Football Transfers Can Do Many Things; They Can Inspire, Galvanise & Shock.
With Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho both generating a buzz after arriving at Manchester United, and Manchester City’s pursuit of England internationals Harry Kane and Jack Grealish picking up pace, BBC Sport has put together a list of Premier League ‘wow’ signings.
We know you’ll have your own opinions, but here’s what we’ve come up with. Feel free to add your own contenders in the comments section below.
Robinho – Real Madrid to Manchester City (2008).
What a way for Manchester City’s new owners to announce themselves. On deadline day in 2008, the Abu Dhabi United Group completed a takeover of the club and instantly set about making themselves known.
Brazil and Real Madrid forward Robinho had been a target for Chelsea, but City managed to secure a whirlwind £32.5m deal, a British record at the time, and suddenly appeared a threat to the elite.
A debut goal, against Chelsea, was the precursor to a spell that had its moments, but was fraught with inconsistency and attitude problems. City eventually sold Robinho to AC Milan in 2010 after loaning him to his first club Santos, and took a different route to spending their millions on building a Premier League-winning side.
Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea (2006).
When back-to-back Premier League champions Chelsea struck a deal to sign arguably Europe’s best striker in 2006, things looked ominous for the rest of the division.
Andriy Shevchenko was at his peak when he left AC Milan for Stamford Bridge, and by recruiting him, and Germany midfielder Michael Ballack on a free from Bayern Munich, it looked like Jose Mourinho was only tightening his grip on English football’s top prize.
Yet, despite scoring on his debut in the Community Shield against Liverpool, Shevchenko never asserted himself at the club ahead of main striker Didier Drogba. In three years, which included a forgettable loan return to Milan, he scored just nine league goals in 48 games, as Manchester United added successive titles to their collection.
Alan Shearer – Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United (1996).
After scoring 34 goals en route to Blackburn Rovers’ only Premier League title in 1995 and then winning the Golden Boot at Euro 96 a year later, Alan Shearer was a hot commodity.
He informed Blackburn owner Jack Walker of his desire to leave, and it soon became a straight shootout between Manchester United and his hometown club Newcastle United for his signature.
Eventually, Newcastle signed him for £15m, then a world record, and thousands of fans flocked to St James’ Park to welcome Shearer home. He was the man Kevin Keegan hoped would fire the Magpies to success after a spectacular collapse the previous season, surrendering a 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League to the Red Devils.
He went on to become their record goalscorer, but never managed to lift any silverware.
Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool (2018).
Jurgen Klopp was halfway through his second full season at Liverpool and his problem was clear. If he was to take the club where he wanted, he needed a stronger defence.
Funded by the £140m sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona a couple of weeks later, the Reds announced the capture of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75m. It appeared they had found the perfect solution to their issues at the back and everyone soon took them seriously.
Scoffs of derision met news of the price tag, but the Dutchman instantly set about proving his worth, helping Liverpool to two Champions League finals, one of which they won, and a first league crown in 30 years. His absence through injury was also a clear factor in their struggles in defending the title last season.
Juan Sebastian Veron – Lazio to Manchester United (2001)
It was rare for Sir Alex Ferguson to enter the transfer market to sign a genuinely world-class player for a hefty fee, but that is exactly what he did in the summer of 2001 when Juan Sebastian Veron arrived from Lazio for £28.1m.
Veron had been a driving force in Lazio’s Serie A title under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 1999-2000. His elegance and technique was supposed to compliment Roy Keane’s tenacity and the goal threat of Paul Scholes, but he never quite got up to speed with English football.
Although his quality was undoubted, glimpses were all too sporadic. He left for Chelsea two years later for £15m and didn’t fare much better, but there still remains a sense of ‘what if’ around Veron at Old Trafford, such was the intensity of the initial expectation.
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – Corinthians to West Ham United (2006)
Almost everybody was blindsided by West Ham United unveiling two of Argentina’s World Cup stars, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, in 2006.
Although unlikely to stay at Upton Park for long, there was genuine hope the pair could propel the Hammers to new heights after a top-half finish and European qualification via an FA Cup final appearance during their first campaign back in the Premier League.
