Best World Football Signings of the Past Decade

Laura GreeneFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

Best World Football Signings of the Past Decade

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    The last decade has seen some monumental comings and goings in the world of football. 

    Over the following slides, we break down the best signings of the last 10 years, season-by-season.

    A list like this is always going to be subjective and there is an enormous number of players that could be chosen.

    To add some parameters, we made our choices from within the category of the 50 most expensive players to be bought and sold in any one season. 

    Beginning in 2003/04 with Ronaldinho's move to Barcelona and ending in 2013/14—the year of the mega-deal—read on to see who made it on to the list. 

     

     

Best Signings of 2003/04

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    It was a big season for transfers in 2003/04.

    One of the best signings has to be Ronaldinho's £21 million move from Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona.

    Lionel Messi was still in the youth team, Barca had not won a trophy in four years, but all that was about to change...

    The Brazilian set the tone for the years ahead with this goal, scored against Sevilla in his second La Liga game for the club. He went on to win back-to-back league titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06, and lifted the Champions League trophy in Paris in 2006.

    An 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo also signed for Manchester United at this time—joining the Old Trafford side from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of £12.24 million. The Portuguese matured into one of the world's best players, scoring 118 goals for United and winning a haul of silverware before moving to Real Madrid, for £80 million, in 2009.

    Kaka's £7.2 million move from Sao Paolo to AC Milan was equally huge. The then-21-year-old became a hero at San Siro, where he won a wealth of trophies, including the Scudetto, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, and personal honours that included the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year, before being sold on to Real Madrid in 2009 for a sum in the region of £57 million. 

    In 2003, Claude Makalele signed for Chelsea, becoming one of the most influential players in a side that won two league titles, an FA Cup and two league cups over a five-year period. 

     

Best Signings of 2004/05

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    In 2004/05, Didier Drogba signed for Chelsea for £26 million in Jose Mourinho's first season at the club.

    It proved to be a bargain, as the Ivorian striker went on to score 157 goals for the Blues after making his switch from Marseille. In eight years at Stamford Bridge, Drogba won honours that include three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League.

    Similarly effective at Chelsea was goalkeeper Petr Cech, who signed in the summer of 2004 from Ligue 1 side Rennes. The Czech international is still going strong with the Blues, where he has been instrumental in their successes over the last decade.

    Wayne Rooney, then 18 years old, made a controversial switch to Manchester United in 2004—becoming the most expensive teenager in British football history.

    Questions about whether he was worth his £27 million transfer fee were asked at the time. Rooney rapidly answered that question with an emphatic yes. The forward now has five Premier League titles and a Champions League winner's medal, among others, to show for his time at the club.

    The same year, Samuel Eto'o moved from Real Mallorca to Barcelona. Calling it a big move is a gross understatement. The Cameroonian forward spent five trophy-laden years at Camp Nou, where he scored 128 goals in 196 games for the club before moving on to a successful two years with Inter Milan in 2009.

    Xabi Alonso's transfer from Real Sociedad to Liverpool ended up becoming an incredibly important move. The 22-year-old Spaniard joined the Merseyside club for £14 million and helped to usher in a new era under Rafa Benitez, which saw them win the FA Cup and Champions League. Alonso signed for Real Madrid in 2009 for £30 million.

     

     

Best Signings of 2005/06

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    At 23, David Villa signed for Valencia from Real Zaragoza. He went on to make more than 200 appearances for Los Che and scored 126 goals. With managers coming and going, his time at the Mestalla was not the most successful in the club's history. However, Villa was never anything less than a prolific striker during his years there.

    In 2010 he was sold to Barcelona for €40 million. Villa is Spain's all-time leading international goalscorer. 

    In his prime, Michael Essien was one of the most complete midfielders around. The Ghanaian signed for Chelsea in 2005 from Lyon.

    At the time his £26 million transfer fee made him the most expensive African player in history. He came to Stamford Bridge as Chelsea were embarking on a successful new era, flushed with new wealth from owner Roman Abramovich.

