach boss Andre Schubert: “He has a great strength of will and there’s a lot of power and energy in his game. He has a brilliant mentality and takes on every challenge, regardless of which position he’s in and where he’s needed.”
Sofiane Feghouli, Valencia to West Ham
Age: 26 Cost: Free Position: Attacking midfielder/winger
Career so far: Plays for Algeria but was born in France and began his career with Grenoble before moving to Valencia in 2010. He made 202 appearances during six years with the Spanish club, scoring 31 goals and providing 40 assists. He was a key part of Algeria’s run to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2014.
What type of player is he? His lightning pace and quick feet have been key for Valencia in recent years, but he was one of many who struggled in a campaign last season that saw Gary Neville fired from his first attempt in management. Missed the end of last season after being suspended by the club amid reports he refused to take part in a warm-down.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? The Hammers will be hoping Feghouli can bring the best of his creative flair into the English top flight, much in the same way as Dimitri Payet did in his debut season after joining from Marseille last year. Like Payet, he has undoubted ability, but there are question marks over his consistency after a disappointing 2015-16.
What has been said about him? West Ham co-chairman David Gold: “The arrival of Feghouli shows the ambition we have got and this is a steady progress. We all saw what Riyad Mahrez did for Leicester last season and we hope that Sofiane can have a similar impact.”
Eric Bailly, Villarreal to Manchester United
Age: 22 Cost: £30m Position: Defender
Career so far: Began his professional career with Spanish club Espanyol before moving to Villarreal for a reported £4.8m in January 2015 as a replacement for Gabriel Paulista, who had joined Arsenal. He has played 15 times for Ivory Coast, with whom he won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015.
What type of player is he? Aggressive, quick, strong, good in the air and with his feet, Bailly was sorely missed as Villarreal were beaten 3-0 away by Liverpool in last season’s Europa League semi-final second leg.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? All the signs suggest he will. Bailly caught the eye with some really strong displays against Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Karim Benzema as Villarreal finished fourth in La Liga last year. He has the physical attributes to succeed and the hope will be that, under Jose Mourinho, the finer sides of his defensive game continue to develop at Old Trafford.
What has been said about him? United manager Jose Mourinho: “Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent. He has progressed well to date and has the potential to become one of the best around.”
Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City
Age: 25 Cost: Reported £20m Position: Midfielder
Career so far: Began his career with Bochum’s reserve side before moving to Nurnberg in 2009 and on to Borussia Dortmund for a reported £3.4m in 2011. There, under manager Jurgen Klopp, he won the German league and cup double in 2012 and was a Champions League finalist in 2013. He has had injury problems since though, missing all but the first game of the 2013-14 season with a back problem. He is currently recovering from a dislocated knee.
What type of player is he? A deep-lying Germany midfielder with a Turkish background, Gundogan is admired for his close control, vision and passing range. In 157 games for Dortmund he scored 15 goals and provided 21 assists.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Gundogan has already proved he has the ability to compete at the highest level, both with Dortmund in the German top flight and with the national team.
What has been said about him? City director of football Txiki Begiristain: “He is an intelligent and versatile midfielder who can operate in a number of different roles. He will be a very important player for us in the coming years.”
Luis Hernandez, Sporting Gijon to Leicester
Age: 27 Cost: Free Position: Defender
Career so far: Graduated from Real Madrid’s youth system but never played for the Spanish giants. Instead his breakthrough came at Sporting Gijon, where he spent two years in the reserves before being promoted to the first team in 2012.
What type of player is he? A ball-playing centre-back who is used to being busy – his side only just stayed up last season.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Difficult to be definitive about this because last season was Hernandez’s first and only top-flight campaign – and Gijon escaped relegation only by a point thanks to a 2-0 win on the final day.
In his own words: “Yesterday I took off [the shirt] for the last time and I feel that these red and white stripes will be stuck to me forever,” on his final game for Sporting.
