It is transfer deadline day which means that once again, the best clubs in the country will be scrambling around to get deals done, like a panicking dad on Christmas Eve. But some cracking deals could be on the horizon and to get you in the mood, we’ve put together an eleven of the greatest Premier League signings – ever.
GK – Petr Cech (£7m)
Edwin Van der Sar was good. Peter Schmeichel was better. But Petr Cech? He was the best. In the summer splurge of 2004, the Czech number one joined for £7m to provide competition to Carlo Cudicini. He ended up being the first choice in the greatest defence we have ever seen in this country.
How Cantona made Manchester United the best in England
Jamie Carragher on England regret and Gary Neville
The unique madness of deadline day
The stats are certainly on his side. Chelsea conceded just 15 goals on their way to the 2004/05 title and Cech went on to make the most appearances of any keeper in the competition’s history. He also has the most clean sheets (202) and is one of only two players, along with Ben Foster, to have made over 1000 saves. He also came back from that head injury to establish himself as the finest keeper in the division. £7m for 15 years in the Premier League? That’s astonishing value for money.
RB – Branislav Ivanovic (£9m)
This was a really tough one. Pablo Zabaleta was a bargain buy at £6.45m, but for just £3m more in the same summer, Chelsea bought Ivanovic. The Serbian was an imperious defender, but he was just as impactful at the other end, scoring key goals in big moments for the Blues.
He was crucial in the Champions League win in 2012 and scored the winning goal in the 2013 Europa League final. A colossus of a defender and a scorer for crucial goals.
CB – Rio Ferdinand (£30m)
Making the move from Leeds United to Manchester United is about as tricky as it gets for a professional footballer (more on that later), so when Ferdinand moved for £30m in 2002 – a British transfer record – expectations were high. To put that fee in perspective, it is the equivalent of spending £132m now on a centre-back, but Rio proved to be worth every penny.
He was quick, strong and good on the ball, which made him the perfect progressive partner for Nemanja Vidic. Six Premier League titles and one Champions League later, he goes down as a United great.
CB – Vincent Kompany (£7.65m)
In 2008-09, Kompany’s first season in English football, Manchester City finished tenth. Eleven years later he left having established them as the dominant force domestically and as one of their greatest ever players. The statue outside will attest to that.
Joining from Hamburg for £7.65m, barely an eyebrow was raised upon his arrival. But it was a signing that would alter the landscape of the Premier League. He wasn’t as eye-catching as Robinho, as clinical as Sergio Aguero or as magnificent as David Silva, but he was the perfect man to lead City into a new era and beyond.
LB – Ashley Cole (£5m + William Gallas)
Cole was brilliant at Arsenal. Exceptional. The best left-back in the world. But after a long and drawn out transfer saga that saw fines handed out left, right and centre, he made the move for a bargain fee. Arsenal had been holding out for a fee of £25m but shook hands on £5m + William Gallas in August 2006.
Bargain of the century. Cole won a Champions League, a Europa League, a Premier League and four FA Cups to add to his haul at Arsenal. There still hasn’t been a left-back better than Cole in the top flight.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne (£68m)
"Manchester City paying so much money for Kevin De Bruyne is an absolute joke. I thought he was out of his depth at Chelsea. He never once went out on the pitch and looked like he belonged there."
That was Paul Merson describing City signing De Bruyne from Wolfsburg in 2015. Seven years later he is the best central midfielder on the planet and has been for some time. He has taken Man City up a level and has been the beating heart of a side that has won four of the past five league titles.
CM – Patrick Vieira (£3.5m)
When the tall Frenchman rocked up at Highbury in 1996 from Ajax, few would imagine the revolution he would lead at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger rocked up a few months later but the Gunners had already seen a glimpse of their new midfield superstar. Together the French pairing knocked Manchester United off their perch, first winning the double and then becoming invincible. Not bad for £3.5m.
CM – Frank Lampard (£11m)
When he joined Man City… cor. Only joking. Lampard joined Chelsea in 2001 for £11m, which was a hefty fee at the time, but he went on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players. He won everything, scored a ridiculous 177 goals from midfield and became a shining light under Jose Mourinho. 13 years at Stamford Bridge, less than one million per season and a Champions League winners’ medal to boot. Not bad.
FW – Cristiano Ronaldo (£17m)
With terrible hair and even worse jeans, Cristiano Ronaldo looked like a left-field character from Friends when he arrived at Old Trafford, but he left as a Ballon d’Or winner and the most expensive player in history. He needed his schooling at United under Sir Alex Ferguson, where the likes of Roy Keane taught him a few lessons about toughening up.
When he came out the other side, he wasn’t just the best in the Premier League, he was the best in the world. His £80m move in 2009 to Real Madrid meant we didn’t even get to see him at his peak in England, but it was still quite the sight. One of United’s truly genius transfers.
FW – Eric Cantona (£1m to £1.2m)
It started with Leeds United making an enquiry about signing Denis Irwin and finished with Manchester United completing the most monumental transfer of the Premier League era. Cantona was untouchable, having just won the First Division title with Leeds, as far as United were concerned. By all accounts they asked in hope rather than expectation.
24 hours later, he was their player for £1m, if you believe Manchester United, or £1.2m if you believe Leeds. Either way, it was far too cheap. But it was what Cantona did to United that made him the greatest Premier League signing of the lot. Fergie had to get the best out of a fiery temperament that saw him kick a Crystal Palace fan in 1995, but he fired United to four Premier League titles, including the first three of the new era.
FW – Thierry Henry (£11m)
"No, number one is not Alan Shearer – number one is Thierry Henry,” Jamie Carragher told The Sportsman. “Thierry Henry is the best player to have ever played in the Premier League so when I see this debate, that is not even a debate. Thierry Henry is the best striker to ever play in the Premier League and it is not even a debate."
When he joined in 1999, Arsene Wenger’s French revolution had already begun. But Henry was the shining light of it all. As Carragher states, he is the greatest we have ever seen on these shores. He had everything. He was unstoppable. What more needs to be said about Thierry Henry?