    Essien played a huge part in the Blues winning the FA Cup four times, the Champions League and two Premier League titles. Essien went on loan to Real Madrid in 2012 before following Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge this season. 

    After seven years at Old Trafford, Patrice Evra is still going strong. In his pomp, the Frenchman was widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world. After making his switch to Manchester United for £7 million, Evra has won many honours including the Champions League and five Premier League titles. 

Best Signings of 2006/07

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    There's something about Atletico Madrid strikers...Falcao, Diego Forlan, Diego Costa, Fernando Torres—the list goes on.

    Sergio Aguero is right up there as one of the club's best. He signed, age 18, from Independiente in 2006 and went on to score more than 100 goals in his five seasons at the club. He won the Europa League in 2009/10 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2010. The Argentina international signed for Manchester City in 2011 for a reported £38 million. 

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an instant impact after he moved to Inter Milan from Juventus in 2006. His first season at the club was the first time Inter had won Serie A in 17 years and he finished the campaign with 15 goals to his name.

    The Swede won three consecutive Scudettos in his time at San Siro before leaving to join Barcelona in 2009.

Best Signings of 2007/08

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    When Bayern Munich won the race to sign Franck Ribery in 2007, it was a great move, one that is continuing to pay dividends for the German club.

    He put pen to paper for Bayern after spending two years with Marseille and made an instant impact, being voted German Footballer of the Year and French Player of the Year in his first season and winning the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal. He has since won numerous titles including the 2012/13 Champions League.

    Fernando Torres became a Liverpool icon very quickly after signing from Atletico Madrid in 2007. In his first season at Anfield, Torres scored 33 goals in all competitions. The following season he came third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award, bettered by only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

    In total the striker scored 81 goals in 142 Liverpool appearances before being sold to Chelsea for the tidy sum of £50 million in 2011. No matter the circumstances of his leaving, Torres will always be held in very high regard in the red half of Merseyside.

    Who knew, when Tottenham Hotspur signed a 17-year-old Gareth Bale in 2007 that he would one day go on to be the most expensive player in world football?

    The Welshman came to White Hart Lane from Southampton for £7 million and matured over the years into one of the Premier League's brightest talents and most pricey exports.

     

Best Signings of 2008/09

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    Some of the biggest deals in 2008/09 looked great on paper but didn't quite work out. Players such as Robbie Keane, who moved from Spurs to Liverpool and Robinho, who made the switch from Real Madrid to Manchester City, didn't live up to the high expectations that awaited them. 

    Among the notable moves of the year was Dani Alves' transfer from Sevilla to Barcelona. Voted La Liga's Best Defender in 2009, the right-back still going strong at Camp Nou, where he has amassed titles including four La Liga wins, two Copas del Rey and two Champions League titles. 

    Hulk's move to FC Porto in 2008 was a big signing for the Portuguese club, who bought the player from Tokyo Verdy for £15 million. He had a huge impact, both domestically and in the Champions League, where his performances led to him being included in UEFA's "top 10 rising stars."

    In the years that followed his move to the Primeira Liga, Hulk won four league titles, the Europa League and three Taca de Portugal trophies, among others.

    His growing reputation saw Porto pull off a nice piece of business when they later sold the Brazilian to Zenit St. Petersburg for €50 million.

Best Signings of 2009/10

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    Equally praised and vilified during his time with Chelsea and Real Madrid, Arjen Robben has been an indisputable asset for Bayern Munich, the club he joined in 2009.

    In his first season, he helped Louis van Gaal's team to reclaim the Bundesliga trophy and he also won German Footballer of the Year. In his 137 games for the club, Robben has scored 76 goals and set up 53 more.

    No-one can deny the Dutchman's contributions to Bayern's current success, especially last season's treble-winning campaign under Jupp Heynckes.

