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21 best signings of the Premier League season, Chelsea star leads – ranked

21 best signings of the Premier League season, Chelsea star leads - ranked

There’s been a lot of focus on poor Premier League signings over the past few seasons. Most of these sins have been committed by Chelsea and Manchester United, though these recruitment blunders have been witnessed throughout the league.

This seems to prove how difficult it can be to get good value for your money when every selling club knows how well-resourced you are. However, it’s not all bad news for Premier League sporting directors. Amid this deluge of disappointment, there’s been other signings that have thrived at their new clubs during the 2023-24 season.

From free agents rekindling the magic of their youth, to record-breaking fees being forgotten about in a matter of games, take a look at some of the players that have bucked the trend. Here are the 21 best signings of the Premier League season:

21Callum Hudson-Odoi – Nottingham Forest (£5m)

Nottingham Forest haven’t always been the smartest in the transfer market, but their signing of Hudson-Odoi will go down as one of the best-value deals in recent Premier League history. The Tricky Trees paid Chelsea just £5 million ($6.3m) for the winger’s services this summer, a quite incredible price considering he counts towards their homegrown quota and was once courted by Bayern Munich.

And after several years of toil following a damaging Achilles injury, Hudson-Odoi has repaid the faith shown in him by Forest, chipping in with a string of important goals. He saved his best display for one of Forest’s most-important games of the season too, notching a match-winning brace against Sheffield United in early May.

20Justin Kluivert – Bournemouth (£10m)

Bournemouth had a busy summer, making nine signings as Andoni Iraola attempted to stamp his identity on the squad. Not all of his new arrivals have been hits, but Kluivert – one of his cheapest additions – deserves praise for establishing himself as the Cherries’ go-to No.10 during the second half of the season.

Bournemouth have never lost a game in which the Dutchman has scored whilte his work-rate without the ball also suits him well to Iraola’s master plan. There’s still improvements to be made in his game, but after registering his best seasonal goal return since leaving Ajax as a youngster, all the signs are positive heading into the new season.

19Joao Pedro – Brighton (£30m)

After being linked with a move away from Watford for what felt like an eternity, Joao Pedro finally upped sticks and joined Brighton last summer. The Seagulls did well to secure the Brazilian’s signature, with a host of top Premier League clubs taking a look at the forward at some point over the past few years – and his performances since arriving show why.

Pedro scored in every one of his side’s Europa League group-stage games, including an 88th-minute winner against Marseille, which gave Brighton fans one of the best nights in recent memory. He’s chipped with a decent amount of Premier League goals too, including the dagger in a 4-1 victory over rivals Crystal Palace, with that strike helping him reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his young career.

 

18Adam Wharton – Crystal Palace (£22m)

He may have only arrived in the Premier League at the tail end of the January transfer window, but Wharton has still done enough to warrant inclusion on this list. After a tricky start on his debut against rivals Brighton, where he was responsible for one of the Seagulls’ four goals, he quickly became one of Oliver Glasner’s most important players.

Drawing similarities to Declan Rice, Wharton’s well-rounded, dominant midfield displays have even seen him mentioned as a wildcard pick for England’s Euro 2024 squad. One thing’s for sure, a few Premier League clubs will be cursing themselves for allowing Palace to sign him practically unopposed this winter.

17Matheus Cunha – Wolves (£44m)

Cunha initially joined Wolves on loan in January 2023 and struggled to make much of an impact in the Premier League, scoring just twice in 17 appearances. But under the guidance of incoming head coach Gary O’Neil, he’s shown his true ability this season.

Wolves have struggled for goals in recent years and Cunha’s contributions have helped finally address that problem. He reached double figures in the league with a brace against Nottingham Forest, and even netted a hat-trick in the thrilling 4-2 victory over Chelsea back in February. That he was left out of Brazil’s squad for this summer’s Copa America speaks more to the depth of attacking options available to manager Dorival Junior than his own ability.

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16Jeremy Doku – Manchester City (£55.5m)

Unless you’re Erling Haaland, it’s accepted that any player joining Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City requires time to digest the all-conquering coach’s demanding instructions. Doku, however, did not require any bedding-in period, making an immediate impact in his new surroundings.

“He applies feedback immediately, he understands the game really well. I don’t want to change how he is, every game he has played he has played well, especially here at home,” Guardiola said after Doku notched an outstanding four assists during a 6-1 victory over Bournemouth in November.

His fearless directness has given City a fresh element to their attack, and while his form has tailed off slightly as the season has wore on, the Belgian should be ready to properly take over the Premier League when the new campaign kicks-off.

15Edson Alvarez – West Ham (£35m)

West Ham were handed the impossible task of replacing their best player and captain this summer. And largely, you’d have to say that they’ve done fairly well. James Ward-Prowse – snapped up from relegated Southampton – was excellent during the opening months of the season, while Alvarez has also helped fill the void left by Declan Rice’s move to Arsenal.

