With the transfer market close to re-opening, we have picked the best signing made by a Premier League club in the last 20 windows…
Winter, 2012 – Gary Cahill (Bolton to Chelsea, £8m)
Cahill left Bolton for Stamford Bridge for a measly £8m following interest from numerous Premier League clubs.
Everything about this transfer makes it one of the best on this list. Cahill was cheap as chips and ended up a big success at Chelsea, winning eight trophies, including two Premier League titles and of course a Champions League, playing 120 minutes in the final success against Bayern Munich.
Papiss Cisse joined Newcastle in this window but didn’t come close to Cahill in the end. Chelsea also brought Kevin De Bruyne to England, and Arsenal signed Thierry Henry on loan.
Summer, 2012 – Eden Hazard (Lille to Chelsea, £32m)
‘I’m signing for the champion’s league winner,’ Hazard posted on Twitter on May 28, 2012 amid rumours linking him with Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City. A few days later the Blues confirmed the deal as the Belgian penned a five-year contract.
In a summer when Swansea signed Michu for £2m, the Blues brought in someone who would become one of their best players of all-time. Hazard scored over 100 goals in 352 appearances, winning two league titles, and was named the club’s player of the year four times.
Winter, 2013 – Philippe Coutinho (Inter Milan to Liverpool, £8.5m)
Liverpool made two excellent signings in this window, bringing in Daniel Sturridge for around £12m, but their signing of Coutinho for £8.5m takes the cake.
Coutinho brought his Brazilian flair to the Premier League, hitting the ground running and immediately looking like the bargain he was. Over 200 appearances and zero trophies later, Barcelona signed the attacking midfielder for a rumoured £142m after months of pursuing him. That transfer has crippled Barca financially and allowed Liverpool to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, the final pieces of their trophy-winning jigsaw.
Summer, 2013 – Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid to Arsenal, £42m)
Some may disagree, even many Arsenal fans, but Ozil was one hell of a signing. The deadline day scenes in north London were something to behold when it was confirmed the German playmaker would be signing from Real Madrid.
He helped guide Arsenal to their first piece of silverware in eight years in his first season, as Arsene Wenger’s side beat Hull 3-2 in the FA Cup final. Ozil divided opinion like no other, often being labelled a ghost in matches against Arsenal’s title rivals and criticised for his laid-back style of play by the media and fans.
The way the 2014 World Cup winner left north London was extremely disappointing and sad, not getting the send-off he deserved after eight years of service, but he just pips Christen Eriksen’s move to Tottenham for this window.
Winter, 2014 – Nemanja Matic (Benfica to Chelsea, £21m)
Chelsea were busy boys in January 2014, and are busy in this list, occupying the winning slot in three out of the first five windows. The Blues signed Bertrand Traore, Kurt Zouma, Mohamed Salah and Matic, while offloading Juan Mata to Man Utd and De Bruyne to Wolfsburg.
Matic instantly became a mainstay in the starting XI, being named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2015 as Chelsea won the Premier League.
The Serbian defensive midfielder was sold to Man Utd for around £40m in 2017, being reunited with manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea got the best three years of Matic’s career before doubling their money for him. What a transfer.
Summer, 2014 – Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid to Chelsea, £32m)
What a window this was. Alexis Sanchez joined Arsenal, Southampton signed Sadio Mane and Hull brought Andy Robertson to England for only £2m. We have opted for yet another Chelsea player, however. Apologies…
It was a tough choice between Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, giving the edge to the striker as he epitomised what that Chelsea side were all about. Costa also had to adapt to the league, which he did straight away. Fabregas had been there before with Arsenal and was world-class at the Blues’ London rivals.
Costa bagged 20 Premier League goals in 26 matches during his maiden season in England as the Londoners won the title. Atletico re-signed the Spanish striker for a rumoured £57m in 2018. Prime years and profit again? Hats off.
Winter, 2015 – Wilfried Zaha (Man Utd to Crystal Palace, £3m)
The debate of who the better transfer was out of Dele Alli to Tottenham for £5m or Wilfried Zaha returning to Crystal Palace for £3m was one we didn’t know we needed; it was very difficult to pick a winner.
Alli became one of the best players in the country almost immediately, going to Euro 2016 and the World Cup in 2018 as well as being named the Young Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. He has fallen off in recent seasons but is only 25 years old, so he could easily return to the player he once was.
