Borrowed brilliance: the best Premier League loanees
From Champions League winners to World Cup legends and even a Ballon d’Or winner, it’s amazing what you can pick up on loan if you’re the right club in the right place at the right time. By borrowing a player looking for a temporary move away from their current predicament or just seeking a fresh challenge, clubs striking the right loan deal can enjoy the difference between a late-season charge at the European places or a nervy run-in looking over your shoulder. We take a look at 13 of the very best loan moves in the history of the Premier League, from the unlikely to downright unbelievable.
13. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea to Bolton
Remember when Sturridge used to play week in, week out? The England striker may be struggling to reignite his Liverpool career at present, but he was a mainstay in Owen Coyle’s Bolton side at the Reebok Stadium in 2011.
Sturridge scored eight goals in 12 league encounters – including a last-minute winner on his debut against Wolves – and became only the sixth player to score in each of his first four games for a Premier League club. His excellent form while on loan at Bolton convinced Chelsea to keep hold of him the following season but the Blues ultimately moved him on in January 2013, when he joined Liverpool. He's reportedly a target for Inter and Sevilla.
12. Robbie Keane, Inter to Leeds
Keane’s £13m move from Coventry City to Inter in the summer of 2000 didn't work out, with the Irishman making just half-a-dozen Serie A appearances before being loaned to Leeds just before Christmas. Keane struck nine times in 14 games as David O’Leary’s men challenged for a Champions League spot. Keane joined Leeds on a permanent basis the following May, signing a five-year deal.
Keane amassed a whopping 68 international goals in 146 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, making him the country's all-time top-scorer. He's still going at 37, captaining the Indian Super League side ATK who were until late January managed by Teddy Sheringham.
11. Mikel Arteta, Real Sociedad to Everton
In January 2005, Everton were in fourth place, and David Moyes knew that one or two smart signings could help the Toffees into Europe’s premier continental competition for the first time since the 1970/71 season.
He quickly signed James Beattie from Southampton for £6m, but a better deal was to come. With Real Madrid somewhat mystifyingly signing Thomas Gravesen, Moyes sourced a Spanish replacement in Mikel Arteta. His artistry helped them over the line, and he signed for £2m that summer. He moved to Arsenal in 2011 and is now an assistant coach at Manchester City.
10. Christophe Dugarry, Bordeaux to Birmingham
“We are delighted that he has chosen us,” said Blues manager Steve Bruce after joined on loan from Bordeaux in January 2003. “To have someone of his credentials is a massive, massive thing for us. It's the biggest signing this club has ever made.” The World Cup winner didn't disappoint, with five goals and many more superb performances playing a big part in Birmingham City retaining their Premier League status. They won five of their last eight matches to finish 13th in the table, a comfortable six points clear of the relegation zone.
9. Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea to Southampton
When Luke Shaw joined Manchester United in the summer of 2014, Southampton turned to Chelsea squad player Bertrand to fill the gap. Saints have frequently developed youngsters for lucrative resale to bigger clubs, but that summer they had to do an awful lot of recruitment, with the departure of Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers.
If anything, they improved in many areas – in came Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld and Fraser Forster – and Southampton finished seventh under Ronald Koeman, their best top flight finish since 1984/85. Bertrand has since been linked with moves to both Manchester clubs and back to Stamford Bridge; Shaw, meanwhile, has struggled with injury and the wrath of Jose Mourinho.
8. Amr Zaki, Zamalek to Wigan
According to FIFA’s official player rankings, Zaki was the best striker in the world when Wigan loaned him from Cairo giants Zamalek in the summer of 2008. An incredible start to life at the JJB Stadium did little to harm his reputation: Zaki scored seven times in his first eight matches in the Premier League, including two first-half goals against Liverpool at Anfield.
The honeymoon period didn’t last long, though. After Zaki returned late from international duty for the fourth time, Bruce said, “I just feel it’s time that we went public on just what a nightmare he has been to deal with… I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional.” The loan wasn't made permanent.