Only a handful of Premier League midfielders have registered more tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes this term, while the Mexico international’s tireless work rate off the ball has also made him an instant hit with the supporters. The mood may be slightly deflated at West Ham currently, but Alvarez is part of a talented crop of players that David Moyes’ replacement will have at their disposal next season as the Hammers look to re-establish themselves in the top seven.

14Murillo – Nottingham Forest (£15m)

Murillo joined Forest in the summer with just 27 senior appearances under his belt for boyhood club Corinthians. Few would have expected the Brazilian to feature in a meaningful capacity this season, then, but after being introduced to the starting XI against Brentford back in October, he’s scarcely missed a minute.

The left-footed centre-back possesses an eminently watchable combination of technical poise and defensive ruthlessness. Equally comfortable striding out from the back or throwing his body in front of a shot in the box, the only negative from Forest fans’ perspective is that he’ll surely be snapped up by one of Europe’s big boys this summer. At least they’ll be due a sizable and much-needed financial windfall when that does happen.

13James Maddison – Tottenham (£40m)

Were it not for an ankle injury picked up in November, Maddison would no doubt be significantly higher on this list. Snapped up by Spurs for a reasonable fee following Leicester’s relegation, he was Tottenham’s best player as they went on a 10-game unbeaten run to kick-off this season.

But Maddison has not been the same since suffering that knock in a dramatic 4-1 defeat to Chelsea. He’s still had his moments, but has actually found himself out of the team at times towards the end of the campaign. Regardless, with a full pre-season to fully recover, he should form part of what could be a seriously exciting 2024-25 for Tottenham.

12Wataru Endo – Liverpool (£16m)

Emerging as an apparent stop-gap for Liverpool after they missed out on the signings of Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia to Chelsea, Endo has defied the modest expectations placed on him at the beginning of the season.

After a slow start, the former Stuttgart man broke into the first team just before Christmas, with his presence at the base of midfield allowing Jurgen Klopp to get more out of Alexis Mac Allister in a more advanced role.

The German summed up Endo’s underrated contributions perfectly after his side’s Carabao Cup final triumph over Chelsea. “I’m pretty sure in three [or] four years Wataru will sign another long-term contract at Liverpool. Just because he might be 30 or 31 on his passport, but he’s not. He’s a machine,” he said.

“He is footballing-wise exceptional. His defensive brain is outstanding. He gives us a lot of freedom for a lot of things. Yeah, top development. Very helpful, very helpful.”

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11Pedro Porro – Tottenham (£39m)

During his initial loan spell in the second half of last season, it was difficult to see what all the fuss was about when it came to Porro. However, freed from the dysfunction that was plaguing Spurs at the time, Porro has been absolutely sublime this season.

Only a select few Premier League performers have completed more tackles than the Spaniard, and his contributions with the ball have been equally eye-catching. Instructed to invert in possession by Ange Postecoglou, Porro is a key cog in his team’s build-up, though he’s also been decisive in the final third, racking up an impressive number of assists.

10Mohammed Kudus – West Ham (£38m)

Kudus’ final act in an Ajax shirt was scoring a thrilling hat trick in a 4-1 Europa League qualification victory over Bulgarian side Ludogorets. It had West Ham fans salivating ahead of his £38m ($47.4m) move, and the Hammers faithful have been treated to a string of similarly magic moments from the Ghanaian during his first season at the club.

He was introduced to the team slowly by David Moyes, much to some fans’ frustration, but he’s now one of the team’s most important pieces. More than that, though, his ability to do the unexpected has kept fans engaged during what has been a sometimes challenging season.

9Pau Torres – Aston Villa (£31.5m)

Aston Villa’s progress since Unai Emery took over has been relentless. The addition of Torres to their backline was an important part of this process, with the long-time Manchester United target’s distribution unmatched by most defenders in the Premier League.

It’s not just his passing that’s made him such a success either. Torres has a masterful grasp of Emery’s offside trap, a ploy which has got the better of a host of the division’s best centre-forwards. Villa will be very satisfied that they managed to sign the ex-Villarreal man ahead of the host of top clubs that were also interested last summer.

8Guglielmo Vicario – Tottenham (£17.2m)

Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham all opted to change goalkeepers this summer. And after being linked with several higher-profile names, Spurs eventually settled on Empoli stopper Vicario as their new No.1.

Despite a lack of hype, it soon became clear that Tottenham had chosen very wisely. Hugo Lloris’ inability to play out from the back would have always made him a difficult fit for Ange Postecoglou’s frightfully high line, and Vicario’s arrival has played a pivotal role in making this bold approach work.

His goalkeeping basics have been impressive too, and while the Italian does need to prove he can command his box to an elite level, with teams punishing Tottenham from set-pieces during the run-in, he’s still been an inspired signing.

