1. Henrikh Mikhtaryan (Manchester United)
For a good number of clubs currently in the English Premier League, a signing like the Armenian winger, Henrikh Mikhtaryan, would likely be their biggest signing of the transfer window. For Manchester United however, world record signing Paul Pogba pips ‘Micki’ to this title.
However, considering the fact that Henrikh is the more experienced player of the two, and also the fact that he came about 60m cheaper, it is safe to assume that come the end of the season, he will be considered the more shrewd signing of the two.
Comparisons aside though, Henrikh’s last season at immediate former club, Borrusia Dortmund was definitely the best season of his career so far. Racking up over 20 goals and 20 assists and at the age of 27, he is now settling into what should be his best footballing years.
The winger is blessed with good dribbling skills, excellent ball control, a good eye for a pass and an excellent eye for a cross. Put all that in a mix with considerable pace and you have a world class winger in Henrikh Mikhtaryan. United have not had a dominant winger since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Henrikh might be the closest they have gotten to a world class winger since that time.
He cost ‘just’ over £26m but looking at the current setup of the transfer market in England(City have just signed an unproven Brazilian teenager, Gabriel Jesus for roughly the same amount) Henrikh Mikhtaryan has all it takes to be the signing of the season.
2. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Yet another signing from Southampton for Liverpool then. It looks like Brendan Rodgers is not the only one that fancies The Saints’ players as manager Jurgen Klopp made the decision to splash £36m on the Senegalese winger. However, we believe that when the season is over, the signing of Sadio Mane will be considered one of the best signing, if not the best, of the season.
Two seasons in England and Sadio has proven himself to be one of the most exciting attacking players in the league. Blessed with an electric pace, good dribbling skills and a sharp eye for goal, Sadio Mane is exactly the type of attacking player that Liverpool have been missing. He joins a team spoiled with attacking talent such as Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, even James Milner who racked up over 20assists for Liverpool last season.
However, Sadio Mane offers something different to all these players and the major difference that sticks out is his pace. When asked about his opinion of the new signing, Phillipe Coutinho said “He’s too fast” and this pace, when used to its full effect, can be the catalyst for that extra nudge of quality that Liverpool have been lacking in the final third since the departure of Englishman Raheem Sterling.
Too often last season, the Reds have threatened defences, but without a player who can stretch defences with his pace, their attacks faltered once they got to the 18-yard box. Jurgen Klopp seems to have addressed the issue with this signing and still only 24years old, Sadio Mane could prove to be a revelation in Liverpool’s top four push this season.
3. Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
This might seem a surprise inclusion in this list, especially considering the stature of the remaining players but, Southampton have gotten a very good player in Nathan Redmond. Signed as replacement for Sadio Mane, there has been a long standing argument about the fact that Redmond deserves a chance at a bigger club than Norwich and following the relegation of his old club to the championship and the sale of Sadio Mane to Liverpool, it seemed like the natural thing for Southampton to do; to sign the tricky winger.
Signed for a fee of about £12m, the deal already looks too good considering the fact that English players are usually sold at a premium within the league. Too often last season, Nathan Redmond seemed to be the only Norwich player making an effort as he tried to do everything on his own when his teammates failed to turn up laat season.
Another fast, skillful player, he is almost a like-for-like replacement for Sadio Mane. And given the fact that he’s been so consistently good for Norwich, a team low on quality, it should be expected that his performance level only increase now that he has better players to work with. He already has experience in the Premier League too and at the age of 23, he could be a star for Southampton in the years to come (or, till Liverpool come knocking).
4. Nampalys Mendy (Leicester)
Who? You’ll be forgiven if you say you’ve never heard the name before but Leicester have signed this 24 year-old defensive midfielder from Nice. And, as some people already believe, he’ll be PFA Player of the Year nominee, N’golo Kante’s replacement. However, though there are similarities in their game, and also their looks (they weirdly have similar statures and skin colour: deep black), Mendy and Kante are not exactly the same type of players.
Kate’s strength is in his defensive abilities (tackling, interceptions), placed in an internal engine that German car companies would be proud of. Mendy’s strength is in a similar engine, also decent defensive abilities but with a more technical combination of a good passing range and the occasional dribble. It seems manager Claudio Ranieri decided that an inexhaustible stamina is the most important attribute in that position and so he’s gone and gotten himself a player with top notch stamina that can also play the attackers in from deep.
Mendy is on this list mainly because of the burden on his shoulders to perform well and ensure Leicester do not miss Kante too much. And it should be interesting to see if and how he rises up to this challenge.
5. John Stones (Manchester City)
The most expensive player on this list (and a good example to support the fact made earlier about English players coming in at a premium), John Stones, City’s £47.5m signing from Everton, is the league’s most expensive defender ever. Safe to say, he has a lot of pressure on to fulfil the potential that manager Pep Guardiola obviously sees in him.
John Stones is the perfect Pep-type defender. Composure on the ball and the ability to carry the ball out of defence is exactly what Pep wants from his centre backs and these are the areas where John Stones, on his day, excels. He lost his head in some matches last season, causing people to doubt if he is worth all the hype but mistakes are to be expected from any young player at this level. Now 22 years old, and in a City side that lacks genuine quality in central defence, this season is the perfect time for John Stones to come into his own and establish himself as one of the best young defenders in the game.
Luckily, there’s few better options for this sort of development than under Pep Guardiola, who has been responsible for the growth of a good number of young stars throughout his own glittering career as a manager. John Stones is expected to be a regular in City’s defence this season, even when captain Vincent Kompany comes back.
And it will be interesting to watch how he progresses throughout the course of the season. He could prove to be a solution in defence for City, both short and long term, but he could also turn out to be an expensive flop. Watch this space.
Olayiwola Ola is an avid football follower. A Liverpool fan since the first day he watched Steven Gerrard play, he loves talking about football and shares the occasional banter with rival fans.
“For The Goals is my first attempt at writing about football. Definitely something I see myself doing on a steady though.”
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.