Premier League clubs totalled a transfer spend of £1.91 billion over the summer window, whilst Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 clubs combined for £1.98 billion between them. The financial gap between England and the rest of Europe continues to grow, with this summer’s spending spree the latest example. Over the next two weeks on BET Central, I’ll be taking a look at my favourite signing from each of the 20 Premier League sides, with this week’s edition focusing on Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ summer business.
Leicester City: Wout Faes
No prizes for guessing which Premier League team required the shortest amount of time to pick a favourite signing. After narrowly missing out on the top four in back-to-back years under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City regressed to an 8th-place finish and made it all the way to the UEFA Europa Conference League semifinals, only to follow it up with one of the worst transfers windows in Europe’s major leagues. Various botched signings from Jannik Vestergaard to Ayoze Perez meant that Leicester’s squad was filled with underperforming players whose wages deterred potential suitors, and their inability to offload these players also hindered their ability to sign new ones. Kasper Schmeichel was allowed to join Nice for a minuscule fee with the Foxes neglecting to buy a replacement, a decision that has seen them concede 22 goals and collect 1 point in their first 7, only to respond with a 4-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest to collect their first win of the season.
Leicester would have liked to have offloaded Youri Tielemans, who is available to sign with any club on a pre-contract in January, but their high asking price for an upcoming free agent proved another stumbling block. As such, Leicester were forced to part ways with star defender Wesley Fofana for an initial fee of £70 million, replacing the Frenchman with Belgian defender Wout Faes and paying £15.3 million to snap him away from Reims. A product of Anderlecht’s academy, Faes joined Reims from Belgian side Oostende but struggled to fill an Axel Disasi-sized hole in defence as Reims went from European qualification to narrowly staving off relegation. The 2021/22 season would see him come to life under new manager Óscar García and emerge as a commanding leader in defence, earning him a move to the King Power Stadium – the only signing the club have made alongside third-choice goalkeeper Alex Smithies. He may not be at Fofana’s level right now, but Faes should at the very least provide an upgrade over the likes of Caglar Soyuncu and Daniel Amartey, a long-term alternative to the ageing Jonny Evans, and a player who is capable of repairing a leaky backline and allowing Wilfred Ndidi to play in midfield rather than central defence. Faes delivered an impressive performance in defence alongside Evans as Leicester breezed past Forest and escaped last place, winning four out of six aerial duels and keeping Taiwo Awoniyi under wraps, and he’ll be crucial to the Foxes’ hopes of digging themselves out of the relegation zone.
Liverpool: Darwin Nunez
If Leicester City are the biggest disappointment in the Premier League’s opening weeks with a mere 1 point from 7 matches, Liverpool aren’t far behind. Jürgen Klopp’s side are eighth with 9 points, level with Brentford and one point behind seventh-placed Chelsea, and they’ll be looking to navigate a tricky start to October that will see them take on Rangers, Arsenal, and Manchester City after beginning the month with a 3-3 draw to Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton. One player who will be eager to put September in the rearview mirror and lead the Reds out of their persistent malaise is Darwin Nunez, with the Uruguayan striker opening his Liverpool account with a goal against Manchester City in a 3-1 win in the Community Shield, as well as a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw vs. Fulham, both of them seeing the ex Benfica man come off the bench. It convinced Klopp to start Darwin in the next match, only for the Uruguayan to be sent off at the hour-mark after headbutting Joachim Andersen with Luis Diaz equalizing for the 10-man Reds shortly after they settled for a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace. Since returning from suspension, Darwin has been kept under wraps in a 0-0 draw vs. Everton, a 4-1 loss to Napoli and a 2-1 win against Ajax, the sole starting appearance seeing Darwin come off after the 80th-minute mark in the Merseyside derby, but he will be looking to bounce back from his recent struggles after ending a 52-day goal drought and scoring in a 2-0 win against Canada.
Whilst the arrivals of Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay provide Klopp with two low-cost, promising, young squad players, Liverpool’s club-record expenditure of €75 million rising to €100 million with potential add-ons has surrounded Darwin with plenty of expectations and hype, but it is worth remembering that at 22, he is far from the finished product. He is a traditional centre-forward who is skilled at advancing into dangerous areas, using his pace and physicality to his advantage, and wreaking havoc on the counter, and he’ll be key in getting Liverpool out of their funk, although his technical shortcomings and an often clunky first touch have seen the Uruguayan have his fair share of teething issues as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of Luis Díaz, Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Dias and make the transition from the Primeira Liga to the Premier League. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have both impressed as a false 9 for Liverpool in recent years thanks to their ability to link play, hold up possession and keep the ball flowing on the counter, all things that Darwin has to improve on as he looks to beat out competition from Diogo Jota and Firmino and grind out a starting spot at Anfield. While it could be a transitional season for Darwin in Liverpool, there are few managers who are better tasked at taking raw young forwards and developing them into world-beaters than Jurgen Klopp, and after Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and many more, he could be the latest attacker to take the next step under the German manager.
