Typical, isn’t it? You spend your time writing a nice little article on the best signings for under £10 million, and just as you are finalising it you’re kindly informed that Stoke, yes Stoke, have signed Bojan ‘Lionel Messi 2.0’ Krkic. For what it’s worth, Bojan should be more suited to a Stoke team managed by Mark Hughes, a team that plays slightly more attractive football than that of the sound defensive unit marshalled by previous manager Tony Pulis.
Anyway Bojan, if you’re reading this, you’ve missed the deadline and will be suitably fined. Here are the five players I believe will be the top signings in the aforementioned price bracket.
Graziano Pelle, Southampton: £4m
Much has been made of the mass exodus at St Mary’s. Even before Mauricio Pochettino took over the mantle from Tim Sherwood at Tottenham Hotspur, rumours were rife that Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana would both be leaving for pastures new. More recently, Dejan Lovren, Callum Chambers and Morgan Schneiderlin have all been linked with moves away from the club.
Surprisingly, Rickie Lambert was the first to depart, leaving to join the team he supported as a boy, Liverpool. Lambert’s scouse drawl at least made sure that his press conference was a tad more convincing than that of Anfield legend, Robbie Keane.
It would be easy to see Pelle as Lambert’s direct replacement, especially as both are big, powerful strikers who possess great strength in the air. However, it’s worth remembering that Lambert wasn’t always a regular starter under Pochettino, whereas Ronald Koeman is likely to see Pelle as his main man.
Pelle has shown all the characteristics you’d want in a striker, hitting the net for Feyenoord with marvellous consistency. 50 goals in just 59 matches is an unbelievable return. The Eredivisie is arguably of a poorer standard than that of the Premier League, but to use this fact as an argument against a new signing is a cliché churned out all too easily. Van Nistelrooy and Suarez both made hugely successful leaps from Dutch to English football. Let’s just gloss over the counter arguments personified by Afonso Alves or Marco Boogers.
Southampton fans will be hoping that Pelle can form a successful partnership with Jay Rodriguez, providing of course that Rodriguez stays at St. Mary’s, and suffers no repercussions from the unfortunate injury that kept him out of England’s dismal World Cup.
But whether it’s playing instead of Rodriguez, or up alongside him, Southampton may be worshipping a new cult hero in the not too distant future.
Willy Caballero, Manchester City: £6m
Despite sounding like a professional Flamenco dancer, Willy Caballero has arrived at Eastlands in a deal worth around £6 million. The Argentine goalkeeper featured in 117 matches for Malaga over the last three seasons, and has kept more clean sheets for the club than any of their goalkeepers in the last 10 years. Last season, he kept 12 clean sheets, and his aerial domination will be sorely missed by Los Boquerones. Still, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, according to the old adage.
Manuel Pellegrini has already gone on record to say that Caballero will be a serious challenger for the number one spot at City, which in turn should give Joe Hart huge incentive to perform. Hart was prone to severe lapses of concentration last season, with more and more errors creeping into his game. More recently of course, during the World Cup, Hart was a complete contrast to the boisterous, confident ‘keeper that we have seen in previous years. He was nearly caught out not once, but twice by Luis Suarez cheekily attempting to score direct from a corner. In this instance however, maybe it’s best to avoid the expression ‘once bitten, twice shy’.
Costel Pantilimon was a more than able deputy for City, and was unlucky to be dropped by Roberto Mancini for the 2013 FA Cup final against Wigan, yet he never genuinely threatened to usurp Hart from his position between the sticks on a permanent basis, and has since joined Sunderland.
Could the transfer of Caballero be a master stroke from Mr Pellegrini to get the best out of his talented English goalkeeper, or will Willy stake his claim as City’s number one? Either way, it should turn out to be money well spent.
Mauro Zarate, West Ham United: Undisclosed, rumoured to be around £6m.