Mike van der Hoorn, Ajax to Swansea
Age: 23 Cost: Reported £2m Position: Defender
Career so far: Made his professional debut with FC Utrecht at the age of 18 and was named their player of the year in his third and final season before joining Ajax in 2013 for a reported £3.2m. Spent the first half of last season on the bench but was a regular in the run-in as Ajax narrowly missed out on the Dutch title. Has made 13 appearances for the Netherlands Under-21 side, scoring once.
What type of player is he? A 6ft 2in centre-back who has scored 10 goals in 90 games in Dutch club football.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Remains to be seen if he plays regularly. Only got 15 Eredivisie games for Ajax last season but will have Ashley Williams alongside him to guide his development.
In his own words: “I hope to improve and bring competition to the defensive position. Ashley Williams is a really good defender. Hopefully I can learn from him.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United
Age: 27 Cost: £26m (reported) Position: Attacking midfielder
Career so far: Started in his homeland of Armenia with Pyunik, before spells with Metalurh and Shakhtar Donetsk. Joined Dortmund three years ago, scoring 23 goals in 88 Bundesliga appearances. Had a hand in 49 goals (23 goals, 26 assists) in 52 games for Dortmund last season.
What type of player is he? Plays most of his football as an attacking midfielder, but can also play in a deeper midfield role, on the wing or just off a striker. An expert passer and finisher, as his stats for last season show.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Has all the characteristics needed to be one of the stars of the Premier League. However, a word of caution – the last Dortmund playmaker that United signed was Shinji Kagawa, who only lasted two years at Old Trafford.
What has been said about him? “He is one of the most talented players in the world. He possesses an incredible combination of speed and technique. There’s very, very few you can say that about. There’s a reason why the world’s best chess players come from Armenia like Mkhitaryan. They’re thinkers, they’re hard workers, they graft,” Jurgen Klopp in 2015.
Marten de Roon, Atalanta to Middlesbrough
Age: 25 Cost: £12m (reported) Position: Midfielder
Career so far: Has spent most of his career in the Netherlands, with Sparta Rotterdam and Heerenveen. Joined Atalanta for a reported £1m last summer and leaves after one goal in 36 Serie A appearances.
What type of player is he? A defensive midfielder who loves a tackle – illustrated by nine bookings last season. He was top of Serie A’s rankings for tackles – and second for interceptions – last season. Don’t expect many goals, he’s only ever notched 11.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? This type of disciplined, defensive midfielder often shines in the Premier League, so he could be key for Boro – but there is a long list of Serie A players who never adapted to English football.
In his own words: “On the pitch, something clicks and I become a different person. I enjoy standing on someone’s toes every now and then or whispering in someone’s ear if they do something wrong or miss a chance,” he said in a Youtube video this year.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, FC Ufa to Manchester City
Age: 19 Cost: £1.7m (reported) Position: Attacking midfielder
Career so far: Came through the youth team at Shakhtar Donetsk before moving to Ufa in Russia, scoring twice in 31 league games. Was added to Ukraine’s Euro 2016 squad after reportedly being offered Russian citizenship, and played all three games in France.
What type of player is he? The talented youngster can play in any midfield position, and has also featured at left-back. A Ukrainian James Milner?
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Maybe in the future, but City fans should perhaps not expect to see him near the first team soon as he has been linked with a loan switch to PSV Eindhoven.
What has been said about him? “Zinchenko is talented, but he must be realistic. He must get experience and game practice. He can only play for Manchester City on PlayStation,” said former Ukraine and Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin last month.
Michy Batshuayi, Marseille to Chelsea
Age: 22 Cost: £33m (reported) Position: Striker
Career so far: Was released by Anderlecht in 2007 for being too hard to handle. Two and a half seasons as a regular at Standard Liege got him a £4.5m move to Marseille in 2014. Was fourth top scorer in Ligue 1 last season with 17 goals, despite being back-up to Steven Fletcher at one stage, angering – among others – Basile Boli.
