Best debut seasons
OK, so technically he's been here before, playing slightly less than nine hours of Premier League football across two campaigns with Chelsea. But at Liverpool, Mo Salah has exploded – scoring 41 goals and assisting 13 others (and counting), to be named PFA Player of the Year.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the best Premier League debut seasons, from Treble-winning defensive behemoths to invincible goalkeepers...
12. Diego Costa (Chelsea, 2014-15)
Spain international Costa made few friends in his time at Chelsea but enjoyed an incredible start to his career in England, scoring seven goals in his first four league games. He went on to net 20 times in his first season in the Premier League, and also scored against Tottenham in the victorious League Cup Final to help the Blues bag a domestic double.
Costa’s combative nature landed him in trouble with the FA on a number of occasions, but there’s no doubt his arrival at Stamford Bridge rejuvenated a Chelsea side which had struggled domestically since last winning the title in 2010.
11. Fernando Torres (Liverpool, 2007-08)
It’s easy to forget the extraordinary impact Torres had upon signing for Liverpool in the summer of 2007. Twenty-four Premier League goals in 29 starts set a record for the most prolific debut season for a foreign player in the division’s history, while the Spanish forward scored in eight consecutive home league games to match Roger Hunt’s Liverpool record.
For the form shown in his sensational debut season at Anfield, and for helping Spain win Euro 2008, Torres finished third in the Ballon d'Or voting behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
10. Benni McCarthy (Blackburn, 2006-07)
The South African striker arrived at Ewood Park in summer 2006 having enjoyed a trophy-laden career at Ajax, Celta Vigo and Porto. Blackburn began the season with a 3-0 defeat by Portsmouth, but McCarthy soon found his feet quickly and had scored against Wigan, Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool by the end of September.
He ended up with 18 Premier League goals as his all-African strike partnership with Shabani Nonda fired Rovers to 10th place under Mark Hughes. Three more goals in the FA Cup took Blackburn to the semi-finals, and another three in the UEFA Cup meant McCarthy finished with 24 in all competitions.
9. Jurgen Klinsmann (Tottenham, 1994-95)
World Cup winner Klinsmann arrived at White Hart Lane in summer 1994 from Monaco. He started with a goal on his debut away at Sheffield Wednesday in a 4-3 win for Spurs, and notched seven times in his first six league matches en route to 21 league goals (30 in all competitions).
Despite Klinsmann’s impact earning him the FWA Footballer of the Year award, Tottenham ended up seventh in the Premier League and the German was bought by Bayern Munich. He later returned to north London for the second half of the 1997-98 season, scoring nine goals to help save Spurs from relegation.
8. Jens Lehmann (Arsenal, 2003-04)
Lehmann arrived at Highbury in summer 2003 with the seemingly impossible job of trying to replace David Seaman, who had left having won three league titles, four FA Cups and a host of other trophies at Arsenal.
Gunners fans needn’t have worried about finding a keeper up to the departing Seaman’s standards, however, with former Borussia Dortmund No.1 Lehmann playing a whopping 54 matches in his debut season. Most notably, the German helped Arsenal to an unprecedented unbeaten Premier League campaign, conceding just 26 goals in 38 league games in the process.
7. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United, 2001-02)
Van Nistelrooy joined United a year later than scheduled following a serious knee injury in the summer of 2000. A ruptured ACL did little to blunt his goalscoring prowess, however, as the former PSV man netted twice on his league debut against Fulham en route to 23 league goals and a whopping 36 in all competitions – only Thierry Henry scored more in the Premier League.
His 10 Champions League goals propelled United to the semi-finals, and he was twice named Premier League Player of the Month. His goals helped United score more than any other side, despite finishing the season 10 points behind eventual winners Arsenal.
6. Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea, 1996-97)
Zola joined Chelsea for a paltry £4.5m in 1996 and proved an instant success. The Italian won the FWA Footballer of the Year award – despite not signing from Parma until November – as Chelsea won their first trophy since 1970, beating Middlesbrough 2-0 in the FA Cup Final.
Zola scored four of his 12 goals in that FA Cup run, including strikes against Portsmouth in the quarter-finals and Wimbledon in the semis. His arrival is seen as an important factor in Chelsea's renaissance, with the 1997 FA Cup win heralding the beginning of a trophy-laden spell that eventually led to Roman Abramovich buying the club in 2003.
5. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City, 2011-12)
Manchester City’s renaissance was in full swing when Argentine goal machine Aguero joined the Blues in 2011. Aguero took less than nine minutes to score his first Premier League goal after coming on as a second-half substitute against Swansea. By the time the final whistle had blown, he'd scored twice and provided David Silva with a brilliant assist as City battered the Swans 4-0.
The striker's 23 goals and eight assists in the Premier League helped the Citizens to their first top division title since 1968, with that injury-time winner against QPR on the final day instantly ensuring his status as a City legend.
4. Kevin Phillips (Sunderland, 1999-00)
Philipps signed for Sunderland upon their relegation from the Premier League in 1997 and scored 60 goals over the next two seasons as the Black Cats won promotion back to the top flight at the second time of asking.
Black Cats fans expected Phillips to succeed, but nobody foresaw the impact he would make in his first season in the top division. Phillips formed an outstanding little-and-large partnership with Irishman Niall Quinn, becoming the only Englishman ever to win the European Golden Shoe. His 30 league goals helped Sunderland to a seventh-place finish – and since then, no Englishman has enjoyed a 30-goal Premier League season.
3. Jaap Stam (Manchester United, 1998-99)
The big Dutch defender joined United in 1998 from PSV and went on to win three Premier League titles in his three seasons in Manchester. His first season was spectacular as the Red Devils won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, culminating in that incredible comeback against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou.
He was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for 1999, was awarded the UEFA Club Best Defender of the Year prize, and the only competition United didn’t win that season – the League Cup – was the only one in which Stam didn’t kick a ball.
2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, 2017-18)
It’s been quite the season for Salah, who’s enjoyed a sensational campaign for club and country. His 31 league goals (and counting) put him in pole position for the European Golden Shoe above Lionel Messi, Ciro Immobile, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani (among others).
With a couple of months still left to play this season, Salah has already surpassed Fernando Torres, whose 24-goal debut season at Anfield has been dwarfed by the Egyptian’s efforts. His 41 goals in all competitions put him just six behind Liverpool's greatest ever one-man goalscoring season – and in sight of Ian Rush’s 47 in a treble-winning 1983-84 season.
1. N’Golo Kante (Leicester, 2015-16)
Kante arrived at Leicester as a relative unknown from Ligue 1 side Caen in summer 2015. His fee of around £5m proved an absolute bargain – the Frenchman was nothing short of sensational in Leicester’s jaw-dropping Premier League title win.
The all-action ball-winner picked up a host of personal plaudits along the way, including being named in the Premier League Team of the Season. Former Foxes scout Steve Walsh summed up Kante’s contribution perfectly when he said that Leicester played “three in midfield: Drinkwater in the middle and Kante either side”.
Premier League, Lists, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Coventry City, Sunderland, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Jens Lehmann, Benni McCarthy, N'Golo Kante, Mohamed Salah, Diego Costa, Gianfranco Zola, Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Kevin Phillips, Jürgen Klinsmann