Manchester City: Erling Haaland
Whilst Darwin Nunez has plenty of work cut out for him as he looks to make a name for himself in the Premier League, Erling Haaland is already taking England and Europe by storm at the age of 22. After arriving from Borussia Dortmund in the summer for €60 million, Haaland made his debut in the Community Shield, starting in attack alongside Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez but failing to make an impact and being upstaged by Darwin, with the Uruguayan leading Klopp’s side to victory at the King Power. Since then, Haaland has scored a brace on his Premier League debut in a 2-0 win against West Ham, grabbed an assist in a 4-0 win vs. Bournemouth, scored in a 3-3 draw vs. Newcastle, and closed out August with back-to-back hat-tricks in a 4-2 win vs. Crystal Palace and a 6-0 win against Nottingham Forest, whilst September has seen the Norwegian score in four straight matches for the Sky Blues as well as a goal in a 2-1 loss to Slovenia, before being kept under wraps in a 0-2 defeat against Serbia, and rebounding with a hat-trick and two assists in a 6-3 thrashing of Manchester United. He has scored 170 goals at the age of 22 – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi had scored 94 by that same age combined, and become the first player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick in three straight home games, and the quickest player to reach three hat-tricks in England’s top division with 8 appearances, followed by Michael Owen (48), Ruud van Nistelrooy (59), Fernando Torres (64) and Andy Cole (65).
Whilst City have managed to reach a Champions League Final and win two Premier League titles whilst largely playing with a false 9, Haaland has been able to lap up chances that would have gone astray in previous years and provide a physicality not seen at the Etihad since the days of Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko and explosiveness not seen since Sergio Agüero. Haaland has put himself on an entirely different pedestal from other promising young centre-forwards like Victor Osimhen, Dusan Vlahovic, Tammy Abraham and Darwin Nunez – he is already staking a claim as not just the best centre-forward in Europe alongside Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, and Harry Kane, but the best player in football. He is an unstoppable presence on the counter, a deadly sharpshooter, and a physical behemoth with 17 goals and 3 assists in his first 11 matches, and he has everything it takes to be the best signing of summer 2022.
Manchester United: Christian Eriksen
As opposed to Leicester, Liverpool or City, picking my favourite signing from Manchester United took much thought and deliberation. Tyrell Malacia has arrived from Feyenoord and is already proving a fierce competitor to Luke Shaw in the left-back position, whilst Lisandro Martínez has slotted into central defence alongside Raphael Varane and has equally impressed in his transition from the Eredivisie to the Premier League with United following up back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Brentford to start the season with victories against Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester and Arsenal, before falling to a 6-3 defeat in the Manchester Derby. Antony emerged as a star in attack under Erik ten Hag at Ajax and could very well be the long-term solution to their woes at the right-wing position, whilst Casemiro could very well be the defensive midfield linchpin that has been sorely missed over the years, but despite this wealth of options, I’m going to go with Christian Eriksen.
Since returning to action on February 26, Eriksen has played a crucial role in Brentford reversing a poor run of form and steering clear of an impending relegation fight. Since arriving on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract, the Dane has become the glue in midfield, a dynamic deep-lying playmaker who is capable of threading the needle, receiving the ball from deep, carrying the ball forward and aiding the team’s build-up, allowing the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho to operate with more creative freedom further up the pitch. At 30 years of age, the Dane still has plenty of gas left in the tank and could be vital for the Red Devils returning to prominence under Ten Hag. He offers a calming presence at the base of midfield, capable of navigating out of pressure and orchestrating the first, second and third phases of build-up, a veteran leader that they have been sorely missing and a clear upgrade over Fred and Scott McTominay in terms of vision, passing accuracy, and decision-making.
Newcastle: Alexander Isak
After a blockbuster January window that saw them sign Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Dan Burn and Matt Targett, Newcastle have had a relatively quiet window in their first summer under Saudi ownership. They have completed the signing of Targett on a permanent deal from Aston Villa, reinforced the goalkeeping position with Nick Pope replacing Martin Dubravka, and brought in Dutch centre-back Sven Botman from Lille. Perhaps their biggest signing, however, has been the arrival of Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad.