7. George Weah, Milan to Chelsea
Liberia's new president may have been on the wane at 33 years old when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in the second half of the 1999/00 season, but he still managed to make a considerable impact. The 1995 Ballon d’Or winner immediately endeared himself to the Blues support by scoring the winner against Tottenham on his debut and had a hand in Chelsea’s FA Cup win that season with goals against Leicester and Gillingham.
After spells at Manchester City and Marseille, Weah retired following a stint at Al Jazira in the Arabian Gulf League before entering politics.
6. Loic Remy, QPR to Newcastle
Following QPR’s relegation to the Championship in 2013, their French international striker Loic Remy joined Newcastle on a season's loan. It worked rather well: he scored five in his first four starts and ended up the Toon's top scorer on 14.
Such was his impact that Liverpool and Chelsea fought for his permanent signature in summer 2014. He chose the Blues over the Reds but never settled, scoring just eight in 37 appearances spread over the following three seasons. Now 31, he plays for Las Palmas in Spain.
5. Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea to West Brom
The Belgian international has grown into one of the finest strikers in the Premier League over the last few years, culminating with his move to Manchester United last summer for a fee of £75m. As a raw 19-year-old, Lukaku was sent out on loan to the Hawthorns and scored 17 Premier League goals in 35 appearances for West Brom as the Baggies achieved their best top flight finish since the 1980/81 season, coming eighth.
Lukaku joined Everton on loan the following season and did the same thing as the Toffees came fifth – their best performance in the league for a decade. Everton signed him for £28m and sold him to Manchester United three years later for £75m.
4. Kevin Campbell, Trabzonspor to Everton
Campbell had only been at Trabzonspor a matter of months when an extraordinary racist attack by chairman Mehmet Ali Yilmaz cut short the former Arsenal man’s stay in the Super Lig. Campbell, a fan favourite, was rightly scathing of Yilmaz in his press conference detailing his reasons for wanting out: “The chairman’s statement is the greatest insult in my life. Nothing, no apology can heal the injury. My adventure at Trabzonspor is over.”
Everton welcomed him back to the Premier League on loan until the end of the season, and Campbell repaid the club’s faith with interest, scoring nine times in eight matches to lift the Merseysiders well away from the relegation zone. He also became the first loanee to win the Premier League Player of the Month award.
3. Ivan Campo, Real Madrid to Bolton
Big Sam Allardyce’s early-2000s Bolton squads were an exciting mixture of journeyman British pros such as Mike Whitlow, Paul Warhurst and Anthony Barness sharing a dressing room with the likes of Africa Cup of Nations winner and Olympic Gold Medallist Jay-Jay Okocha and World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff.
And, of course, Ivan Campo, who swapped Real Madrid for the north-west of England in the summer of 2002. The two-time Champions League winner was hopeless in defence but brilliant at the base of midfield; he signed a permanent deal 12 months later, and helped Bolton finish eighth, sixth, eighth and seventh. He still tweets passionately about the club.
2. Henrik Larsson, Helsingborg to Man United
Although Celtic legend Larsson was 36 years old when he arrived at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day 2007 for a two-month loan, he was an excellent temporary addition for Manchester United. “He's been fantastic for us, his professionalism, his attitude, everything he's done has been excellent,” said Sir Alex Ferguson, whose attempts to persuade Larsson to extend his stay until the end of the season proved unsuccessful.
The striker, who scored 37 goals in 106 appearances for the Swedish national side, found the net three times in 13 appearances in all competitions before returning to Helsingborg in mid-March. Despite not playing the required number of matches, Larsson was given special dispensation by the Premier League for Larsson to receive a winner’s medal as United took the title in 2006/07.
1. Jurgen Klinsmann, Sampdoria to Tottenham
World Cup and European Championship winner Klinsmann enjoyed an incredible season at Spurs during his first spell in the 1994/95 season, scoring 30 goals in all competitions. His record in front of goal also impressed Bayern Munich, who brought him back to the Bundesliga at the end of that campaign. But that wasn’t the end of Klinsmann and Tottenham’s love affair: the German returned to north London in the latter half of the 1997/98 season. Nine goals in 15 Premier League games – including four in the 6-2 win over Wimbledon at Selhurst Park – helped save Spurs from what would have been an ignominious relegation.
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