Instead it was a season of struggle. Mascherano played just five league games before joining Liverpool in January but Tevez stayed to inspire a successful bid for survival and then left for Manchester United.
The club were then found to be in breach of transfer regulations because of third-party involvement in their signings and fined a world-record £5.5m.
Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal (2001)
When Sol Campbell crossed the north London divide on a free transfer in 2001, it took everyone by surprise. Even, it has been said, the reporters who had gathered for his unveiling.
The deal unleashed an incredible level of animosity towards Campbell, which came to a head on his first return to White Hart Lane. He was called ‘Judas’ and Spurs fans could be seen burning effigies. Things have not thawed since, but Campbell has never regretted his decision, going on to win two Premier League titles with the Gunners.
Mesut Ozil – Real Madrid to Arsenal (2013).
Arsene Wenger was another manager who rarely spent big in the transfer market, preferring instead to mould and develop younger players. But with fan unrest growing over a lack of trophies in the summer of 2013, that changed with the club-record arrival of Mesut Ozil.
Having proved himself to be one of the best playmakers in the world at Real Madrid, Ozil was heralded as the catalyst for a new dawn at Emirates Stadium once his £42m transfer was sealed.
After a positive start, his impact waned and relations between club and player began to sour after Wenger left in 2018. While he signed a new contract, both his subsequent bosses, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, left him out in the cold until he eventually left for Fenerbahce in January.
Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United (2016).
When Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba for a world-record £89m four years after seeing him go to Turin in search of first-team football, it was assumed Jose Mourinho would reinstate the club as a force after three years without a title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Pogba was a superstar of the social media age and, it appeared, the ultimate player to build a team around. But he clashed with Mourinho and, having not shown the same level of consistency as he does for France, is constantly linked with a second departure from the club.
Whether he stays or not, Pogba certainly hasn’t had the level of impact expected of him.
Wayne Rooney – Everton to Manchester United (2004).
Wayne Rooney was already a boy wonder before Euro 2004, having burst on to the scene at Everton as a 16-year-old. two years beforehand. But his raw, fearless displays for England that summer – when he scored four goals before breaking his foot in the quarter-final against Portugal – made him the most wanted player on the continent.
Manchester United shook off competition from Newcastle to secure a record deal for a teenager at £27m. With Arsenal coming off the ‘Invincibles’ season and Chelsea having just hired Mourinho, it was a way of Ferguson throwing down the gauntlet at Old Trafford.
It took time, but Rooney eventually helped United to five Premier League titles and the Champions League before becoming their all-time top goalscorer in 2017 with 253 goals.
Fabrizio Ravanelli – Juventus to Middlesbrough (1996).
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson was never shackled by lack of ambition. In the summer of 1996, he pulled off an incredible coup by signing Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli from Juventus, just months after he scored in a Champions League final victory.
His white hair made him distinctive, and he took no time at all justifying the shockwaves his arrival had sent through the Premier League by scoring a hat-trick on his debut in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool.
Ravanelli joined Brazilians Juninho and Emerson at the Riverside Stadium, but for all that attacking quality, and the fact they reached two cup finals under Bryan Robson, Boro were relegated that season, a direct consequence of being deducted three points for failing to fulfil a fixture after a virus outbreak at the club. Ravanelli then left the club.
There are plenty of other players who could have made our list but just missed out. Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, helped lead Sam Allardyce’s early-noughties revolution at Bolton Wanderers, becoming cult icons.
Some other big name stars came from abroad to grace the Premier League – Ruud Gullit and George Weah joining Chelsea, Jurgen Klinsmann making himself at home with Tottenham Hotspur and Christophe Dugarry finding himself at Birmingham City.
Andy Cole’s switch to Manchester United from Newcastle in February 1995 took everyone by surprise, not least Cole himself and the Newcastle fans who demanded answers from Keegan. Robin van Persie’s move to the Red Devils from Arsenal in 2012 was a decisive factor in Ferguson’s last title.
Michael Owen’s return to the Premier. League with Newcastle in 2005, a year after leaving Liverpool for Real Madrid, was expected to bring glory to Tyneside, but it turned out to be an injury-marred disaster culminating in relegation four years later.