Following spells in Sweden and Germany, Isak has impressed at Anoeta with 44 goals and 8 assists, and despite a disappointing return last season, he has kicked off this season by scoring in a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona before scoring against Liverpool in his Premier League debut, a 2-1 defeat, and grabbing a penalty in a 1-1 draw vs. Bournemouth. At 23, he is a younger option than the injury-prone Callum Wilson or Wood, who has struggled to convince since joining from Burnley in the January window, and he is a rapid, physically imposing striker who is capable of wreaking havoc against teams who play a high line and leading the line at St. James’ Park and replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Sweden’s long-term centre forward. Alongside Anthony Elanga, Dejan Kulusevski as well as the veteran presence of Emil Forsberg, Isak could have a key role to play as Blagult look to rebound after missing out on World Cup qualification in a 2-0 loss to Poland, followed by a 2-0 Nations League victory against Slovenia, and four straight defeats to Norway and Serbia and before drawing 1-1 to Slovenia to finish bottom of their group with 4 points from 6.
In Bruno Guimaraes, Sven Botman, Nick Pope, and Alexander Isak, Newcastle are slowly but surely building a spine that can compete in the short term and long term under Eddie Howe, and whilst Isak looks set to miss a few weeks on the sidelines after picking up a thigh injury on international break, he has the potential to play an important role in attack as a younger alternative to Wood and Wilson at St. James’ Park.
Southampton: Armel Bella-Kotchap
After losing three consecutive games to Wolves, Aston Villa and Everton, Southampton find themselves one point above the relegation zone and are preparing for what could be a long autumn at St. Mary’s with just two victories against Leicester City and Chelsea. The summer of 2022 saw Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side invest in several promising young talents including Sekou Mara, Romeo Lavia, Gavin Bazunu and Armel Bella-Kotchap.
The son of Cameroon international Cyrille Florent Bella, Bella-Kotchap was born in Paris but moved to Germany at a young age, passing through various clubs before joining VfL Bochum in 2017 and breaking through in central defence in the 2020/21 season as Die Unabsteigbaren finished first and earned promotion to the Bundesliga after an 11-year drought, before defying the odds and finishing 13th, 14 points above relegation. Bochum currently sit bottom of the table with 1 point with 5 goals scored and 23 conceded after a summer window that saw two young stalwarts in central defence with Bella-Kotchap and Maxim Leitsch leaving the Ruhrstadion. At 20 years old, Bella-Kotchap is a physically imposing defender who is a force to be reckoned with in aerial duels as well as foot races, capable of anticipating danger and catching up with ensuing counter-attackers, as well as reading his opponent’s movement and intercepting dangerous passes, combining anticipation with raw physical prowess. He has impressed in the opening weeks of the campaign for Saints following his €10m move from Bochum and earned a maiden call-up to the Germany national team in September and came on for the final six minutes of a 3-3 draw to England. It may not be enough to sway Hansi Flick and convince him he’s worthy of inclusion in Die Mannschaft’s World Cup squad ahead of Antonio Rudiger, Nico Schlotterbeck, Niklas Süle, or Matthias Ginter, but Bella-Kotchap could very well be headed for a bright future in Germany’s defence, and alongside Mohammed Salisu in central defence, he will be vital to Southampton’s hopes of escaping a looming relegation fight and giving themselves some breathing room above the relegation zone.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season in a 3-1 defeat to North London rivals Arsenal, Tottenham sit third in the Premier League table, three points behind Manchester City and four behind the Gunners. From their summer signings, Yves Bissouma has come off the bench in 6 of their 7 matches, the sole exception being a 1-1 draw to West Ham, and will be looking to stake out a starting spot ahead of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg or Rodrigo Bentancur in the double pivot. Ivan Perisic has already emerged as one of the first names on Antonio Conte’s team sheet, offering a wealth of experience and attacking output as a left wing-back, and at 33 years old, a veteran mentor for 22-year-old Ryan Sessegnon. Whilst both of those players could have crucial roles to play as Spurs look to build on last season’s fourth-place finish and make a deep run in the Champions League, I’m going to give my vote to Richarlison.
After an impressive debut Premier League campaign at Watford, Richarlison emerged as an attacking talisman at Everton with 53 goals and 14 assists in 152 appearances and played a key role in the Toffees narrowly avoiding relegation in 2021/22 under Frank Lampard, but with Everton in need of a major revenue stream to dig themselves out of financial trouble and Richarlison’s talent continuing to outgrow Goodison Park, the 25-year-old joined Tottenham Hotspur for an initial fee of £50 million as well as £10 million in add-ons that could see him surpass Tanguy Ndombele as the club’s most expensive signing. Richarlison has already grabbed a brace in a 2-0 win against Marseille and picked up three assists, but perhaps most impressively, he has offered direct competition for Heung-min Son, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski, such is his ability to play across the front three. He has already won the Copa America and Olympics with Brazil and scored 16 goals in 37 appearances under Tite, and he will have a key role to play as Tite’s side look to end a 20-year drought and pick up a record sixth World Cup trophy in Qatar. A consistent goal threat with speed, physical power and a never-say-die spirit, Richarlison has already proven himself at the Premier League level – now, he has the chance to do it in the Champions League and the world’s biggest sporting event.
