As the transfer window nears its conclusion, Andrew Dolan discusses the five biggest Premier League acquisitions thus far.
1. Diego Costa to Chelsea – £32.5m
The 2012/13 season for Atletico Madrid will be remembered largely for three things; a Europa League win, the crazy but charismatic Diego Simeone and the best centre forward in the world, Radamel Falcao.
When Falcao left at the end of the season, the fans needed a new hero. Step forward Diego Costa.
Costa not only managed to replace Falcao but his goals fired Atletico to a first La Liga title in 18 years and the final of the Champions League. Having turned down the chance to join Liverpool last summer, citing a lack of Champions League football, Costa was ready to move on to one of Europe’s elite this year.
Chelsea were not subtle in their courting of the player and with goals being the team’s major downfall in 13/14 Chelsea now look set to make the jump back to English football’s top prize. Expect Costa’s powerful play and finishing ability to fire Chelsea to the title.
2. Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal – £35m
Having signed for Udinese in 2006, it was Sanchez’s displays at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that first caught the attention of Europe’s elite. He produced eye-catching displays against Spain, Honduras and Switzerland before ultimately coming undone against Brazil in the last 16.
Udinese held on to their man for one more season before he was off to Barcelona for a reported £25m in the summer of 2011. 39 goals in 88 competitive games would be enough for almost any side, but with UEFA getting stricter in enforcing its new Financial Fair Play system, and with Barca signing the controversial Luis Suarez for £75m, someone had to go to balance the books.
Luckily for Arsenal, and the Premier League, this meant Sanchez was available and for £35m Arsenal look to have captured the signing of the summer. His pace and goal threat means he could be the missing piece of the jigsaw Arsenal have been looking for in recent seasons, and could see a first league title since the invincibles of 03/04, at the Emirates. A top two finish and a better showing in Europe can be expected.
3. Ander Herrera to Manchester United – £29m
When David Moyes got the United job last summer he immediately identified the centre of the park as the area in need of urgent repair work. A summer of frustration was spent trying to convince Everton to part with Marouane Fellaini and a growing talent in Spanish side Athletic Bilbao to make the trip to the North West. His name was Ander Herrera and, one year on, with Moyes now claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the player is seen as the key to getting the Manchester club back on their perch.
Herrera’s patient play and ability on the ball is what United have sorely missed since Paul Scholes hung up his boots for a second time a year ago. If he can combine well with Mata, Carrick and Kagawa in the middle, then United could finally have what they need to get Rooney and Van Persie firing again.
Time will tell if this was money well spent, but with United now playing a much more possession based game this season and with Herrera and Mata pulling the strings, they should get back in to the top four, anything less will be deemed unacceptable.
4. Romelu Lukaku to Everton – £28m
Widely seen as the natural successor to Didier Drogba, Lukaku arrived at Chelsea two years ago with a big talent and an even bigger frame. A successful loan spell at West Brom followed and many expected Jose Mourinho’s return to the Bridge to signal a starting role for Lukaku in a side boasting strikers such as Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o.
Strangely Mourinho immediately loaned him out again, this time to Everton. His goals almost fired the side into the Champions League, ultimately falling just short in the final few weeks. With Chelsea selling Ba and releasing Eto’o after a miserable season in front of goal, Lukaku and Diego Costa seemed ideal in being the choice up top.
Mourinho clearly sees something he doesn’t like in the player however and made the decision to bring back a 36-year-old Drogba instead. What’s Chelsea’s loss could turn out to be Everton’s gain. A record £28m move has followed and, if he can continue where he left off last season, the Champions League remains an outside chance for Everton. A strange one from Chelsea to let him go but a massive signal of intent from Everton.
5. Adam Lallana to Liverpool – £25m
Two promotions in as many seasons with his boyhood club Southampton, Lallana has followed this up with two stellar years in the Premier League. His move to Anfield was mooted long before Suarez departed for Barcelona and, although not seen anything like a direct replacement, it is hoped his goals and assists to Sturridge and Sterling will at least help Liverpool to achieve a top four finish.
Two-footed and with technical ability uncommon for an Englishman Lallana could prove an astute piece of business from Reds’ boss Brendan Rodgers if he can settle into the side quickly. Southampton fans have expressed their disappointment at his decision to leave and the manner in which he forced it through, but many have pointed to his lack of fitness; expect to see him subbed off around the 70min mark in most games, as a sign that £25m was business well done.
If Liverpool are to repeat the exploits of last year then they’ll need Lallana to be on top form. He could prove vital.
Andrew Dolan, Pundit Arena.