The summer of 2015 saw a 10% rise in money spent on transfers by clubs from Europe’s top five leagues to take the total to a staggering €2.93bn. With the season now reaching its climax, which purchases have proved the best value for money?
We asked our experts from England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain to list their top four signings of the season, to give us an idea of what is likely to bring clubs success in the market these days. We asked the writers to take into consideration the fee, the age, the salary and the performances of the players.
Big-money signings are – apart from Ángel Di María – conspicuous by their absence and 14 of the 20 transfers picked by our writers came at a cost of less than £10m. In fact the average transfer fee of the 20 best signings is £9.1m with add-ons excluded. The average age of our best signings is 24.65 years.
It is also interesting to note that seven of the 16 players from Germany, France, Spain and Italy are players who, for one reason or another, did not succeed in England. Javier Hernández, Mohamed Salah, Di María, Lassana Diarra, Hatem Ben Arfa, Roberto Soldado and Iago Aspas have prospered since leaving England, which suggests the Premier League clubs are failing to make the most of the expensive players they are signing.
From Caen to Leicester City Fee £5.6m Age 24 Position Midfield
Boasting only a season playing in Ligue 1 for Caen when snapped up by Leicester last August, Kanté has been nothing short of a revelation for his new club. The driving force behind the unlikely title push from Claudio Ranieri’s side, he is tipped for a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad this summer.
From MK Dons to Tottenham Hotspur Fee £5m Age 19 Position Midfield
Before you say it, yes, England’s new brightest young thing was signed last January from MK Dons. But as he was immediately loaned back and did not make his Spurs debut until August, Alli makes the cut after a stunning breakthrough season in the Premier League in which the teenager has scored seven goals and earned a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
From Marseille to West Ham United Fee £10.7m Age 28 Position Forward
Such has Payet’s impact been at Upton Park that he has already been rewarded with a new contract worth up to £125,000 a week despite signing for the club only at the end of June. The forward born on the island of Réunion has racked up nine goals and seven assists for Slaven Bilic’s side in their attempt to bring Champions League football to east London next season.
From Atlético Madrid to Tottenham Hotspur Fee £11.4m Age 27 Position Defender
Southampton looked as though they had managed to secure the Belgium defender who spent the second half of last season on loan at St Mary’s, until Atlético moved the goalposts in the summer. Ronald Koeman’s loss has definitely been Mauricio Pochettino’s gain as Alderweireld has starred at the centre of the Premier League’s meanest backline.
Dimitri Payet scores West Ham’s goal from a 30-year free-kick in their 1-1 FA Cup draw against Manchester United.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Dimitri Payet scores West Ham’s goal from a 30-year free-kick in their 1-1 FA Cup draw against Manchester United at the weekend. Photograph: Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images
From Manchester United to Bayer Leverkusen Fee £9m Age 27 Position Forward
Thanks to Louis van Gaal, Bayer paid a bargain-basement price for one of the world’s most prolific strikers. The Mexican has averaged nearly a goal per game since moving to the BayArena and has made Leverkusen games the most‑watched Bundesliga matches in North and Central America.
From Shakhtar Donetsk to Bayern Munich Fee £22.5m Age 25 Position Forward
In a summer when all of Europe’s top clubs were desperately looking for wingers, Bayern’s technical director, Michael Reschke, hit the jackpot by buying the Brazilian for relatively little. Douglas Costa’s pace is frightening and his ball control makes him a nightmare for defenders.
From 1860 Munich to Borussia Dortmund Fee £1.88m Age 21 Position Midfield
Weigl went from the second division at one of Germany’s most chaotic clubs straight into the starting XI of Thomas Tuchel’s lean, mean, rebooted Dortmund machine. His mature performances in central midfield have belied his age.
From Leipzig to Bayern Munich Fee £6.38m Age 21 Position Midfield
Kimmich wasn’t exactly cheap – he came with enough hype to force Bayern to pay a hefty price – but he has certainly been worth every euro. Under Pep Guardiola, the under-21 international has blossomed into a midfield leader and played as a makeshift centre-back in impressive fashion.
Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa. Photograph: A. Hassenstein/Getty Images for FC Bayern
From Palermo to Juventus Fee £24.8m Age 22 Position Forward
Juventus paid a steep price for a forward who had reached double figures only once in three seasons at Palermo, but he has fully vindicated their faith. Dybala leads Juventus in both goals and assists, and Paul Pogba suggested his team-mate could go on to win the Ballon d’Or one day.
