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Every Premier League club's most exciting signing ever

Exciting signings
(Image credit: Future)

Transfer season always excites - but perhaps less should be expected post-pandemic. Many clubs have less money to spend, while the biggest clubs are already stocked with talent.

Every team has made an outrageously exciting signing at some point or another, though. Here are our picks for every Premier League side's biggest-ever transfer. 

Arsenal

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Most exciting transfer: The 2013 arrival of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid really felt like the moment the post-Highbury penny-pinching years were laid to rest. A new era arrived with Ozil's signing; one in which the Gunners wouldn't be repeatedly forced to sell their best players. Finally, a fully-blown megastar swanned in during his pomp, fresh off the back of 80 assists in 159 appearances for the Spanish giants. And for a whopping £42m fee – even the price tag felt like a reason to celebrate. Gunners fans went into meltdown.

How it went: In just over 250 appearances for Arsenal, Ozil racked up 77 assists and scored 44 goals, some of them utterly sublime (and yes, we mean the assists too). The German also helped his North London club to four FA Cups in eight years – an astonishing record. Yet he still managed to split the fanbase, with many believing him to be lazy and disinterested at times. Perhaps Premier League fans will look back and really just how good Ozil was with the benefit of hindsight. 

Aston Villa

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Most exciting transfer: Juan Pablo Angel was a pretty big deal but realistically in the early 2000s, no one had actually seen him play - so we’re going to plump for… well, Emi Buendia. It’s not just that Aston Villa smashed their transfer record for an exciting playmaker, it’s everything around it, too. There was little talk of Jack Grealish leaving back then, for a start - and Villa even beat Arsenal to the punch with this one. For a few weeks at least, neutral fans were building fantasy XIs of Villa teams. 

How it went: We’ll wait and see this season… 

Brentford

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Most exciting transfer: After scoring 49 goals in 94 appearances for League One Peterborough, the arrival of Ivan Toney for a hefty £5m in September 2020 got fans dreaming of Premier League football. Toney was exactly what the club needed after the sale of talismanic striker Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa earlier in the window. 

How it went: Toney was an instant hit, winning the Championship golden boot in his first season, with 31 goals, and playing a vital role in Brentford's first-ever promotion to the Premier League. His performances in the coming season will be crucial to their chances of survival. 

Brighton & Hove Albion

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Most exciting transfer: A tricky one but we're saying Neal Maupay. When Brighton landed the Brentford striker, rival fans didn’t so much as bat an eyelid but it was extremely smart business for the Seagulls that told the fanbase that the club were heading in exactly the right direction. He’s still only 22 years old with plenty of room to grow. 

How it went: Maupay has been solid without being spectacular so far but is yet to live up to quite the same heights that he displayed for Brentford. 

Burnley

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Most exciting transfer: Stories of Sir Alex Ferguson coveting a young Steven Defour, during the Belgian creator's time at Anderlecht, were well known when Sean Dyche made him an £8m arrival at Turf Moor in 2016. Injuries had long since curppered any move to Old Trafford, but, on his day, Defour could still dictate games and hurt teams with his range of passing. 

How it went: The midfielder showed his god-given talent in flashes but couldn't stay injury-free long enough to make any lasting impact. Two goals and four assists in just over 50 appearances was scant return for a player of his gifts. 

Chelsea

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Most exciting transfer: Kai Havertz, N’Golo Kante, Hernan Crespo and even Shaun Wright-Phillips have shouts. But for pure, unfiltered excitement, nothing gets close to Fernando Torres. Roman Abramovich had already tried to sign him three times before: by the time he got him in 2011, it felt like a missing puzzle piece. 

How it went: Not exactly to plan. El Nino managed 65 goals in a little over 100 Liverpool league games and only added another 20 for Chelsea in roughly the same amount of time, before being spat out to Milan. Still, he cemented his place in blue hearts for his goal against Barcelona in 2012 - and that, perhaps, was worth the money alone. 

Crystal Palace

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Most exciting signing: Palace fans were purring when the club announced the £11m signing of PSG playmaker Yohan Cabaye in 2015. The Frenchman had oozed class in a previous Premier League spell with Newcastle, prompting the French champions shell out £23m only 18 months earlier. What's more, Cabaye was brought back to England by a manager, Alan Pardew, who had brought the best out of him in the North East. 

How it went: It went... fine. Cabaye looked a little disinterested after his spell at giants PSG yet still turned in some decent performances in South London. Ten goals and six assists in three years spoke of a player somewhat over the hill. 

Everton

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Most exciting transfer: Gary Lineker was a big deal when he signed. Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson were top players - though neither looked transformative and Everton paid slightly over the odds for both. But when Carlo Ancelotti realised he was eligible for a free James Rodiguez, the Colobian became the first global superstar to land at Goodison Park in a generation. 

