Does It Matter To Sign Super Star Player?
European transfer market will officially open today. Though many deals have been sorted before that July 1 date, time will now tick on towards Thursday, Aug. 31 when the window slams shut.
It has already been a market flush with inflated prices. Liverpool paid £36 million for Roma’s Mohamed Salah; Manchester United are expected to part with £40m for Nemanja Matic, a player essentially surplus to requirements at Chelsea; Kyle Walker’s move from Tottenham is Manchester City mooted at a price of £50m.
When such fees are being splashed out, instant results are expected from the recruit. Conventional wisdom dictates that a player will perform better when given a full preseason with his new coaches and teammates, but do the biggest deals of the last 10 summer Premier League transfer windows show that? Or does it not matter when a superstar is signed?
2007: Fernando Torres — Atletico Madrid to Liverpool — £26.5m, July 4.
Rafael Benitez made sure he got this deal wrapped up nice and early and was rewarded with a superlative first season from Torres, a couple of niggling injuries notwithstanding. Torres’ 24 Premier League goals set a record for an incoming foreign striker’s first season. During this season and the next, Liverpool enjoyed Torres at his height.
2008: Robinho — Real Madrid to Manchester City — £32.5m, Sept. 1.
Having been taken over that very morning by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour, City’s dash to try and sign players provided the craziest day in Transfer Deadline Day history. Having been beaten to the punch by Manchester United for Dimitar Berbatov, Robinho was snapped up from Real Madrid. A last-minute impulse purchase proved itself hasty as, beyond a few flourishes, the Brazilian was wholly unsuited to English football. By January 2010, Robinho was loaned out to former club Santos and left for a €15m move to Milan not long after.
2009: Carlos Tevez — Manchester United to Manchester City — £25.5m July 14.
Technically, Tevez was a free agent, his “loan” at United from MSI, the agency that owned his economic rights, having expired on July 1. The swiftly-done deal was reported to be worth £25.5m before reports then claimed it was actually up to £47m, though that was disputed by club and agent Kia Joorabchian. What City got for their money was a player who irked Sir Alex Ferguson upon arriving, bagged over 20 goals in his first two seasons and captained City to winning the FA Cup in 2011.
2010: Yaya Toure — Barcelona to Manchester City — £28m, July 2.
Another deal sorted at the start of the window proved to be one of the best in City’s history. While Barcelona played him in defence and defensive midfield, under Roberto Mancini’s management, Toure swiftly became the heartbeat of a team that ended a 35-year trophy drought. Enjoying his attacking midfield role, Toure scored the goals that beat United in the semifinal and Stoke in that 2011 final.
2011: Sergio Aguero — Atletico Madrid to Manchester City — £38m, July 28.
Aguero was signed as City completed their preseason duties, and it was obvious as soon as he scored two goals in a 30-minute cameo off the bench in a 4-0 defeat of Swansea for his debut that City would have one of the best strikers in the Premier League in their ranks. He would, of course, close the season by scoring the last-gasp winner in a 3-2 victory over QPR that won the title in dramatic fashion.
2012: Eden Hazard — Lille to Chelsea — £32m, July 1.
Which club Hazard might move to had been debated throughout the spring of 2011, with Manchester United his expected destination, before in the style of NBA star Lebron James, Hazard announced he was joining Chelsea on social media. United turned to Robin van Persie, tempted from Arsenal for £24m five days ahead of the new season. Van Persie fitted United like a glove and fired them to the title, while Hazard performed promisingly but not entirely convincingly in a troubled Chelsea season.
2013: Mesut Ozil — Real Madrid to Arsenal, £42.5m — Sept. 2.
Signing Ozil was perhaps Arsene Wenger’s greatest coup in the transfer market, though also his most expensive. Completed hours before the window’s closure, Ozil became an instant hero at the Emirates and has gone to make 42 assist in the Premier League. He lost form and fitness in that first February and March, which betrayed a lack of readiness for the physical demands of the English game, and continues to divide Arsenal fans with his performances.
2014: Angel Di Maria — Real Madrid to Manchester United — £59.7m, Aug. 26.
Di Maria ranks as perhaps the most disappointing signing United have ever made. Cashed in to fund Real’s James Rodriguez swoop, the Argentine struggled with English football and life in Manchester. Curiously, though, he played his best football for United in his early weeks, including a delightful chip at Leicester, having joined with the season already ongoing. Soon confused by Louis van Gaal’s complicated philosophies, Di Maria cut a reluctant figure and was sold to PSG at a £15m loss a year later.
2015: Kevin De Bruyne — Wolfsburg to Manchester City — £52m, Aug. 30.
De Bruyne’s signing always appeared a fait accompli, a question of bartering, though City ended up paying handsomely for him. His first season at City was interrupted by a January knee injury that ruled him out for three months. Before that there were intermittent flashes of brilliance. Last season, after a summer at Euro 2016 with Belgium and then working with Pep Guardiola, he delivered a similar campaign of brilliance weighed against inconsistency and injury. It feels as if City are yet to see the best of him.
2016: Paul Pogba — Juventus to Manchester United — £89.3m, Aug. 8.
Following an entire summer of speculation, Pogba’s transfer from Juventus was all but confirmed as United prepared to kick off their Community Shield victory over Leicester. Pogba and United were far better prepared for the social media splash that greeted his return — “#pogback” — than where he might actually play in Jose Mourinho’s team. United’s manager tried him in several different configurations, as Pogba struggled to rein in his free-spiritedness for the good of the team. Pogba also finished the campaign with doubts against his temperament in the big games, though did shine in a 2-0 April defeat of eventual champions Chelsea and in United’s strangling of Ajax in the Europa League final, won by the same scoreline.
The above evidence suggests that a player signed at the start of a summer has a better chance of hitting the ground running and, beyond that, sustaining his impact on the team. While some late purchases have had initial success, the foundation work of getting used to new surroundings appears to be the best means of getting better bang for your buck.
All eyes were on Pogba as he returns to the Premier League, but struggled to rein in his free spiritedness for the good of the team. Pogba also finished the campaign with doubts against his temperament in the big games