Summer Transfers: Ranking the 15 Most Important Buys for the 2012/13 Season
The summer transfer window has officially ended with the 20 teams in the Premier League involved in almost 300 transfers that resulted in some £485,000,000 worth of business.
As usual, Tottenham Hotspur left their shopping until the final minutes, Liverpool did practically no business at all, Manchester United robbed one of the closest rivals of their greatest star, QPR seemed to buy everyone that was available and like everyone else, Chelsea plundered Belgium for the latest star to come off their phenomenal production line.
The criteria taken into account for this article are; the overall quality of the player involved, their potential, what the signing instantly means for each respective team, and ultimately, the value for money the transfer represents.
With that in mind, here we look at the 15 most important Premier League signings of the transfer window.
15. Romelu Lukaku
Name: Romelu Lukaku
Loan Transfer: Chelsea (EPL) to West Brom (EPL)
Value: £10 million
Steve Clarke's move to bring Romelu Lukaku to the Hawthornes on loan for the rest of the season is a stroke of genius.
Lukaku, currently the Baggies' third choice striker behind Shane Long and Peter Odemwengie, is an absolute powerhouse of a player and in comparative terms, he is the younger version of Didier Drogba.
He goes to West Brom determined to prove his worth to the Chelsea hierarchy, who have largely underestimated and overlooked him during the past year, and if that does not work he is putting himself in the shop window for other teams to see.
The Belgian international is easily a double-figure-goals-quality striker and if Clarke can coax an extra five percent from Lukaku, he could hit 20 goals and the Baggies could end up figuring in the European places.
14. Richard Wright
Name: Richard Wright
Transfer: Free transfer to Manchester City (EPL)
The value of Roberto Mancini plucking Richard Wright from obscurity to sign for the champions will be lost on many but this transfer is easily the most important Manchester City will make this year.
As a goalkeeper, Wright is of average Premier League quality but his capture brings experience and much-needed cover for City's No.1 Joe Hart.
Wright will instantly come in as Hart's understudy in the City squad, but should the eventuality of a short-term injury occur to Mancini's first choice 'keeper, the ex-Arsenal and Everton shot-stopper will provide ample cover.
Transfer: Internacional (Brazil) to Chelsea (EPL)
Value: £25 million
In any other season the £25 million capture of a Brazilian international would be headline news.
However, the capture and form Eden Hazard has overshadowed the signing of the player who could conceivably go on to be Chelsea's most important.
So far we have seen very little of Oscar other than a few cameos here and there but take my word for it this guy has almost unlimited potential.
Like Hazard, Oscar is a player who does all his damage in the final third and usually from the wide positions. As he matures as a player his game will automatically move inside and it is then that we will see how really good Oscar could be.
Transfer: Rayo Vallecano (La Liga) to Swansea (EPL)
Value: £2 million
Since Michu signed for Michael Laudrup's Swansea City for just £2 million from Rayo Vallecano, he has been a revelation.
So far the 6'1" attacking midfielder has scored four goals in just three English Premier League games but apart from the headline grabbing goals, it is the manner of his play that has impressed so much so far.
Slotting into the central attacking midfield position of Swansea's 4-2-3-1 formation, Michu has shown great skill, vision and versatility in helping both his team's defence and attack.
This form will not continue but the quality of the player is there for all the see and come May, he will still be one of the best signings of the season.
11. Hugo Lloris
Name: Hugo Lloris
Transfer: Lyon (Ligue 1) to Tottenham Hotspur (EPL)
Value: £8 million
When you consider that Birmingham City would want somewhere in the region of £8-10 million for the inexperienced 19-year-old Jack Butland you realise what great value this transfer represents.
Lloris, at 25 years of age, has played some 257 first team matches, has played in the Champions League every season since 2008, has played 38 times for France and is their current captain.
In short, Lloris has huge experience for one so young.
"But what is he like as a 'keeper?" I hear you ask.
Lloris is top draw. He is incredibly athletic, is a superb shot-stopper, is a fantastic communicator and commands his box with ease.
Spurs now have a ready made replacement for 41-year-old Brad Friedel and the beauty of having the American on form and between the posts is that it gives Lloris more time to settle before he eventually takes the No. 1 slot.
