The 20 best loan signings in Premier League history
Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea to Bolton
Sturridge has struggled for game time since Jurgen Klopp assumed control at Liverpool in 2015, but he was a mainstay in Owen Coyle’s Bolton starting XI at the Reebok Stadium four years earlier.
He plundered 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 fine form persuaded Chelsea to give him a chance back at Stamford Bridge in 2011/12, but the Blues eventually gave up and sold him to Liverpool in January 2013.
Kyle Walker, Tottenham to Aston Villa
Walker became the world’s most expensive defender when Manchester City agreed to swap up to £53m for him in July. Aston Villa didn’t have to spend anything of the sort to land the then-20-year-old in January 2011, when they struck a deal with Tottenham to take the future England international on loan until the end of the season.
Walker scored a stunning strike in a 2-2 draw with Fulham – his first Premier League goal – and provided three assists for his Villa team-mates. He returned to White Hart Lane that summer and, after an excellent season under Harry Redknapp, was named PFA Young Player of the Year in April 2012.
Danny Welbeck, Manchester United to Sunderland
Sunderland have made a habit of signing players from Manchester United in the last decade or so, including loanees Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson and Adnan Januzaj, and permanent acquisitions such as John O’Shea, Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley.
Welbeck was another Red Devil who spent time at the Stadium of Light on a temporary basis, joining Steve Bruce’s squad for the entirety of the 2010/11 season. His first Sunderland goal came in a shock 3-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a game in which his speed and mobility caused multiple problems for the hosts’ backline. Welbeck netted five more times in the league as the Black Cats finished 10th.
Jurgen Klinsmann, Sampdoria to Tottenham
Klinsmann’s first spell at White Hart Lane in 1994/95 was a huge success, with 30 goals in all competitions earning him cult hero status among the Tottenham fanbase. It was a record that 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, when nine goals in 15 Premier League outings – including four in the 6-2 win over Wimbledon at Selhurst Park – helped save Spurs from what would have been an ignominious relegation.
George Weah, Milan to Chelsea
Weah may have been 33 when he was loaned from Milan to Chelsea in the second half of the 1999/00 season, but the legendary Liberian was still sharp enough to make an impact on English shores.
A late winner against Tottenham on his debut ensured Weah got off to a perfect start in west London, while his goals in ties against Leicester and Gillingham helped Chelsea to the FA Cup final, which they won by defeating Aston Villa 1-0. The former Ballon d’Or winner then headed north for a short-lived stint at Manchester City, which lasted just seven league games.
Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea to West Brom
Manchester United spent £75m to secure Lukaku’s signature in July, with three prolific seasons at Everton having made him one of Europe’s most in-demand centre-forwards. His Premier League career began with Chelsea in 2011, but a season-long loan to West Brom was the making of the Belgium international on English soil.
A return of 17 goals in 35 league games fired Steve Clarke’s side to an eighth-place finish, although it still wasn’t enough for Lukaku to earn himself a starting spot at Stamford Bridge: on deadline day that summer, Chelsea shipped him off to Everton.
Loic Remy, QPR to Newcastle
Remy’s season-long switch from Chelsea to Crystal Palace will go down as one of the most forgettable loan deals in Premier League history, but a move from QPR to Newcastle in 2013/14 was altogether more successful. The Frenchman’s six goals in 14 games hadn’t been enough to keep Rangers up the previous year, but 14 Premier League strikes for the Magpies ensured a comfortable 10th-place finish under the guidance of Alan Pardew.
Remy’s sharpshooting made him an attractive proposition to several Champions League sides; Liverpool looked to have won the race for the striker, but a reported failed medical allowed Chelsea to swoop in and complete a deal.
Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool to Crystal Palace
After Alan Pardew’s if-you-score-three-we’ll-score four-and-then-concede-two-more-late-on approach left Palace in relegation bother in 2016/17, successor Sam Allardyce unsurprisingly identified defensive solidity as an area in need of an improvement.
Sakho was the perfect January addition; exiled at Liverpool, the towering 6ft 2in stopper immediately stiffened up the Eagles’ backline, while also proving an able instigator of attacks from deep. Sakho’s form was so impressive that he was shortlisted for Palace’s Player of the Year award despite making just eight Premier League appearances, although that probably says more about the contributions of his erstwhile team-mates.
Carlos Tevez, West Ham to Manchester United
An unconventional deal, Tevez joined United on what was technically a two-year loan in 2007. His potent combination of quality with the ball and tireless running without it quickly endeared the ex-West Ham man to both the Old Trafford faithful and Sir Alex Ferguson, who also had Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon at the top of the pitch.
Tevez scored 19 times in all competitions in his debut season, which saw United win a Premier League and Champions League double. That was followed by 15 more goals in 2008/09, before a controversial move across town to Manchester City the subsequent summer.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal to Bolton
Wilshere’s most recent loan move, which took him to Bournemouth for the 2016/17 campaign, didn’t quite have the intended effect of restoring his reputation after successive injury-hit seasons.
Back in 2010, when he was regarded as one of the most promising youngsters in English football, the midfielder spent four fruitful months under Owen Coyle’s tutelage at Bolton. Wilshere caught the eye with a series of fearless displays in the centre of the park, leading him to describe the move as the “perfect” springboard for his now-faltering Arsenal career.