From Real Madrid to Juventus Fee Free Age 28 Position Midfield
Other players signed by Juventus last summer have greater potential – Alex Sandro springs to mind – but to land a 28‑year‑old World Cup winner on a free transfer is simply excellent business. Despite missing games due to injury Khedira has been an assured presence in midfield when available.
From Chelsea to Roma Fee £3.9m loan + right to buy Age 23 Position Winger
Fiorentina were furious when Salah refused to stay last summer despite their holding an option to make his loan from Chelsea permanent. Instead he joined Roma on a similar deal. The fee is high for an initial one-year loan, but his goals and assists have them on course for the top three.
From Roma to Bologna Fee £5m Age 24 Position Forward
Destro initially struggled at Bologna, failing to score in his first 10 appearances. Since Roberto Donadoni’s appointment, however, he has eight goals and three assists in 17 games. Such productivity may trigger bonus fees but Destro has more than repaid them by lifting his team clear of a relegation scrap.
Roma’s Mohamed Salah, right, in action against Real Madrid.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Roma’s Mohamed Salah, right, in action against Real Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters
Ángel Di María
From Manchester United to Paris Saint-Germain Fee £49m Age 28 Position Forward
His impact has been immense at PSG, so much so that when he is absent the team do not perform as well. Goals, assists, pace, skill, passing – Di María has done it all in Ligue 1 already. And his incredible first goal against Angers will remain forever among the best scored in France.
From Unattached to Marseille Fee Free Age 30 Position Midfield
After 15 months without playing football because of a conflict with Lokomotiv Moscow, his former club, Diarra came home and has pretty much bossed every opposition’s midfield since. He has been so good that Didier Deschamps picked him again for the national team, five years after his last cap.
Hatem Ben Arfa
From Unattached to Nice Fee Free Age 28 Position Forward
Redemption No2. After six months without a club because he had already played for Newcastle United reserves and Hull City last season, Ben Arfa has lit up Nice and Ligue 1 this year with feats of dribbling never seen before. He has been Messi‑esque and unstoppable at times.
From Caen to Monaco Fee £3.1m Age 20 Position Forward
Lemar can lay claim to having the sweetest left foot in Ligue 1 along with Di María, Ben Arfa or Lyon’s Nabil Fekir. Monaco bought him for £3.1m, which is a total bargain considering the incredible potential of the France Under‑21 international. He can play anywhere as an offensive midfielder and it is always a delight to watch him.
Thomas Lemar of Monaco
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Thomas Lemar of Monaco. Photograph: Vincent Michel/Icon Sport via Getty Images
From Monaco to Atlético Madrid Fee £11.6m Age 22 Position Forward
Atlético spent more than €100m in the summer, and so far it has not entirely worked. Carrasco would probably be described only as a good signing until now, but there have been glimpses that suggest it will not be long before he is described as an exceptional signing. Exciting, quick and creative, he is a player that Atlético need. The question is: in which position?
From Tottenham to Villarreal Fee £7.8m Age 30 Position Forward
Roberto Soldado returned to Spain and scored on his debut. He also scored the winner against Real Madrid. But it is not really his goals that have stood out this season, it is his assists. Only Luis Suárez, Neymar and Toni Kroos have more in La Liga. He was no bargain but Villarreal are 13 unbeaten in the league, sitting in fourth, and his partnership with Cédric Bakambu has been as good as the club hoped. It has not been exactly as they desired, though. “The truth is that their roles have been reversed compared to what we anticipated at the start,” the manager, Marcelino says. “Assists? I prefer to score goals than give them,” Soldado admits. But it turns out he is not bad at both.
From Atlético Madrid to Eibar Fee Loan Age 23 Position Forward
This season’s best signing could have been Sergi Enrich, Sergio Gontán ‘Keko’ or Borja Bastón, all of whom joined Eibar from second-division clubs for free. Keko has been their greatest attacking and creative threat on the right while Enrich has been the perfect striking partner for Bastón. Bastón has scored more goals than any other Spaniard. More goals than anyone at Atlético as well, the club he belongs to and for whom he made his debut in 2010 only to tear his cruciate ligament that day. This is his fifth consecutive season on loan, at Murcia, Huesca, Deportivo and Zaragoza, all of them in the second division, before joining Eibar. Last year he was top scorer for Zaragoza with 22.
From Sevilla to Celta Vigo Fee £3.9m Age 23 Position Forward
It has been a great transfer for him, anyway. “I came home to be happy, to have playing time, to be with my people. I feel loved here,” Aspas said. After all, he is a local boy and a mad Celta fan. It has been good for them, too, although performances dipped from that early‑season explosion in which Celta put four past Barcelona. Four goals, four assists, and constant movement have been a key part of the team’s success.