10. Stephane Mbia
Name: Stephane Mbia
Transfer: Marseille (Ligue 1) to QPR (EPL)
Potentially, QPR's signing of Stephane Mbia from Marseille could be the signing of the entire transfer window.
Before injuries and a loss of form curtailed Mbia's meteoric rise he was on the wanted radar of every major team in Europe and it was not unusual to find scouts trekking to the Stade Velodrome to check out the powerful Cameroonian.
Nowadays, Mbia has lost a yard of pace but he is still a formidable midfielder, or more likely, central defender.
Mark Hughes will be hoping for a return to the days of old for the player and if he can reach those heights, QPR will have signed a 26-year-old for little or nothing with massive sell on value.
9. Andy Carroll
Name: Andy Carroll
Loan Transfer: Liverpool (EPL) to West Ham (EPL)
Value: £17 million
It's fitting that Andy Carroll is No.9 on this list because if there is one player in the Barclay's Premier League that needed to move during the transfer window it was him.
Rightly or wrongly Carroll has had to suffer pretty all the slings and arrows aimed at the last regime at Liverpool from both fans and the board and he needed this move to kick-start a promising career.
At West Ham, Big Sam will build his team around Carroll and play to the strikers strengths and if he can return to form he will be one of the most dangerous No.9's in the league and most importantly, Roy Hodgson and England will have another option to Wayne Rooney.
8. Julio Cesar
Name: Julio Cesar
Transfer: Inter Milan (Serie A) to QPR (EPL)
QPR may just have pulled off the two biggest coups in the transfer window when they snapped up Stephane Mbia from Marseille and Júlio César Soares de Espíndola from Inter Milan for next to nothing.
The Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009 and 2010 signed for Rangers on deadline day in a move that really had the football world scratching their heads.
Commonly known as Julio Cesar, the Brazilian goalkeeper could turn out to be the best signing Mark Hughes has ever made and could potentially be the best keeper in the Premier League, if past form returns.
Once hailed the best keeper in the world, Cesar suffered a massive loss of form that coincided with Jose Mourinho leaving the club and Inter being ripped apart by Gareth Bale.
He will be keen to regain that form as good performances from him could result in earning his place back in Brazil's squad for the World Cup in 2014.
7. Emmanuel Adebayor
Name: Emmanuel Adebayor
Transfer: Manchester City (EPL) to Tottenham Hotspur (EPL)
Value: £5 million
The importance of Emmanuel Adebayor in the Tottenham Hotspur set-up should not be underestimated.
Snapping the Togolese striker up for just £5 million from Manchester City, Spurs have pulled off, perhaps, the biggest striker coup of the entire season never mind this past transfer window.
Adebayor was excellent for Spurs last season when he weighed in with 18 goals and 12 assists from 37 games.
However, his importance far outweighs statistical reviews.
As the focal point in Tottenham's 4-2-3-1 formation, it is Adebayor that brings the best out of the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon as he is one of the very best strikers in the game concerning playing with his back to goal.
New manager Andre Villas-Boas will be keen to link Adebayor up with the likes of Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele, alongside Bale and Lennon. For the first time since the '80s, Spurs really do have a goal threat across their entire attacking lineup.
6. Moussa Dembele
Name: Moussa Dembele
Transfer: Fulham (EPL) to Tottenham Hotspur (EPL)
Value: £15 million
When Spurs sold Luka Modric to Real Madrid for £33 million, everyone wondered how they would replace the little Croatian maestro, and then they signed Fulham's Moussa Dembele for £15 million.
There are no two ways about it; this was not a like-for-like signing.
At 6'1" 25-year-old Dembele's game is all about honesty, determination and athleticism. But that belies his passing ability, clever movement and tactical knowledge that is very much underestimated.
With that in mind, it can be said that while Spurs have lost an undoubted star in Modric, they have conceivably signed a far more complete player in Dembele than the Croatian is ever likely to be.
5. Steven Pienaar
Name: Steven Pienaar
Transfer: Tottenham Hotspur (EPL) to Everton (EPL)
Value: £4.5 million
This season, all the plaudits for Everton have gone to Marouane Felliani and David Moyes. However, it is their summer signing of Steven Pienaar, who should be grabbing all the headlines.