Henrik Larsson, Helsingborgs to Manchester United
Although Larsson only scored one Premier League goal in his three months at Old Trafford – he also found the net once in the FA Cup and once in the Champions League – the then-35-year-old was an excellent addition to the United ranks. Taking advantage of the Swedish off-season, Sir Alex Ferguson agreed a short-term deal with parent club Helsingborgs, who had re-signed their former charge following his departure from Barcelona the previous summer.
“He's been fantastic for us; his professionalism, his attitude, everything he's done has been excellent,” said Ferguson, whose attempts to persuade Larsson to extend his stay until the end of the season proved unsuccessful (which the Swede later regretted).
Amr Zaki, Zamalek to Wigan
According to FIFA’s player rankings (us neither), Zaki was the best striker in the world when Wigan loaned him from Zamalek in 2008. A blistering start at the JJB Stadium did little to harm his reputation: Zaki led the Premier League goalscoring charts after converting seven in his first eight games.
The move turned sour a few months later, though, as Steve Bruce labelled him the most unprofessional player he’d ever worked with after the striker returned late from international duty with Egypt for the fourth time in April. Still, Zaki’s goals were essential to the Latics’ mid-table finish.
Nathan Ake, Chelsea to Watford
Frequent loan moves are part and parcel of being a young player at Chelsea, as Ake discovered during his time in west London. A season at Watford in 2015/16 was his second of three temporary stints elsewhere, and probably his most successful: despite spending most of the campaign in an unfamiliar left-back role, Ake won the club’s Young Player of the Year award as the Hornets finished 13th in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Watford tried and failed to secure his services for another year, with the Dutchman joining Bournemouth instead.
Mikel Arteta, Real Sociedad to Everton
With Everton flying high in fourth when the January transfer window opened in 2005, David Moyes knew that a few astute signings could help his side get over the line in their quest to qualify for the Champions League.
James Beattie arrived from Southampton for £6m, but the loan addition of Arteta turned out to be the better deal for the Toffees, as the Spaniard played a key role in their top-four placing. Arteta signed permanently that summer and was a huge success, before Arsene Wenger brought him to Arsenal in 2011.
Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea to Southampton
The sales of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw in the summer of 2014 led many to predict an instant demise for Southampton, who also parted with Tottenham-bound manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Instead, Saints spent much of the season challenging for the Champions League places after securing some astute replacements for their outgoing stars, with Chelsea loanee Bertrand capably filling Shaw’s shoes at left-back as the south coast side ultimately finished seventh. It was his ninth and final temporary spell away from Stamford Bridge, as Southampton agreed to pay £10m for his services in February 2015.
Kevin Campbell, Trabzonspor to Everton
An extraordinary racist attack on Campbell by Trabzonspor chairman Mehemet Ali Yilmaz prompted the striker to seek a return to England just months after signing for the Turkish club from Nottingham Forest in 1998.
Everton welcomed him back to the Premier League on a loan deal until the end of the season and Campbell quickly repaid the club’s faith, scoring nine times in eight matches to lift the Merseysiders away from the relegation zone and into the sanctuary of lower mid-table. He also became the first loanee to win the Premier League Player of the Month award in April.
Ivan Campo, Real Madrid to Bolton
Sam Allardyce’s early-2000s Bolton remain one of the most intriguing outfits of the Premier League era, with journeyman British pros such as Mike Whitlow, Paul Warhurst and Anthony Barness sharing a dressing room with international stars like Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Campo, who swapped Real Madrid for the north-west of England in the summer of 2002.
Just months after collecting his second Champions League winner’s medal in three years, the versatile Spaniard was excelling in both defence and midfield at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton duly tied him down to a permanent deal the following pre-season.
Steven Caulker, Tottenham to Swansea
Caulker’s surprise January 2016 loan switch to Liverpool raised more than a few eyebrows, but his reputation was a lot higher after a successful spell at Swansea back in 2011/12. The then-20-year-old cut an assured figure at the heart of the Swans’ backline, with his composure on the ball making him the ideal centre-back for Brendan Rodgers’ possession-based side.
Swansea, who stayed up comfortably in what was their debut Premier League campaign, conceded 51 goals in their 38 top-flight matches – the same amount as fifth-placed Newcastle and only two more than Arsenal, who ended the year in third.
Christophe Dugarry, Bordeaux to Birmingham
“We’re delighted that he's chosen us,” said Birmingham boss Steve Bruce after the World Cup winner signed 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 Frenchman didn't disappoint in the second city, with five goals and many more wonderful performances playing a big part in Birmingham avoiding the drop. Five victories in their last eight matches saw the Blues finish six points clear of the bottom three, which was enough to persuade Dugarry to extend his stay by a year.
Robbie Keane, Inter to Leeds
Keane’s £13m move from Coventry to Inter in July 2000 didn't work out at all well, as the Republic of Ireland international made just six Serie A appearances before being loaned to Leeds shortly before Christmas.
Keane soon rediscovered his scoring touch in Yorkshire, striking nine times in 14 fixtures as David O’Leary’s men challenged for one of the division’s three Champions League spots (they ultimately missed out by a single point). He then signed a five-year deal at Elland Road in May and, almost a decade later, enjoyed another highly successful loan spell at Celtic.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).
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