What type of player is he? A proper striker, who has pace and power, can finish well and is decent in the air despite his relative lack of height at 5ft 11in. His attitude has been questioned in the past and he doesn’t consider passing to a team-mate if going alone is on the cards.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Has all the qualities one looks for in a Premier League striker. Will surely get more of a chance than Chelsea’s last Belgium striker, Romelu Lukaku, although if he does half as well as another signing from Marseille, Didier Drogba, then he will be a Blues hero.
What has been said about him? “I think his move is absolutely brilliant. Michy is being rewarded for his great form and the work he has done out here and over the past season,” said Belgium boss Marc Wilmots during Euro 2016.
Nampalys Mendy, Nice to Leicester
Age: 24 Cost: £13m (reported) Position: Midfielder
Career so far: Helped Monaco win promotion from Ligue 2 in 2012-13 under now Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, but annoyed his manager by then leaving for Nice – where he spent three seasons before moving to the Foxes. Has only ever scored once in 201 games.
What type of player is he? The fact he gets compared to Claude Makelele is a good clue that he’s a defensive midfielder who likes tackles and simple passes. Despite his love of a tackle, he has only been sent off twice in over 200 appearances, so shouldn’t be a liability.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? From the scouting team who brought in N’Golo Kante from Ligue 1 a year ago, you have to back Leicester to know a potential Premier League midfielder when they see one.
What has been said about him? “I do not understand his attitude. As soon as I saw him play, I said here is our Claude Makelele. I trusted him and I played him,” Ranieri told L’Equipe when Mendy left Monaco in 2013.
Isaac Success, Granada to Watford
Age: 20 Cost: £12.5m (reported) Position: Forward
Career so far: Still only 20, all of Success’ first-team football has come for Granada, for whom he scored seven goals in 49 La Liga games.
What type of player is he? Can play on either wing or as a striker. Has pace to burn and plenty of strength. Scored six La Liga goals and assisted another five last season, and that was from out wide in a struggling team.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? There’s no reason why not, but if Watford keep hold of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, Success may have to play deeper or be an impact substitute unless new coach Walter Mazzarri plays a three-man front line.
What has been said about him? “Success is a very good player, he has power, he has the physical characteristics to play in England, but he’s younger and we need to think about the future of this player,” said Quique Sanches Flores, then the Watford manager, speaking in February.
Steve Mandanda, Marseille to Crystal Palace
Age: 31 Cost: £1.5m (reported) Position: Goalkeeper
Career so far: Started off at Le Havre before joining Marseille in 2007, going on to make 439 appearances. Won the French title with the club in 2010 and has been named Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year four times, including each of the past two seasons. Had been their captain since 2010.
What type of player is he? An excellent goalkeeper as well as a leader of men. A great shot stopper, who is confident at dealing with crosses. Has saved three Ligue 1 penalties in the last three seasons.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Almost certainly, if he is Palace’s number one ahead of Wayne Hennessey. Only missed two Ligue 1 games in his last six years for Marseille and is entering his peak years as a keeper.
What has been said about him? “He’d be France’s number one if it wasn’t for Hugo Lloris. You just have to look at his record to see he’s a top keeper – he brings experience into that position as well,” said Palace assistant boss Keith Millen.
Nolito, Celta Vigo to Manchester City
Age: 29 Cost: £13.8m Position: Forward
Career so far: Joined Barcelona’s B team at the age of 22 after starting his career in the lower leagues. After two La Liga appearances for Barca’s first team, he went on to play for Benfica, Granada and Celta Vigo. He was the second-most prolific Spaniard in La Liga over the last three seasons with 39 goals and Barca tried to re-sign him in January.
What type of player is he? Plays out wide on the left, with plenty of pace and tricks – and likes to cut inside onto his right foot and get a shot in – he scored 12 in La Liga last season.
Will he cut it in the Premier League? Pep Guardiola managed the Spaniard at Barcelona so if he thinks he can, he must have something to offer. Was one of Spain’s sharpest players at Euro 2016, but might be involved in some rotation among City’s star-studded squad and is unlikely to start every game.
What has been said about him? “We’ve brought him because of the season he’s had and because he’s a specialist on the wing – there aren’t many players like him. Defensively speaking he also helps out his full-back and he was one of our best options for the wide positions,” then-Spain boss Vicente del Bosque told Marca about his decision to bring him to Euro 2016.