The South African midfielder rejoined the Toffees for £4.5 million after an unhappy period at Tottenham Hotspur, where it must be said that Harry Redknapp, Spurs' ex-manager, never really got the best out of the wide midfielder.
Slotting in on the left-hand side of David Moyes' team is Pienaar, who pulls all the strings for the Toffees going forward.
While many question Moyes' simplistic tactics, that just belies a monumental lack of knowledge on their behalf.
Everton usually use a 4-4-1-1 formation but the real key to their continued success is the versatility of that five-man-midfield and how they interchange and support each other. Each player is comfortable with and without the ball, but it is Pienaar's versatility across the entire midfield as he slots in to cover and support that glues the entire Moyes' philosophy together.
Simply put; there is no more important player at Everton.
4. Santi Cazorla
Name: Santi Cazorla
Transfer: Malaga (La Liga) to Arsenal (EPL)
Value: £15 million
The Gunners had a reasonable transfer window that may take some time to assess as players blend with the rest of their new teammates. However, even in these few weeks, we can see that the purchase of Santi Cazorla from Malaga for £15 million looks like extremely good business.
Before Cazorla joined Arsenal, he has amassed a healthy 340 games in La Liga and had scored 58 goals and 40 assists. The most important statistic about the ex-Villareal man, though, is that he has amassed 46 caps for Spain since 2008.
When you consider that these caps were won in the era of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas, and during the time period where Spain won the European Championship's twice (2008, 2012) and the World Cup in 2010, you realise that Cazorla is an extremely gifted player.
Comfortable across any of the attacking positions in Wenger's 4-2-3-1 formation, Cazorla has been installed as the creative lynch-pin of the team. With him pulling the strings behind Podolski, Giroud and Walcott, it won't be long before the Gunners are firing again.
3. Robin Van Persie
Name: Robin van Persie
Transfer: Arsenal (EPL) to Manchester United (EPL)
Value: £24 million
Robin van Persie's £24 million transfer from Arsenal to Manchester United was the biggest Premier League transfer of the summer window.
Coming up to that fateful day on August 17, the dogs on the street could have told you that van Persie would not be an Arsenal player by the end of the transfer window. But the very fact that he signed for the team that used to be Arsenal's arch-rivals speaks volumes about both clubs.
His signature was a basic admission on Sir Alex Ferguson's behalf that he was going to abandon his favoured 4-4-2 of last season and return to a 4-2-3-1 formation that would get the very best out his two star strikers—Wayne Rooney and van Persie.
That potential partnership between the two strikers has been put on ice until Rooney returns from injury. But if and when they do get going on the same wavelength, the EPL had better watch out.
2. Shinji Kagawa
Name: Shinji Kagawa
Transfer: Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga) to Manchester United (EPL)
Value: £12 million
In recent years, Manchester United's midfield has been the weakest part of the team.
When Sir Alex Ferguson snatched Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund for just £12 million, it marked an important step in the evolution of the team in terms of its tactical direction.
When playing in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa was the creative dynamo in Jurgen Klopp's side.
While some doubted the 5'7" midfielder's ability to play in one of Europe's top league, Klopp instantly deployed him as an attacking midfielder where his vision, passing range and eye-for-goal marked him out as one of the Bundesliga's top stars.
Over two seasons in Germany, he scored an impressive 29 goals in 71 games so the biggest surprise regarding his transfer was how Dortmund allowed him to leave for so little.
Now at the tender age of 23, he is playing for Manchester United and the world is literally at his feet.
1. Eden Hazard
Name: Eden Hazard
Transfer: Lille (Ligue 1) to Chelsea (EPL)
Value: £32 million
For someone who only started playing professional football in 2007, 21-year-old Eden Hazard has had some career.
The attacking midfielder is rated as being amongst the very best players in the world for his age and there is little doubt that Chelsea have pulled off a huge coup in capturing the talented Belgian international.
As a player, Hazard is technically brilliant. His vision and creativity border on telepathic and his dribbling skills are almost the equal of Lionel Messi's.
His introduction to the team has resulted in a new dynamic and creative. Chelsea has the attacking power to match any team in the world and it is all because of their new fulcrum that is Eden Hazard.
Taking everything into account that Hazard is such a special talent, it would not surprise anyone if he went on to become the world's first £100 million player.
You can follow or find me on Twitter at @WillieGannon