Zaha, on the other hand, just takes it ahead of Alli due to his consistency, and the fact that Crystal Palace would probably be in the Championship if it wasn’t for him. He re-joined the Eagles having struggled for game time at Man Utd. The 29-year-old has more goals and more assists than any other Palace player in Premier League history, and is the reason the London club are a stable top-flight outfit.
Summer, 2015 – N’Golo Kante (Caen to Leicester, £5.6m)
Kante came to England an unknown quantity, only to become (arguably) the most important player in the most extraordinary league title win in football history.
The French defensive midfielder was an absolute hit at the King Power to say the least. After his excellent 2015/16 campaign, Kante moved to Chelsea. He won another league title in his debut season, as well as being named PFA Player of the Year.
It is worth mentioning that in this summer Man City signed Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, Southampton purchased Virgil van Dijk and Spurs bought Son Heung-min. And it wasn’t even slightly close to being a debate for who the best.
Winter, 2016 – Abdoulaye Doucoure (Rennes to Watford, £8m)
I know what you’re thinking, but no, Oumar Niasse’s £13.5m transfer to Everton does not make top spot for the best transfer in January 2016. But as you can probably guess, this was not the most star-studded window of all-time, with no disrespect to Doucoure, an excellent player.
The French midfielder joined Watford for a measly £8m from Rennes, before being shipped out to Granada on loan. He was very consistent at Vicarage Road, but could not help the Hornets avoid relegation in 2019/20. Doucoure signed for Everton at the end of the season for a reported £20m, handing Watford a tasty profit.
Summer, 2016 – Sadio Mane (Southampton to Liverpool, £34m)
Kante’s £32m move to Chelsea has narrowly missed out here. Also in the summer of 2016, Ilkay Gundogan joined Man City for £21m and Zlatan Ibrahimovic moved to a Premier League club for the first time in his career, signing for Man Utd as a free agent and helping them win the League Cup and Europa League – the Red Devils’ last piece of silverware.
As for Mane, he has been world-class at Anfield since day one, and was the first brilliant piece of business Jurgen Klopp produced on Merseyside. Sorry, Steven Caulker.
Mane has scored over 100 goals for the Reds, including one in a Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. He was superb as Liverpool won their first Premier League crown in 2020, netting 18 times in 35 games. Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino blossomed into one of the finest frontlines in English football history, with each player being just as important as the other up until relatively recently, when Salah stormed ahead in importance.
Winter, 2017 – Wilfred Ndidi (Genk to Leicester, £15m)
As transfers continued to inflate, Leicester found a way to remain shrewd in this window, and Ndidi is one of the best pieces of business in recent seasons. The Foxes tried to replace Kante – an impossible task – by signing Nampalys Mendy from Nice, which has never quite worked out. Ndidi is the closest they have come to replacing the 2018 World Cup winner.
In a straight battle between Man City’s Gabriel Jesus, the Nigerian midfielder was the best deal of January 2017 due to his consistency, transfer fee, superb ability and sell-on potential. He has been linked with numerous big teams in recent windows, most notably Man Utd, who are screaming out for this kind of player.
Summer, 2017 – Mohamed Salah (Roma to Liverpool, £37m)
Another very strong window, but another very easy decision. Salah was the first of Liverpool’s big three to get them over the Champions League and Premier League hump. You’ll know the other members of said big three soon, if you don’t already.
You will have already read all there is to know about Salah – the best player in world football right now. The Egyptian beats the likes of Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Robertson and Antonio Rudiger for this accolade.
With ONLY goals scored by Mohamed Salah counting, Liverpool would still be third in the Premier League and have a positive goal difference 🤯
What a season the Egyptian is having 🇪🇬👑 pic.twitter.com/fyri7HgmNz
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 17, 2021
Winter, 2018 – Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, £75m)
Liverpool were chasing van Dijk for an eternity before eventually getting their man, spending a monumental amount of money to push the deal over the line.
The Holland defender has been one of the most important players for any top-flight side in Premier League history. His presence made teams fear Liverpool again, and he helped the Reds reach the Champions League final in his first season, despite joining halfway through.
