The transfer market may seem to have been quiet this summer, Manchester City’s splurge aside, but clubs have definitely broadened their horizons compared to 12 months ago. Then, most big deals were between Premier League clubs, managers working on the accepted premise that they were better advised signing players who were either native to the English game, or already adapted to the rigours of this demanding league.
City led the way, signing Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz, Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Kolo Touré from league rivals, for a cumulative £120m-odd. But, as that list illustrates, the policy was hardly an unqualified success. Nor did Stewart Downing (£12m) and Peter Crouch (£10m) justify their fees. Indeed, only Darren Bent (£10m) and Antonio Valencia (£16m) can be said to have paid off in the big domestic deals.
So perhaps it is no accident that many clubs have reverted to the more speculative (but usually cheaper) overseas market. They will be hoping to unearth another Thomas Vermaelen, the best foreign signing of last summer, rather than be lumbered with an overpriced benchwarmer like Yuri Zhirkov or Alberto Aquilani.
That it is a post-World Cup year is a factor. There will never be a deal to match the impact Tottenham made with Argentinian pair Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in 1978, but a few new faces caught the eye in South Africa, notably the Mexicans Javier Hernandez and Pablo Barrera. David Silva actually arrives with a winner’s medal. This was won from the bench, but the Canary Islander was a key figure in the Euro 2008 triumph. Serbian Milan Jovanovic had a golden moment when scoring against Germany in Port Elizabeth and though team-mate Nikola Zigic did little, at 6ft 8in he will not go unnoticed.
Some signings, like Mauro Boselli andSandro, are virtually unknown and represent significant gambles – but who had heard of Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa, the scorer of last season’s mostremarkable goal, when he arrived at Wigan? Everton’s David Moyes has dipped into the Football League and will hope Jermaine Beckford makes the step up as easily as did Scott Dann and Roger Johnson at Birmingham last season. Also moving up in class is Charlie Adam, not new to Blackpool, but, like his team, new to the Premier League. On pre-season evidence, Hernandez looks the best of the new recruits, though Marouane Chamakh has also shown promise. But first impressions can deceive. Dennis Bergkamp was a slow starter at Arsenal but left a legacy these 10 are unlikely to match.