The Premier League’s top ‘wow factor’ signings

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August 3, 2021
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    PL stunning signingsRobinho, Alan Shearer, Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba have all made waves with big moves

    Football transfers can do many things; they can inspire, galvanise and shock.

    In the social media age, interest in who goes where and for how much is almost as high as results on the pitch, and some deals have really made the watching world sit up and take notice.

    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)

    Robinho Man CityRobinho was loaned to former club Santos in January 2010 before joining AC Milan

    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)

    Andriy Shevcheko ChelseaAndriy Shevchenko scored nine goals and registered seven assists in 48 Premier League games

    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)

    Alan Shearer NewcastleAlan Shearer scored 206 goals in 10 years at Newcastle

    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)

    Virgil van Dijk LiverpoolVirgil van Dijk has made 187 tackles in the Premier League

    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)

    Veron Manchester UnitedJuan Sebastian Veron scored eight goals in 58 Premier League appearances for Manchester United and Chelsea

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    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)

    Tevez and Masdcherano sign for West HamWest Ham were fined a record amount over the transfer of Tevez and Mascherano

    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)

    Campbell Spurs fan reactionSol Campbell has never been forgiven for swapping Tottenham for Arsenal

    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)

    Mesut Ozil at ArsenalMesut Ozil is 32nd on the all-time list of Premier League assists with 54

    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)

    Paul Pogba at Manchester UnitedPaul Pogba averages 61.45 passes per match in the Premier League

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    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 shoots for Man UtdWayne Rooney scored 253 goals for Manchester United

    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)

    Ravanelli BoroFabrizio Ravanelli scored 16 goals in 33 games in his only season at Middlesbrough

    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.

    Honourable mentions

    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.

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    69 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • C

      Comment posted by Chris, today at 09:18

      Georgi Kinkladze to Man City00

    • M

      Comment posted by Mort, today at 09:17

      “It was rare for Sir Alex Ferguson to enter the transfer market to sign a genuinely world-class player for a hefty fee”

      Is this a joke LOL

      ManU had a monopoly for years on blowing mega cash on the best home players & foreign talent

      i.e. Berbatov, Carrick, VanNistelroy, Keane, Cole, Yorke… all a hefty price at the time00

    • C

      Comment posted by chippy joe, today at 09:17

      We’re just double checking this comment.

    • W

      Comment posted by Weirdside Wally, today at 09:16

      We’re just double checking this comment.

    • N

      Comment posted by NUTS, today at 09:15

      Why just the Premier League? The transfer of Ardiles and Villa to Spurs in 1978 beats all of these, not to mention Greaves from AC Milan to Spurs in 1962!00

    • K

      Comment posted by Keepmenutdaan, today at 09:13

      Klinsmann, Probally still today one of the best to come to the UK.

      he paved they for others to follow10

    • C

      Comment posted by Custard Cream, today at 09:08

      We’re just double checking this comment.

    • A

      Comment posted by Alan, today at 09:01

      The only wow about Van Dijk was that the Premier League turned a blind eye to Liverpool’s blatant tapping up.01

    • R

      Comment posted by Redallover, today at 08:58

      Harry Kane to Man City.22

    • Comment posted by Ghost of Mertz, today at 08:57

      This comment was removed because it broke the rules. Explain

      • I

        Reply posted by in my opinion, today at 09:00

        "This post has been removed."in my opinion replied: straight after Salah I believe20

      More replies (1)

    • B

      Comment posted by BBC ONLINE, today at 08:57

      This article should have been titled The WOW factor, Waste Of Wonga10

    • M

      Comment posted by MetallicaHoop, today at 08:55

      (Sir) Les Ferdinand QPR to Newcastle.

      A) We never recovered
      B) if Keegan hadn’t bought Sasparilla they’d have won the league.00

      • M

        Reply posted by Mick, today at 09:00

        "(Sir) Les Ferdinand QPR to Newcastle. A) We never recoveredB) if Keegan hadn’t bought Sasparilla they’d have won the league."Mick replied: If Phil Neville hadn’t taken out Keith Gillespie on Boxing Day.10

    • H

      Comment posted by Herecomesthesun, today at 08:55

      Andy Goram- Rangers to Man Utd00

    • C

      Comment posted by CurtisC, today at 08:53

      Ravenelli and Tevez/Mascherano were genuine surprise transfers…

      These days there is such an overload of speculation to feed ‘content generation objectives & 24/7 news cycles’ that nothing is a surprise or shock…. Look at Sancho, surprised someone has not written an article about where he goes after completing his 6yr contract.30

    • D

      Comment posted by DeShurland, today at 08:50

      Juninho to M’boro.10

    • T

      Comment posted by tracey, today at 08:49

      Errr .. Denis Berkgamp ??? Joke article …
      Still better than an Al Obvious Shrearer interview tho !!10

    • D

      Comment posted by deejohnny, today at 08:49

      Dwight Yorke to Man U £12m?11

    • P

      Comment posted by Prettyboy, today at 08:38

      The MOST exciting premier league transfers EVER??. What a funny way to build your career Mr Harry De cosemo.11

    • J

      Comment posted by jambo1, today at 08:35

      Pogba a WOW signing??????
      Rooney questionable coming from United nursery team.03

    • N

      Comment posted by Norm77, today at 08:34

      Some of these names picked out would be a better fit on the Premier leagues worst transfer list.41

    More commentsBack to top


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