Klopp’s side would previously drop silly points against relegation fodder, but that was no more after van Dijk joined; he sorted the shaky defence out seamlessly. £75m is looking, dare I say, an absolute bargain, almost four years on. They had one last position to sort out before the Klopp jigsaw was complete…
Summer, 2018 – Alisson (Roma to Liverpool, £65m)
…and complete it was. £65m was a lot to spend on a goalkeeper, but just like van Dijk, Alisson was absolutely worth it. This was a difficult window to find a definitive answer for, with Liverpool also signing the excellent Fabinho. Brighton also bought Yves Bissouma, Man City brought in Leicester legend Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes replaced him with James Maddison and Chelsea signed the apparent third-best player in the world in 2021, Jorginho.
Alisson addressed a position that desperately needed a permanent fix, coming in and having the same fear-factor impact as Van Dijk. The Reds became European champions in Alisson’s maiden season in England, and Premier League winners a year later. The 29-year-old’s latest piece of brilliance was scoring a goal to secure Liverpool a top-four finish. What a moment.
Winter, 2019 – Youri Tielemans (Monaco to Leicester, loan)
Tielemans joined Leicester on loan, making his move to the King Power permanent in the summer. His current future is unclear, but how influential he has been for the Foxes in recent seasons is clear as day.
If it wasn’t for the loan, Leicester would probably not have paid £32m for the Belgian. His winning goal in the 2021 FA Cup final wins him this particular accolade all by itself – not to undermine his terrific performances in the Premier League.
Youri Tielemans would grace any Premier League team.
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) December 12, 2021
Summer, 2019 – Danny Ings (Liverpool to Southampton, £18m)
Sorry, Joao Cancelo, but picking so many big teams has probably been your undoing here. Plus, you were really expensive.
Ings was growing frustrated at his lack of regular playing time at Anfield, so was loaned to Southampton for the 2018/19 season before signing permanently a year later for a reported £18m.
He struggled with injuries in his first season at St Mary’s, scoring eight in 25 in all competitions. In 2019/20, however, Ings was incredible, netting 22 league goals as the Saints finished 12th. After scoring 12 in 29 the next season, Aston Villa signed the ex-Burnley striker for around £25m. This was despite Ings only having 12 months left on his Saints contract.
Winter, 2020 – Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon to Man Utd, £47m)
Man Utd have made some very questionable signings since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, but Fernandes is probably the best incoming deal made post-Fergie.
The Portugal star needed no time to settle into life in the Premier League, and didn’t lose a single game in the top flight during his first half-season, scoring eight and assisting seven in 14 matches.
United finished second in Fernandes’ first full season, as he contributed to 29 goals. He has slowed down since Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford, but at his absolute best, was keeping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a job at times. That is arguably a reason to be the worst signing of this window…
Summer, 2020 – Raphinha (Rennes to Leeds, £17m)
Chelsea brought in Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva, Man City signed Ruben Dias and West Ham bought Czech duo Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek, but Raphinha’s move to Leeds just edges this window.
The Brazilian winger has been an absolute steal at £17m, and could single-handedly keep the Yorkshire club in the Premier League this season, with Kalvin Phillips out with a long-term injury.
Happy 25th birthday to Leeds superstar Raphinha. 🇧🇷🤩
92 chances created
91 successful take-ons
57 tackles won
51 times fouled
39 shots on-target
16 big chances created
13 goals ⚽️
10 assists 🅰️
2 free-kick goals 💫https://t.co/sbxOfiIPd1 | #LUFC pic.twitter.com/hN9flGuUD2
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) December 14, 2021
Winter, 2021 – Jesse Lingard (Man Utd to West Ham, loan)
Lingard was close to quitting football during lockdown in 2020 as he couldn’t get a sniff at Man Utd. He fell back in love with the beautiful game thanks to his loan spell at the London Stadium, but the move wasn’t just beneficial for the player – who also broke back into the England squad thanks to the move.
The attacking midfielder contributed to 14 goals in 16 matches for the Hammers, helping them achieve a Europa League spot for this season, where David Moyes’ side are thriving without Lingard.
Joe Willock’s loan to Newcastle is worth a mention, as his goals played a huge part in the Magpies’ survival last term.
Summer, 2021 – Demarai Gray (Bayer Leverkusen to Everton, £1.8m)
The transfer window most fresh in our minds will be the hardest to judge as players have only been with their new club for a few months, but Gray’s move to Everton is looking like one of the shrewdest pieces of business in recent Premier League history.
Aaron Ramsdale’s switch to Arsenal and the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford could have pipped Gray here, but the winger’s performances have been a positive in an otherwise bitterly disappointing season for the Toffees. £1.8m as well? What a purchase.