How it went: The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner was somewhat past his best when he arrived. Toffees fans knew that though: it was the prestige of the man that they were excited for and in the first half of the season, James certainly didn’t disappoint, dictating play on the right for Everton and looking every inch the class act that they’d signed. He faded away with Ancelotti’s goodwill and it’s disappointing that fans never got to be in the ground to witness his class - perhaps they never will, with whispers linking the enigmatic playmaker back out of the Premier League. 

Leeds United

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Most exciting transfer: If coaches were allowed we'd probably plump for Marcelo Bielsa – El Loco's arrival in 2018 was hotly anticipated and it's fair to say he hasn't disappointed. But on the player front there are loads to choose from: Lee Sharpe from Manchester United in 1996, Robbie Fowler from Liverpool in 2001; even Robbie Keane from Inter Milan in the same year as the Liverpool striker. But we'll have to say Rio Ferdinand's transfer from West Ham for £22m in 2000. The England defender was considered a generational talent – a defender with intelligence, pace, composure and aerial threat. 

How it went: Rio shone in a top-heavy side, providing elegance and leadership over 72 appearances in all-white. He was sold to Manchester United at a profit, but Leeds fans will have been pained to watch him hoover up titles during a 11-year-spell at their hated rivals. 

Leicester City

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Most exciting transfer: Leicester City tend to make superstars rather than buy them. Roberto Mancini on loan was pretty special - but Esteban Cambiasso really does take the biscuit. Leicester even kept his no.19 shirt vacant in the hope that the Argentinian schemer would link up in the East Midlands with Nigel Pearson’s promoted side: “The first option was Cambiasso, the second option was Cambiasso, and when I knew this I called my brother/agent and I said, ‘we go there’,” the man himself later said.

How it went: Badly to begin with, as the Foxes found themselves bottom before long. Cambiasso was magnificent in Leicester’s great escape, however, as Pearson guided the club to safety, before being sacked that summer. Cambiasso didn’t stick around either - a shame really, given what was to follow… 

Liverpool

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Most exciting transfer: Stan Colleymore's £11m 1995 arrival from Nottingham Forest had fans licking their lips, but there's no looking past Fernando Torres. The Spaniard was a genuine wonerkid in La Liga, captaining his boyhood club, Atletico Madrid, at the age of 19. He'd scored 76 top-flight goals in Spain before he arrived in Liverpool, aged 23, for £32m. Reds fans were ecstatic with the move. 

How it went: Say what you want about the striker's later decline at Chelsea, but Liverpool-era Torres was an absolute tornado. He was lightning fast, intelligent, could shoot with both feet and ran some of the best defenders in the Premier League - particularly Nemanja Vidic - absolutely ragged over four seasons. Fans smarted when he left for the Blues, but there's no denying he was a phenomenon at Anfield. 

Manchester City

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Most exciting transfer: Sergio Aguero and David Silva were megastars in waiting - but the absolutely bananas morning that midtable Manchester City signed Real Madrid prodigy Robinho, will live long in the memory for all. This was just as City had been taken over: the owners promised a welcome gift and here was a dazed and slightly confused samba superstar ready to take the Premier League by storm - whether or not he knew who he actually played for.

How it went: Robinho announced he was happy to have joined Chelsea, then scored on his debut (ironically against Chelsea) but it was pretty much downhill from there, as he cut a frustrated and increasingly static figure in City’s frontline. The new ownership learned how to be a little more shrewd with their money, as the Brazilian went out on loan to Santos before Milan took a chance on him. 

Manchester United

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Most exciting transfer: Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona may have had the biggest impacts, but neither can claim to be the most exciting arrival at the time of their transfer. That award has to go to Juan Sebastian Veron, who rocked up at Old Trafford in 2001 for a huge £33.5m. The Argentine had been a Rolls Royce of a midfielder in Italy, helping Parma to UEFA Cup glory and Lazio to the Scudetto a year before joining United. Fans were drooling over the prospect of La Brujita (The Little Witch) joining a midfield already containing David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs.

How it went: Not great. An electric start soon gave away to disjointed performances, as Veron's tactical ill-discipline caused headaches for his midfield partners. Veron didn't learn English and was homesick by the time the press turned on him midway through the season. Fergie defended his record-signing, labelling him "a f**king great player", but even the Scot knew it hadn't been a success. He was sold, cut-price, to moneybags Chelsea after just two seasons.

Newcastle United

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Most exciting transfer: There can be only one. Newcastle United had finished second in the league, only to beat Real Madrid and Manchester United to sign the Euro 96 golden boot winner (and Premier League top scorer for two seasons in a row) for a world record fee. Not only that, Alan Shearer was a geordie, who loved the club and idolised manager Kevin Keegan. Few transfers have ever been this sweet. 