Sam Allardyce is not a popular figure at Upton Park. His brand of football, while successful in keeping them up last season, did not sit well with supporters of the London club. His reign at West Ham is a perfect case study for those debating the pros and cons of style over substance. Do football fans covet a team that entertains them, or crave a team that can compete?
Big Sam is tougher than Deirdre Barlow’s skin and he would never admit it, but it would come as no surprise if Zarate has been brought in purely to provide those moments of flair that have lacked from the Hammer’s approach play recently, such as Paolo Di Canio, Carlos Tevez (sorry Sheffield United fans) and Joe Cole in his prime all possessed the ability to get fans off their seats, and there’s no reason why Zarate can’t do the same.
Birmingham fans will remember the little man fondly for his time spent at St Andrew’s. During this time, Zarate scored 4 goals in 14 appearances, and was a firm favourite with the fans. With the popularity of the Premier League, it was a loan spell which gave the Argentine huge exposure, eventually paving the way for a big money move to Italian side Lazio, where he made over 100 appearances and averaged roughly a goal every 3 games.
West Ham can look forward to Zarate’s guile and creativity, as well as his eye for goal. His first goal for West Ham came in the recent friendly against Wellington Phoenix, but he still ended up on the losing side. Big Sam will be hoping that this isn’t a recurring theme this season, and that Zarate’s undoubted class can spur his team on to a much more successful, and harmonious season.
Tom Ince, Hull City: Free transfer.
Steve Bruce is building a team for a long stay in the Premier League. It’s almost systematic. Piece by piece, the Hull City jigsaw is being assembled. He’s the master of identifying an area for improvement, and developing it. Bankrolled by Hull’s ever popular chairman Assem Allam, he’s already brought in Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone to create a strong central midfield, and last January purchased Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long to add some much needed firepower up front. Bruce has now identified the wide areas as a weak spot, which has led to the signing of Tom Ince.
Ince flirted with Inter Milan, amongst other less attractive English propositions, for what seemed like an age. He spent the end of last season at Crystal Palace, in a fairly uneventful loan spell. It was at Blackpool however, that people started to take note of Ince’s raw ability.
He signed for the Tangerines in August 2011, the season after their cruel exit from the Premier League. His performances helped fire Blackpool to a second play-off final in three years, although they couldn’t repeat their heroic performance of 2010.
Ince played 86 times for Blackpool, and scored 31 goals, and while his goalscoring record is good, he is just as capable of creating chances. Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic may already be licking their lips at the proposition of more chances being created for them to gobble up.
At just 22 years of age, there is everything to suggest that Ince’s best years are ahead of him, and there aren’t many better than Bruce at drawing the best out of England’s young players. Hull have European football next season too, so this season may well be the season that Ince’s true talent is recognised.
Siem De Jong, Newcastle United: £6m
Make no mistake, Holland’s Daryl Janmaat is a great acquisition for Newcastle United, and at £5 million could have easily made it into this article. Personally, I feel that another of Newcastle’s latest signings could be an even bigger steal at an estimated £6 million.
After bringing Luuk De Jong to St James’s Park last season, Alan Pardew was forced to look at his forward options. Newcastle needed a striker; one who would could score goals preferably. It’s for this reason that Pardew traded in poor Luuk for his older brother Siem. One can only hope that Mrs Pardew is an only child. To be fair, De Jong the second has already hit the net twice in pre-season, against lesser opposition than he will face in August obviously, but it still offers some encouragement for the Toon Army.
It seems a lifetime away that Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were one of the most fearsome strike forces in the Premier League. It led to Demba getting a move to Chelsea, and it seemed to go downhill from there, for both players.
De Jong scored 78 goals in 244 appearances for Ajax. From 2009, he hit double figures in each season until last year, when he made only 19 appearances, yet still managed 7 goals. He’s also scored twice for Holland at international level.
He is a much more creative option than his brother, who is seen mainly as a target man, and can play as a striker, just off the striker or as an attacking midfielder. With the poor form of Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse last season, De Jong may provide the breath of fresh air that Newcastle are looking for.