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The 10 best Premier League signings of 2016/17 so far
19 January 2017
What is it?
When the Premier League’s £8 billion TV deal kicked in at the beginning of the summer – a 71% increase on the previous contract – a chaotic and decadent transfer window was inevitable.
More than £1 billion was spent by Premier League clubs, with 13 of the 20 breaking their transfer record. And while sizeable sums of cash has been burned, there have been plenty of success stories in the first half of the 2016/17 season.
Here are the 10 best signings so far…
10. Adama Traore (Aston Villa to Middlesbrough, £7m)
The 20-year-old La Masia graduate struggled badly at Aston Villa last season, with a metatarsal injury keeping him out for almost three months and neither Tim Sherwood nor Remi Garde willing to risk playing such an attacking winger during their team’s battle against relegation.
But Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has been richly rewarded for his bravery.
No player in the Premier League has completed more dribbles this season than Traore’s 8.6 per 90 minutes in 2016/17, and it’s his powerful runs that have been most impressive. He tore through Manchester United , Chelsea and Spurs earlier this term, beating an astonishing 29 players against those three teams.
Such fearlessness will prove invaluable for Middlesbrough as they fight for survival, and it could even lead Traore to Chelsea, who’ve been linked with a move this month.
9. Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia to Arsenal, £35m)
In Mustafi, Arsenal have finally found the ideal centre-back to partner Laurent Koscielny. The German’s no-nonsense defensive attitude and positional intelligence complement Koscielny’s more elegant, ball-playing instincts, which should provide the Gunners with a platform to challenge for honours.
His immediate importance to the team was highlighted by his absence in December, when Arsenal lost back-to-back games against Everton and Manchester City . Arsene Wenger’s team have won 34 points from 14 games in which Mustafi has featured, and 10 from the seven when he hasn’t played.
Mustafi is exactly the kind of sensible – and expensive – signing that Arsenal have struggled to complete for much of the last decade. Fans will be hoping he represents a turning point in the Gunners’ transfer policy.
8. David Luiz (PSG to Chelsea, £34m)
Chelsea’s centre-back was criticised for being unreliable and erratic during his first stint at the club, but after two years at PSG the 29-year-old has returned to become an essential part of the Blues’ romp to the Premier League summit.
Luiz’s occasional positional errors have been eradicated by Conte’s ruthlessly effective system, and he clearly benefits from being part of a back three. It’s largely thanks to the Brazilian that Chelsea have the second-best defensive record in the division.
7. Joe Allen (Liverpool to Stoke, £13m)
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The “Welsh Xavi” has lived up to his name this season with some stunning performances in an advanced midfield position for Mark Hughes. Allen was deployed in a deep-lying protector role at Swansea and Liverpool , but it looks as though Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp may have missed a trick.
Unshackled at Stoke, Allen is dictating the tempo of matches with surprisingly adept positional skills; if the Welshman keeps up his good form, it might not be long before he moves back to a club like Liverpool.
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It is worst spenders against biggest buyers. The first statement is an opinion, the second a fact. Yet when West Ham host Manchester City on Friday, it is fitting it is during the January transfer window. In different ways, they are defined by their summer recruitment. City spent £165 million, as well as hiring Pep Guardiola. West Ham tried to demonstrate their own ambition.
If the intention was to take a team who threatened to qualify for the Champions League last season to the next level, it has backfired. West Ham finished seventh in May. They are 14th now. Meanwhile, in two of their league wins Slaven Bilic has named a starting XI comprising solely of players who were at Upton Park last season. It is all the more remarkable as West Ham’s arrivals numbered a dozen and if Manuel Lanzini, a loan signing in 2015 and a permanent recruit in 2016, straddles the categories of the old and the new, the Argentinian delivered more when he was a temporary addition.
