The Premier League season is almost upon us. These fellas have never been in the top flight and we can’t wait. And to avoid just talking about Chelsea let’s limit it to one per club. Big up Timo Werner.
10) Mohammed Salisu
The product of the mountain not only coming to Mohammed but entirely subsuming him to create a fearsome central defender, Southampton will hope that Salisu is their long-awaited answer to a question they have been asking for three years. For £10.9m they might have another rough diamond the Premier League elite will covet after not being bothered enough to polish it themselves.
In his one and only season of professional first-team football, Salisu was a regular starter for a Valladolid side that finished 13th but kept the seventh-best defensive record in La Liga. The 21-year-old spent the fourth game of his senior career playing 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, earning links to Manchester United within a matter of months. Plus Ralph Hasenhuttl believes he “has a great amount of potential” and only an idiot would argue with a 6ft 3ins bloke born in 1960s Graz.
9) Ferran Torres
With fees ranging from £87.5m to the final price of £20.8m, it will be intriguing to see quite where Ferran Torres falls on that scale of value. A versatile forward with Champions League, La Liga and international pedigree understandably appealed to Pep Guardiola but it remains to be seen where he fits in.
The 20-year-old arrives with the weight of symbolic reputation, inheriting a shirt number Manchester City fans will hold dear for generations. Ronald Waterreus and Alioune Toure did the number 21 proud up until some Spanish bloke took it a decade ago. Take to the Premier League with even a fraction of the ease and poise of David Silva and we might finally have a decent player named ‘Fer. Torres’ grace these shores.
8) Kalvin Phillips
Though not quite as iconic and innovative as his patented 3-3-1-3 formation, Marcelo Bielsa’s tactical moulding of Kalvin Phillips has made for intriguing viewing. It has taken five years and seven Leeds managers to finally discover that a player previously used in a box-to-box role and even sporadically as a No. 10 might actually be one of his country’s best defensive midfielders.
The argument will be ended emphatically either way. If Phillips prospers then the talent gap from the Championship to the Premier League is not as vast as many would have us believe. If he struggles, the complete midfielder with no weaknesses was always susceptible to little more than a step up the ladder. It will take a handful of matches for most to decide between Yorkshire Pirlo and questionable Nutella.
Kalvin Phillips warming up behind English CDMs better than him 🧐 pic.twitter.com/PdX86WEZWw
— Jack Cornes (@Jackclufc) September 3, 2020
7) Gabriel Magalhaes
From choosing between David Luiz, Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac in a back three, Arsenal have somehow managed to manoeuvre themselves into a position in which they can pick two of Ligue Un’s most promising centre-halves if they so wish. William Saliba might be given a little longer to adjust than Gabriel Magalhaes, the Brazilian signed specifically for and by Mikel Arteta.
Though by no means weak in possession, Gabriel’s strength is precisely that. He offers a defensive physicality rarely seen in north London since his namesake left in 2017. Combine that with a year of playing alongside Jose Fonte at Lille, listening diligently to his tales of playing in the English game, and apprentice might soon become master.
6) Matheus Pereira
It might be that Matheus Pereira has finally found his natural home at the ripe age of 24. He only joined West Brom on loan last summer but has already played more games for them than at any of his previous four clubs, leading the Championship charts in terms of both key passes (116) and fouls suffered (114) last season. To highlight the danger he poses, Pereira either created a chance or had vengeance sought on his person every 14.68 minutes.
One thing is for certain: it will be pure, unadulterated pleasure to watch such brilliance every week with ‘Ideal Boilers’ written across his chest and confused defenders left in his wake. The Supporters’ Player of the Season might well defend that crown.
5) Donny van de Beek
“Donny van de Beek looks like a panic buy at Manchester United,” said Paul Merson of the £35m spent on a Europa League runner-up with vast Champions League experience, a top-flight domestic league winner’s medal, international know-how and a tactical acumen that exponentially enhances his new team’s options and adaptability in a position that previously suffered from obvious limitations and a considerable drop-off in terms of quality.
Ed Woodward once bid £28m for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines before signing the former alone for £27.5m after the £23.5m release clause that was negotiated while the midfielder was playing for United’s manager expired a month earlier. That looked like a panic buy. This is just incredibly sensible business for a really good player.
4) Eberechi Eze
For Roy Hodgson to spend more than £5m on any player is perhaps the highest possible compliment in all of football. That he has made a 22-year-old with no top-flight experience whatsoever the most expensive signing of his remarkable 44-year coaching career is quite the statement. But Ebere Eze might finally help Crystal Palace become more than the team that cries for Wilf.
There is a reason QPR are so sad to let him go but so happy to see him leave. His journey thus far has been compelling and his attitude exemplary. The 22-year-old belongs at a higher level and he has served his time with 104 games in the Championship and 20 in League One. The way Eze does it, his value might well double before the turn of the year.
3) Fabio Silva
The numbers are startling: 531 minutes, five starts, three goals, £35.6m. The expert opinion is that this is considerable money spent considerably well and could eventually be recouped three or so times over. Wolves would hope to break even in a worst-case scenario. Porto had an £111m release clause in the contract of their youngest league player, starter and scorer for a reason.
But this has rekindled that old flame for many of us who yearn for the days of exciting signings out of nowhere, expensive imports of which little is known outside certain circles and sizeable risks based on grainy videotape footage handed to club officials by mysterious cloaked figures in back alleys at midnight. Fabio Silva will remind us that it is fine not to know every bloody thing about every bloody thing all the bloody time. At least until the Athletic go in search of his first coach’s bus driver’s nutritionist’s nephew.
I can confirm this will be a new record for the highest fee paid for a player I hadn’t heard ofhttps://t.co/YAcyL5OOIp
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) September 5, 2020
2) Timo Werner
Liverpool courted him for three straight summers and the days until the long-awaited Premier League debut of Timo Werner can be counted on one hand, depending on which part of the country you’re from. But it will be in the blue of Chelsea that the German introduces himself to a new and ever more scrutinising audience.
Werner has been around for perhaps longer than most assume, making his debut in August 2013 and shattering Bundesliga records as part of his development. He left Leipzig as Robert Lewandowski’s most consistent challenger in recent years, the only player to get within 17 goals of his ridiculous league haul this season.
His talents might well have been obscured by that looming cloud but they will be allowed to blossom at Chelsea. Tammy Abraham scored 15 Premier League goals in 2019/20 with lesser teammates; doubling that haul might be a genuine target for twice the striker.
1) James Rodriguez
“You need these kinds of players for the future, not just for the present, too,” said Carlo Ancelotti in July 2014. Had you informed him then that said future involved him and James Rodriguez reuniting six years later at Everton, his eyebrow might well have reached critical mass.
It will make for pulsating viewing. Rodriguez could be an absolute revelation, the touchpaper that finally lights the path for Everton to properly establish themselves among the elite. The Colombian could also be substituted after 54 minutes of a 3-0 defeat at Turf Moor on a November evening and loaned out in January. Either option is fine.