2021 saw Manchester City and Chelsea spend big. Over £100m spent on Jack Grealish, and the same on Romelu Lukaku. With hefty price tags like that, you’d expect these two to be comfortably the best signings of the season.
Not quite. Grealish hasn’t always been picked, and Lukaku hasn’t bothered playing when he’s been in the team. The Englishman is young enough to avoid the flop label, but the Belgian’s undoubtedly a failure of a signing.
This is especially bad when you consider Chelsea could’ve bought any two players on our list of the season’s best transfers for £100m and still had change. One of them, they wouldn’t even need to buy at all. Let’s see who they should’ve gone for.
#7: Bruno Guimaraes to Newcastle
When Newcastle joined the ranks of the super-rich clubs, people scoffed. Who’d want to play in Newcastle, even for all that money? They’re getting relegated anyway.
Bruno wanted to play in Newcastle. And he’s the club’s third top scorer, second most effective tackler, and second best dribbler. Not bad, seeing as he joined in January. Bruno will be a lynchpin of a Newcastle squad that might look very different come August.
#6: Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United
He’s Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s one of the best players in the history of the world, he’s scored 18 goals in 30 games, and it’s not his fault Manchester United aren’t any good any more. That’s it. That’s all there is to say.
#5: Conor Gallagher to Crystal Palace (loan)
The league pyramid is filled with Chelsea loanees, and most of them aren’t any good. Mediocre players at mid-table Championship sides, who’ll take a wage to not play at Chelsea and then end up playing a hundred games for Stoke or Huddersfield.
Then there’s Gallagher. On loan at Palace, he’s broken into the England side, and propelled Viera’s side into an unexpectedly high finish. He’s scored, assisted, made an amazingly high number of fouls (58), and will undoubtedly be a big part of Tuchel’s plans at the Bridge next season.
#4: Rodrigo Bentancur to Tottenham Hotspur
January’s transfer window is always a mixed bag. Last-minute desperation buys are the order of the day, as clubs attempt to plug gaps in their squads with anyone available.
Except Spurs. They brought Rodrigo Bentancur, who bossed their midfield, playing accurate long passes that release Kane and Son to go and do what they do. Spurs fans love him. And rightly so.
#3: Philippe Coutinho to Aston Villa
What do you do if Manchester City poach your best player for £100m? You go out and get a Brazilian winger that’ll get fans out of their seats at Villa Park every game.
5 goals in 19 games is a good return for a winger, and with an option to turn his loan into a steal of a permanent signing, Villa did some very, very smart business.
#2: Luis Diaz to Liverpool
Liverpool expected a lot from their £42m winger. And they got it. Adding yet more attacking flair to a side packed with talent, Diaz was crucial as Liverpool chased (and came within two games of) a very unlikely quadruple.
4 goals and one direct assist isn’t exactly a legendary return for an attacker, but Diaz was involved in nearly a third of Liverpool’s goal with his clever build up play and ability to drag defenders around. A very, very clever signing.
#1: Christian Eriksen to Brentford
How can you top Diaz? Well, he turned a very good team into a very good one. This year’s best transfer turned the pundits’ favourites for relegation into one of the league’s success stories. One goal and four assists in 11 games don’t tell the full story. Attracting a genuine top talent told the world that Brentford isn’t a “tube stop in Hounslow.” Brentford is a Premier League quality club.
If it wasn’t for this inspired signing, would Bees fans need to buy Premier League tickets next season? We’re not too sure.