West Ham: Gianluca Scamacca
It has been quite the busy summer in East London for David Moyes’ West Ham, who have brought in Alphonso Areola on a permanent deal from Paris Saint-Germain after an impressive loan spell, with the 29-year-old French international goalkeeper providing a long-term alternative to Lukasz Fabianski (37) between the sticks, whilst German international Thilo Kehrer has emerged as a regular in defence since joining from PSG. From Nayef Aguerd to Lucas Paqueta, from Maxwel Cornet to Flynn Downes to Emerson, West Ham could very well have assembled one of the best transfer windows in all of England, and I think the best of the bunch could very well be Gianluca Scamacca.
After loan spells at Cremonese, Ascoli, Genoa and Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle, Scamacca returned to Sassuolo in 2021 and exploded onto the scene for new manager Alessio Dionisi with 16 goals and 1 assist, a slight improvement on his 2020/21 loan spell at Genoa that saw him score 12 goals in 2 assists. This form earned him a move to West Ham for £30.5 million plus an additional £5 million in bonuses, with the 23-year-old Italian replacing Sebastien Haller 18 months after the Frenchman’s departure to Ajax and finally providing a genuine alternative at centre forward to Michail Antonio (32). He has already scored three goals in the UEFA Europa Conference League and opened his account at the weekend with a thunderbolt in a 2-0 win against Wolves, and at 6’5”, he is a lanky centre forward who is capable of not only dominating aerial battles but also ‘boxing out’ other defenders to create space for himself and link up with teammates. A physically imposing, technically gifted centre forward in the ilk of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Karim Benzema, Scamacca blends physicality with a superb ball-striking ability, agility and balance, knowing how to utilize his size and quick feet to evade pressure. West Ham will be counting on him to build on his performance against Wolves as they look to escape the bottom half of the table, but at 23 years old, the Italian has everything it takes to be the Hammers’ short-term and long-term replacement for Michail Antonio.
Wolves: Matheus Nunes
It has been a whirlwind few months for Wolves, who, after a 10th-place finish in Bruno Lage’s first season in charge, have brought in 21-year-old Irish centre-back Nathan Collins from Burnley and shipped out other veteran defenders like Conor Coady, Romain Saiss, Fernando Marcal and Willy Boly, only for a deal to sign Craig Dawson from West Ham to fall through, leaving them preciously short of depth at the back. Whilst Lage elected to play Ruben Neves and Jonny Castro in his back three ahead of younger centre-backs like Yerson Mosquera and Toti Gomes, David Moyes went with Dawson and Kurt Zouma in central defence as the Hammers thrashed Wolves 2-0 at the weekend. The result? Lage became the third Premier League manager to be sacked this season after Scott Parker and Thomas Tuchel.
The lack of a centre forward remains a genuine concern at Molineux; three days after joining from Stuttgart for £15 million, Sasa Kalajdzic ruptured his ACL, prompting Wolves to sign Diego Costa on a free transfer, although it remains to be seen if the 34-year-old can provide the same goalscoring presence that we saw at Stamford Bridge and the Vicente Calderon. Goncalo Guedes has replaced Morgan Gibbs-White, and Boubacar Traore has replaced Leander Dendoncker, but their most valuable signing of the summer may just be Matheus Nunes.
Ruben Neves’ contract is set to expire in 2024, and if Wolves’ downward slide in form continues, there’s no guarantee he will be keen on renewing his deal at Molineux. Fellow Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho is 36 and is entering the final nine months of his deal, with the veteran missing out on a place in Portugal’s recent squad. Wolves desperately needed to sign a bonafide talent in central midfield, and they have acquired it with Matheus Nunes. Capable of driving forward with his acceleration and physical grit, the Brazilian-born Portugal international is a box-to-box dynamo in midfield who will be liking his chances of getting into Fernando Santos’ 26-man squad for the upcoming World Cup. Like João Palhinha, Alexander Isak, and many more, he is yet another dazzling prospect who has abandoned the prospect of playing European football this season for the chance of making a name for himself in England’s top division, and he could have a massive role to play as Wolves look to escape a looming relegation fight.
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