The Premier League is awash with cash – but by no means do teams get every signing right. Now, with the book closed on another season, it’s time to look back on which summer signings flopped or fired.
Decisions are based on relative cost, how important he proved to his side and individual quality. Below we’ve picked out the best five buys of the Premier League campaign.
5. Lucas Digne (Everton) Signed from Barcelona, £18m
Who’d be a modern Premier League full-back? These days they’re auxiliary wingers with just about as much defensive responsibility as any player on the pitch. Finding a genuine all-rounder like Lucas Digne was nothing short of a masterstroke by Everton.
Having wasted away behind Jordi Alba at Barcelona for two seasons straight, Evertonians have taken the Frenchman to their bosoms thanks to his marriage of pluck and playmaking.
Andy Robertson vs. Lucas Digne in the Premier League in 2018-19:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 12, 2019
Duels won: 149-206
Chances created: 51-71
Goals: 0-4#AskSquawka @BenPrazak pic.twitter.com/7MJf1yJ4sO
Only Wolves star Matt Doherty won more aerial duels per game of all Premier League full-backs, and his paintbrush of a left foot created four assists and four goals, including a stunning last-minute free-kick against Watford. Given the money thrown around by the likes of Man City for such players, £18m was a scandalously cheap price to pay.
4. Fabian Schar (Newcastle) Signed from Deportivo, £3m
Another ‘problem’ position for several elite clubs was solved for a mere £3m by Newcastle. Having activated a relegation release clause in his contract at Deportivo, it is a wonder that Rafa Benitez did not have more competition for Schar, who has long proved a fine centre-back for Switzerland.
The 27-year-old suffered a slow start to his career in the North East but started stuffing attackers down his stockings at Christmas time. The Magpies have only conceded two goals or more in a game three times since the start of December with Schar in the team (against Liverpool, Man United and Everton).
Schar has in fact become the de factor leader in the Newcastle defence, with skipper Jamaal Lascelles not quite hitting the heights of 2017/18. The most refined defender? Not at all. But just what an underfunded Premier League team need for survival.
3. David Brooks (Bournemouth) Signed from Sheffield United, £11.5m
David Brooks would have arrived in the Premier League sooner rather than later, with his former club Sheffield United having just secured promotion, but he could not have picked a more suitable top-tier side than Bournemouth to expedite his footballing education.
Eddie Howe nominally plays the Wales international on the right-side of midfield, but Brooks – who at his best is reminiscent of a (speedier) Juan Mata – relishes sewing together moves in the centre on his stronger left foot.
Together with a more traditional winger in Ryan Fraser and chief goal-getter Callum Wilson, Brooks has expressed himself spectacularly well for someone still just 21 and with zero prior Premier League experience. Seven goals, five assists, many more of both to come.
2. Alisson (Liverpool) Signed from Roma, £66.9m
The steep supposedly made this a ‘risky’ signing. Keeping the laughable Loris Karius or sub-par Simon Mignolet in between the sticks, however, would have been a certain disaster.
It’s not just about the number of shots he stops flying in (he saved 77 per cent that he faced in the Premier League last season, a division high). It’s that unflappable, unquantifiable poise he brings to proceedings. So cool under pressure are both he and Virgil van Dijk that the pair could solve global warming.
Yes, there was a mishap against Leicester, a sliced clearance against Fulham, but no player is infallible whatever the price. Instead focus on the attacks he starts, the opposition press he has relieved innumerable times with his feet. No team upgraded in a position so starkly quite like Liverpool did this season.
1. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) Signed from Benfica, £30m
The best signing of the Premier League season is a slightly lesser version of Roberto Firmino. A back-handed compliment that may seem, but given Raul Jimenez was snapped up by a promoted club – with nonetheless premier aspirations – it has proved a remarkable coup.
Jimenez had only scored 18 league goals in Europe since flying in from Mexico in 2014, but added 13 in a single season with Wolves as the spearhead of an attack that upset every top-six club one way or another.
The 28-year-old, who was signed on a permanent basis from Benfica in April, will never top the goalscoring charts – but he is very much an ‘ask naught what your team can do for you, but what you can do for your team’ type of player. He’s dogged in his defensive work, dominant in the air and holds onto ball like it’s the last Rolo before he plays his team-mates in. One of the best in the very tough business of being a centre-forward.
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