With the Premier League season now behind us it is a perfect time to look back on what will go down as one of the greatest league seasons we have ever seen.
There can be little doubt that the side who performs best in the two transfer windows will be a side to contend within the league, while clubs who squander their cash on exotic foreign duds are usually left licking their wounds in May.
So here we look at the five best signings of the season, as well as the five worst.
The little Brazilian wizard was targeted by a couple of English clubs last summer, but strangely enough Chelsea weren’t really in the picture until right at the end when they unveiled him. It looked for all the world to see that Tottenham and Liverpool would battle it out for the 25-year-old’s signature, but it was the Blues who snatched him at the last minute for £32m ($54m) from unpronounceable Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.
Turn the clock forward eight months and Willian has become a key fixture in a Chelsea midfield that is studded with talent and has earned himself a trip home for the World Cup with Brazil.
Wilfried Bony (Swansea)
Now, Swansea may not be the most glamorous team in the Premier League, or even a team that many people outside of Britain had ever heard of until recently. But under former manager Michael Laudrup they had won a place in the Europa League and thus were propelled into the world of the big money foreign signings. Bony set Swansea back £12m ($20m), but has more than paid this back with his 17 Premier League goals helping to keep the Welsh side in the division.
Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace)
This is another less-than-glamorous pick, but Puncheon has been a big part of Crystal Palace’s success this season and has helped them defy the odds to avoid relegation. He cost just £1.75m ($2.9m) from Premier League rivals Southampton, who clearly deemed him surplus to requirements. The winger has gone on to score seven goals for Palace in the league, including three in 1-0 wins over Aston Villa, Hull City and Stoke City. Of course, fans will remember his horrendous penalty against Tottenham, which sailed so high and wide of the goal it looked like a Mason Crosby field goal attempt. Other than that, though, he was excellent.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Once again, Chelsea let arguably the best striker in their squad go out on loan to a Premier League rival. Last year, Lukaku tore up the league with West Brom and despite Jose Mourinho having virtually no goal-scoring strikers at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku was allowed to go out on loan to a gleeful Everton.
The Belgian scored 15 league goals for the Toffees to propel them to fifth place in the league, and when you consider how small their budget is when compared with the top four that result is miraculous. It is hard to imagine that Lukaku will be shipped out again next season, especially with Chelsea’s goalscoring troubles.
Steven Caulker (Cardiff)
Given that Cardiff were relegated, you may be wondering why I’ve included Caulker, who cost £8m ($13.5m) from Tottenham in the summer. Simply put, if Cardiff were made up of players who performed as well as Caulker then they wouldn’t have found themselves in the mess that they’re in. He blocked more shots than any other Premier League defender and, along with goalkeeper David Marshall, brought some respect to an often diabolical Cardiff side.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Norwich City)
Believe it or not, the 25-year-old Dutchman was touted by the likes of Manchester United not so long ago, so it was somewhat of a surprise when lowly Norwich City signed him for £8.5m ($14.3m) from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon. It all looked so promising when he scored on his Premier League debut against Everton in August, but since then he has scored precisely zero goals in Norwich’s relegation plight, despite playing in 24 more games.
Andreas Cornelius (Cardiff City)
Signed for £7.5m ($12.6m) from FC Copenhagen, Cornelius was seen as the striker who would fire Cardiff to great things in their first Premier League season. In reality the Dane made only eight appearances for the Bluebirds, all from the bench, and didn’t score once in his torrid spell in south Wales. In January he was sold back to FC Copenhagen for a huge loss, where he seems to have rediscovered his form, scoring four goals in 12 appearances.
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
This signing wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it weren’t for Fellaini’s inspirational performances for Everton over the last few seasons. New (and former) Manchester United manager David Moyes spent £27.5m ($46.3m) in bringing the big-haired Belgian to Old Trafford and then almost immediately regretted it as he put in a series of seriously inadequate performances. Things didn’t really improve towards the end of the year, but he will probably get a chance to redeem himself next year thanks to his excellent history.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
This selection may not win me any friends, but having spent £42.5m ($71.5m) on the German playmaker, Arsene Wenger would have expected more than what he got. After starting with a bang in his first few games for the Gunners, former Real Madrid star Ozil looked a little out of place for most of the season, contributing only nine assists. Most international stars do take a little time to acclimatise to the English style of football, so I anticipate that Ozil’s class will shine through next season, we just didn’t see enough of it this year.
Erik Lamela (Tottenham)
Spurs were certainly not shy when it came to spending the warchest from Gareth Bale’s mega-money move to Real Madrid. In fairness, any number of the players that Tottenham brought in could have found themselves on this list, but Lamela really took the biscuit. Since signing for £26m ($44m) from Italian side Roma, Lamela has made just nine league appearances for Tottenham, scoring no goals in the process. The Argentine didn’t feature in the whole second half of the season, with ‘back trouble’ cited as the reason for his absence since January.
Dishonorable mentions: Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Kim Kallstrom (Arsenal), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) and Roberto Soldado (Tottenham)