He is a reason why none of West Ham’s dodgy dozen can be deemed a success. While Hull, Leicester and Swansea have little to show for their summer spending, what sets West Ham apart is the sheer scale of the recruitment drive. It is rare to bring in 12 players without at least one being a bona-fide success.
Especially as the Hammers had forged a reputation as savvy buyers. Their 2014 yielded Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho, fine additions all. They fared still better in 2015, bringing in Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang, Darren Randolph and the loaned Lanzini. Then came 2016. Here’s how last summer’s recruits have fared in the Premier League through the first five months of the season:
Edimilson Fernandes (£5.5m): 393 minutes played
Ashley Fletcher (£750,000): 300 minutes played
Andre Ayew (£20.5m): 502 minutes played
Manuel Lanzini (£9.4m): 1,152 minutes played
Toni Martinez (£2.4m): 0 minutes played
Quina (undisclosed): 0 minutes played
Havard Nordtveit (free): 677 minutes played
Alvaro Arbeloa (free): 256 minutes played
Sofiane Feghouli (free): 177 minutes played
Jonathan Calleri (loan): 130 minutes played
Gokhan Tore (loan): 239 minutes played
Simone Zaza (£5m loan fee): 460 minutes played
Arthur Masuaku (£6.2m): 527 minutes played
Perhaps the eventual verdict will be kinder than the current analysis. Arguably the three worst arrivals — Zaza, Calleri and Tore — were borrowed not bought. The damage could be mitigated by their departures. Four youngsters — Martinez, Quina, Fernandes and Fletcher — could prove astute buys in the long term. The 21-year-old forward Fletcher scored a fine fashion at his former club Manchester United in the EFL Cup and, though that it is his lone goal, he was cheap and a justifiable gamble. The 20-year-old Swiss Fernandes is entertaining and adaptable. He has been involved regularly. His unpredictability could endear him to crowds, if perhaps not teammates. Meanwhile, the club-record-buy Ayew was unfortunate to be injured 35 minutes into his debut. If he replicates his Swansea form, he should be a match-winner.
Yet on the debit side, Lanzini, for all his talent, has only scored once in open play. Feghouli’s recruitment seemed a coup but he has started a solitary Premier League game and only lasted 15 minutes then, even if he was unfortunate to fall victim to Mike Dean’s absolute certainty in his own flawed judgment when sent off against Manchester United. Nordtveit’s Hammers career seemed summed up when, brought on to protect a lead against Tottenham, he slid in on Son Heung-Min to concede a penalty and help transform victory into defeat. The Norwegian’s availability on a free transfer meant his arrival was a worthwhile gamble, yet he seems the definition of a versatile player who is not quite good enough in any position, and certainly not at right-back.
Arthur Masuaku conceded a still more needless penalty with a handball against West Brom and looked an error-prone deputy to Cresswell. Arbeloa has only played 256 minutes of top-flight football and West Ham have conceded nine goals during them. He has not been risked since the 5-1 thrashing by Arsenal and an admirable career seems to be ending ignominiously. Tore is reportedly the subject of the strangest of tugs of war, with neither West Ham nor Besiktas wanting him for the second half of the season.
And then there is Zaza. If he thought his fortunes could not plummet any further after his comically bad penalty in Italy’s Euro 2016 shootout with Germany, he was wrong. His Hammers career does not include a goal. Indeed, in 11 appearances, it only features two shots on target. The only saving grace is that they will not trigger a €20 million permanent deal that would make him the most expensive player in West Ham history. Factor in the failure of Calleri, who is yet to muster a shot on target in the Premier League, let alone a goal, and it explains why West Ham’s specialist strikers have scored the joint-fewest top-flight goals of any club’s.
It is worth rewinding a few months when West Ham identified Carlos Bacca, Michy Batshuayi and Alexandre Lacazette in their bid to bring in a potent spearhead. Instead, they ended up with the impotent Zaza and Calleri. That can happen when transfer windows yield frustration and clubs respond by going ever lower down their list of targets for ever worse signings. But having started the summer needing a first-choice striker and a reliable right-back, they still need each now. It is why the close season will go down as a wasted window for West Ham.
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