The summer of 2016 saw unprecedented levels of spending in England, with Premier League clubs forking out more than £1billion in players for the first time.
The two Manchester clubs led the way, contributing roughly £300million of that total alone, and over half of the 20 Premier League clubs broke their own transfer records over the pre-season.
However, spending doesn’t always guarantee success. Some of the best transfers this summer were at a fraction of a cost of some of the more lavish ones.
In that regard, the top ten below are ranked on impact, rather than transfer fee.
10. Victor Wanyama (Southampton – Tottenham, £12m)
The tough-tackling central midfielder Tottenham didn’t know they needed, Wanyama is looking like a steal at £12m. The Kenyan international has started in every league game for Spurs this season, brilliantly protecting the defence as well as displaying a keen awareness for moving the ball forward when he needs to – which in itself was vital in Mousa Dembélé’s absence earlier in the season.
9. David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germanin – Chelsea, £32m)
At the beginning of the season, any notion that David Luiz would have ended up in a list like this would have seemed ludicrous. Indeed, his second debut against Swansea in September made his £32m re-signing from PSG seem like even more of a panic buy.
However, the formational shift to three at the back has been a genius move from Antonio Conte, not least for getting the best out of Luiz. His confidence and competence have risen dramatically, and if Chelsea do end this season with a league title, the 29-year-old will have been a big part of it.
That being said, everyone is just waiting for one typical moment of madness…
8. Paul Pogba (Juventus – Manchester United, £89m)
The world record signing arrived back in England in August to huge fanfare and cringeworthy Stormzy videos, though it took him a bit of time to settle and adjust to the reality of being the most expensive player on the planet.
He has since grown into the role and given a number of solid performances in midfield, particularly in the recent win at Crystal Palace. His link-up play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic is growing into a highly effective partnership.
His tendency to wander when the situation doesn’t call for it is still a slight issue, and of the midfield trio of Pogba, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera it would probably still be the Frenchman who is still less vital to the team in a relative sense – but there’s definitely been enough from Pogba so far to suggest that this venture will pay dividends for all involved.
7. Joe Allen (Liverpool – Stoke, £13m)
One of Jurgen Klopp’s biggest conundrums this summer related to midfielder Joe Allen. The Welsh international was clearly a talented player, but finding a place for him in the first team was going to be a struggle. Allen knew he had to leave in order to play regularly, and was subsequently sold to Stoke for £13m.
That has since proved to be a fine bit of business by Mark Hughes. Allen has been Stoke’s best player this season in a more advanced role in midfield, even adding more goals to his game. The 26-year-old might not be the most spectacular player on the pitch, but few work harder.
6. Joel Matip (Schalke – Liverpool, Free Transfer)
Cameroonian defender Joel Matip arrived at Anfield in a free transfer in the summer, and while his signing didn’t produce much in the way of excitement initially (partly because of the lack of a fee involved), he has turned out to be one of the bargains of the summer.
Liverpool’s defence looks completely different with him in the team, to the point where his assurance at the back calms Dejan Lovren’s nerves and makes the unit look better as a result. A speedy return from his recent injury problems is vital to the Reds’ hopes of maintaining their title challenge.
5. Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia – Arsenal, £35m)
By the time Arsenal had relented and paid Valencia the £35m they wanted for Mustafi, they had already lost their first game of the season – conceding four goals in the process.
Since the German international’s integration into the Arsenal backline, the Gunners embarked on a long unbeaten run (which ended as soon as he became injured), striking up a brilliant partnership with Laurent Koscielny and proving to Arsene Wenger that sometimes it’s just worth paying the money for a player rather than waste time trying to negotiate.
4. Eric Bailly (Villarreal – Manchester United, £30m)
The least heralded of any of Man United’s summer signings, yet initially was the most important. Bailly settled into the backline effortlessly, taking command of the defence in a way that belied his 22 years of age. The Ivory Coast international has been a big hit with fans due to a string of fine performances, making the fact that he cost £30m an irrelevance.
Though Marcos Rojo and Phill Jones have coped well in his injury absence, his return will be massively important to manager José Mourinho’s ambitions for the remainder of this season.
3. N’Golo Kanté (Leicester – Chelsea, £32m)
The Leicester midfield engine of last season is now powering Chelsea’s title challenge. Signed for £32m, a steal by today’s standards, the French international is a vital cog in Conte’s 3-4-3 formation. His link-up play with just about everyone around him is tremendous, and although Chelsea’s approach is slightly less high-octane than Leicester’s was, Kanté has lost none of his energy.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain – Manchester United, Free Transfer)
Though few will admit to it now, there were growing calls for Ibrahimovic to be dropped earlier in the season, after a run that saw him score just once in 11 games in all competitions. He has since netted 11 in his last 10 games.
Ibrahimovic has been a huge part of his side’s resurgence in recent weeks. The 35-year-old has been a bargain for Man United, and although it is not a move for the long term, if his goals get them back into the Champions League it will have been more than worth it in the short term.
1. Sadio Mané (Southampton – Liverpool, £34m)
Liverpool have been using Southampton as one of their prime shopping destinations in recent years, so it was no surprise that they would raid the Saints once again in the summer for Mané.
Since his arrival, the 24-year-old has given Jurgen Klopp’s side an extra dimension. His speed alone terrifies opposition defenders, and his eight goals and four assists show he can be potent and creative all at once. Case in point: the raw pace that saw him react to a rebound faster than two Everton defenders to tap home the winner in the Merseyside derby recently.
How Liverpool cope with his participation in the African Cup of Nations will give a big indicator of their title credentials – if they are still in with a shout by the time he returns, his input could make all the difference.
The above list, it should be remembered, is only for the season at the halfway point. Had Henrikh Mkhitaryan, for example, been involved earlier he probably would have broken into it, while the same could be said of Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan.
Though the latter’s season is over, the former has been showing signs recently of proving to be another fine summer signing from Manchester United.
Read More About: Arsenal, Chelsea, david luiz, eric bailly, joe allen, joel matip, Liverpool, Man United, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Premier League, sadio mane, Shkodran Mustafi, stoke, tottenham, transfer news, victor wanyama, zlatan ibrahimovic