7Kai Havertz – Arsenal (£65m)

“Now don’t jump down my throat when I say this, let me finish the statement: Havertz is the new Ozil… without the talent.” That was disgraced Sky Sports broadcaster Richard Keys’ take on the German back in August – and he was far from the only one piling in on the former Chelsea forward during the early part of the season.

After Christmas, though, Havertz began to put those challenging beginnings behind him, piecing together a string of outstanding displays. Now, he’s well into double figures for goals and has also racked up a decent number of assists. Havertz’s importance goes beyond stats, though. While leading the line in the final third of the season, he has allowed those around him to thrive, giving Arteta’s side a physical presence up front and creating space with his intelligent runs.

Yes, he likely will have wanted to score a few more goals, but it’s now hard to argue that his signing has not been a success.

6Ross Barkley – Luton Town (free)

Barkley’s resurgence at Luton has been one of the most uplifting stories of the Premier League season. Once tipped as English football’s next big thing, his career hit the rocks following a surprising move to Chelsea in 2018.

He showed flashes of promise with Nice last season, but nothing compared to his heroics for the Hatters over the past few months. The beating heart of Rob Edwards’ underdogs, Barkley has added some much-needed spark to Luton’s ranks and, perhaps more importantly, managed to stay fit for the entire season. He’s perhaps not done quite enough to earn a spot in the England squad this summer, but he’d have no shortage of Premier League suitors should his current side get relegated.

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5David Raya – Arsenal (loan)

Mikel Arteta’s ruthless decision to dispense with Arsenal No.1 Aaron Ramsdale last summer was met with widespread outcry. At one point, amid Raya’s shaky start to life at the Emirates, Ramsdale’s father even got involved.

But, in the end, Arteta’s decision has been entirely vindicated. Raya’s distribution has been exceptional all year long, while he’s also dealt with crosses into the box expertly. He is guaranteed to receive the Premier League Golden Glove at the end of the season, which is evidence of the sterling job he’s done answering his doubters.

4Micky van de Ven – Tottenham (£34.5m)

It’s hard to think of a player more integral to how their team plays than Van de Ven. And when you consider he’s only been at Tottenham for a matter of months, this fact is even more impressive.

No striker in the Premier League is capable of beating the Dutchman in a foot race, with Van de Ven acting as a failsafe when the opposition bypasses Tottenham’s high defensive line. It’s little surprise that Spurs won just four of the nine games he missed with a hamstring injury in November and December.

3Alexis Mac Allister – Liverpool (£35m)

In a summer where midfielders were being exchanged for over £100m ($125m), Liverpool snapping up Mac Allister for less than half of that is pretty astounding. And while the Argentine was not as expensive as the likes of Declan Rice, Romeo Lavia and Moises Caicedo, he’s still made a sizeable impact to his team’s fortunes.

While his team-mates allowed pressure to get the best of them during the title run-in, Mac Allister has invariably kept a cool head, dictating things from the heart of the Reds’ midfield. Jurgen Klopp has certainly been satisfied with the club’s investment, saying recently: “Alexis is exactly the player I hoped he would be; super-influential, super-smart, great guy. [He] loves playing for Liverpool as well, which is really important.

“He’s a rhythm-giver, he’s a difference-maker, [he] can control moments of the game. [He is] always there, always involved, nothing is too much for him, he’s really a top, top, top player. But we had that sense when we signed him and he fulfilled all our expectations and more.”

2Cole Palmer – Chelsea (£42.5m)

At first, Palmer appeared to be the most inconsequential piece of business Chelsea did all summer. The Blues only turned their attentions to the Man City bench warmer after seeing their Michael Olise approach rebuffed by Crystal Palace, and he was one of the last of 11 fresh arrivals through the door at Stamford Bridge.

However, he has turned out to be their most impactful signing in years. With a team often lacking structure and coherence around him, Palmer has still managed to shine brightly, even challenging the brilliant Erling Haaland for the Premier League Golden Boot.

When he missed a trip to Arsenal in April due to injury, Pochettino challenged his squad to prove they were not: “Cole Palmer Football Club.” Chelsea would go on to lose 5-0, underlining just how much they would have struggled without their unexpected offensive talisman this season.

1Declan Rice – Arsenal (£100m)

“If I had to describe him with a picture it would be a lighthouse, this is how I see him,” Mikel Arteta said of his club’s record signing back in February. “When I was envisioning the squad, how can I explain him? How can I see him in the team?

“His pressing, he’s overlooking everything, he’s bringing light and clarity and guidance for everybody. That’s his biggest quality. He is a leader, he’s still very young and a lot to you, but he’s got the right foundations to become an incredible player for us.”

It’s a completely fair assessment of Rice’s incredible influence in north London. Such has been his dominance, his price tag is already irrelevant. In fact, West Ham probably have the right to feel a little short-changed, even if they received a nine-figure fee for the England international last summer.

Regardless of where in midfield he’s been deployed, Rice has consistently stood out as Arsenal’s main man, with his presence helping elevate Arteta’s side to an even greater level over the past nine months.

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