How it went: If even half of Newcastle’s signings had been as successful as this one, the Magpies would have swept every trophy going in the late 90s and early 2000s. Shearer did so on a personal level, becoming the Toon Army’s record scorer and the record Premier League scorer to boot. That he never won a trophy on Tyneside will always sting - especially as he lost two FA Cup finals - but you can’t fault this buy. Newcastle fans would give limbs to have this kind of success again. 

Norwich City

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Most exciting transfer: The Canaries looked to have struck gold when new signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel banged one in on his debut following his £9m arrival from Sporting in 2013. The Dutchman had been a goal-machine at Vitesse, Utrecht and the Portuguese giants. Elite clubs had tracked the striker's progress over several impressive seasons, but it was Premier League minnows Norwich who pounced on the eve of a new season. 

How it went: Disastrously. It transpires that debut goal was van Wolfswinkel's only strike for Norwich and he was loaned out, following another 24 barren and utterly hopeless games, to Saint-Etienne the following year before eventually being flogged for a song. 

Southampton

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Most exciting transfer: Southampton were just about establishing themselves as a top-flight club in 1980, when out of nowhere, their manager called a press conference to announce the European Footballer of the Year and England captain, Kevin Keegan, was leaving Hamburg to come to the south coast. Imagine Kylian Mbappe joining Leeds and it’s still not quite as seismic as that legendary moment in Saints folklore. 

How it went: Southampton were beautiful to watch back then with an expressive frontline. Though the club didn’t bring honours back to the Dell with Mighty Mouse in tow, they made plenty of happy memories, securing a record league finish and scoring goals by the bucketload. Keegan was voted the PFA Player of the Year in 1982 and awarded the OBE for services to football - so he did well on an individual level, too. 

Tottenham Hotspur

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Most exciting transfer: Spurs have made a habit in recent seasons of buying younger and less-established players as opposed to A-listers for huge sums. But that wasn't always the case. The arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann from AS Monaco in 1994 is proof that things weren't always as they are. The German marksman was a bonfire superstar, at the height of his powers, with a World Cup winners' medal and a goal record - across spells at Stuttgart, Inter and the Ligue 1 outfit - to rival the very best in Europe. English fans sniffed at a supposed "diver", but Spurs fans knew they'd bought a serious weapon.

How it went: Klinsmann ignored the haters and went about doing what he did best - banging the ball into the back of the net. He managed 20 goals and 11 assists in 41 appearances during his first spell at White Hart Lane, before departing for Bayern a year later. He returned three years subsequently, with Spurs in a relegation dog-fight, to smash home another nine in 15 to help them beat the drop. A true Premier League icon and beloved by Tottenham fans the world over. 

Watford

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Most exciting transfer: Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra were both signed from European giants. Will Hughes looked like a future star of English football, while Joao Pedro looked shrewd and showy alike - but fans had little to go off. Ismaila Sarr, however, was a huge statement of intent. Even Premier League big boys were green with envy at the Hornets concluding that £30m deal, which looked at the time like it could well take the club to another level, after losing an FA Cup final. 

How it went: It’s been up and down since Sarr joined but that’s not all down to him. Were he to leave tomorrow, however, he’d be remembered for two moments: rendering Liverpool mortal in the fantastic 3-0 victory which ended the Reds’ 44-match unbeaten run and scoring the goal that secured Watford promotion a season later. If football is all about memories, you can’t fault the guy’s time in Hertfordshire.

West Ham United

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Most exciting transfers: That's right, transfers. Plural! While the Hammers have seen plenty of crazy singings in their long history, nothing has ever topped the events of July 31, 2006. That was the day a bewildered Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano stood alongside a gurning Alan Pardew in the car park outside Upton Park, wondering what on Earth was going on. The South Americans were announced as the first in a new line of superstars to be brought to East London, as the world looked on in utter disbelief. 

How it went: A mixed bag. While future Barcelona stalwart Javier Mascherano struggle dto dislodge Hayden Mullins from the starting XI, Tevez turned in a number of frankly pathetic performances. That was, before he went on a run of seven goals in the final nine games of the 06/07 season to save West Ham from the drop. The exact nature of the pair's contracts ended up causing a lengthy legal battle with the clubs relegated at West Ham's expense, but the players themselves didn't care. They went off to play for Liverpool and Manchester United after one season.  

Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Most exciting transfer: The last few years have been a whirlwind at Molineux with Wolves signing Barcelona full-backs and Atletico Madrid strikers. But a Championship side seemingly had no right to buy Ruben Neves, an up-and-coming starlet of European football, to the point where some wondered if third-party ownership or just good, old-fashioned money laundering was involved in the deal. 

How it went: Pretty damn well. Neves became a cult hero with dominant displays and a few rockets from outside the area, as Wolves became one of the best teams ever to get promoted from the Championship. He’s since taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and played for the club on the European stage. He’s one of the stars who have transformed Wolves from just another Championship side into a Premier League mainstay and though he’s linked with a move elsewhere this summer, he might well be sold for a profit. Can you ask for much more? 

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