    The summer of 2009 saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso join Real Madrid, along with Kaka, Raul Albiol and Karim Benzema. However, it's Ronaldo and Alonso who have made the biggest impression at the Bernabeu.

    Ronaldo's other-worldly goalscoring record speaks for itself and Alonso has so often been the lynchpin in the centre of the park for Los Blancos. The pair have won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup with Madrid. 

    In the same transfer period, Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder signed for Inter Milan. It was a treble-winning season for the Italian club with Jose Mourinho at the helm, and the trio of signings from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Genoa respectively enjoyed a stellar debut season at San Siro. 

     

Best Signings of 2010/11

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    Yaya Toure has been a central figure in Manchester City's revival of recent years. Bought from Barcelona in summer 2010 for a reported £24 million, the Ivorian has been immense for the Manchester side, where he has won the Premier League and FA Cup. 

    Also signing for City in 2010/11 were David Silva and Mario Balotelli, the latter somewhat controversial in his two-and-a-half seasons at Eastlands but a key player nonetheless with 30 goals for the club.

    Silva, long admired by Premier League teams, made the switch after winning the World Cup with Spain in South Africa and has gone on to appear in more than 150 games for the Citizens.

    Elsewhere, Mesut Ozil, who had been making waves with Werder Bremen and impressing for Germany on the international stage, signed for Real Madrid for £16.6 million. Ozil won La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey while consistently creating more assists than any other player in the league. The playmaker was sold to Arsenal in 2013 for £42 million.

    At Liverpool, another controversial character came to the Premier League in January 2011.

    Like him or loathe him, it cannot be disputed that Luis Suarez has been a fantastic signing for the Anfield team, who paid Ajax a sum in the region of £22.7 million for his services. Now worth in excess of £40 million and with more than 50 goals for the Reds, the Uruguayan was a fine piece of business.

    In 2011/12, Juventus won Serie A with one of the best defensive records in Europe, thanks in no small part to their acquisition of Leonardo Bonucci the previous year. Bonucci came to Juve from Bari and, in a three-man defence that includes Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, Bonucci has excelled. 

Best Signings of 2011/12

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    In 2011, Falcao joined Atletico Madrid from Porto. He had a starring role with the Portuguese club, where he scored 72 goals in 87 appearances and won a treble that comprised of the league, Taca de Portugal and Europa League.

    Atletico's £34.7 million made him the club's most expensive buy. They were rewarded as the Colombian scored 70 goals in 91 games, winning the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and, last season, the Copa del Rey. Falcao was sold to Monaco over the summer for a whopping £50 million.

    Another big deal of the 2011/12 season was Edinson Cavani's transfer to Napoli. The Uruguayan had previously been on loan with the club, from Palermo, before making the deal permanent. The striker had an enormous impact at the Italian club and his 104 goals in 138 games saw him become hot property in the transfer market.

    Cavani was eventually sold to Paris Saint-Germain in summer of 2013 for a fee in the region of £55 million. 

    This campaign also saw German international goalkeeper Manuel Neuer join Bayern Munich from Schalke. He is the youngest keeper to keep 100 Bundesliga clean sheets and already has a list of honours to his name.

    On the back of winning the World Cup and the European U21 Championships consecutively with Spain, Juan Mata joined Chelsea from Valencia in August 2011. In his debut season for the club, the playmaker was voted Chelsea Player of the Year and won the Champions League and FA Cup.

    After years of being coveted by many clubs in Europe, Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero was snapped up by Manchester City. As far as debut seasons go, Aguero's was pretty much perfect. The Argentine scored 23 goals in the Premier League, with none as important as the final-day strike against Queens Park Rangers that won City their first title in 44 years. 

Best Signings of 2012/13

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    In the Premier League, Chelsea made some of the best buys of the 2012/13 season in Oscar and Eden Hazard.

    Signed from Internacional and Lille respectively, the pair have racked up 151 appearances for the Blues between them. Last season's Europa League win looks like a sign of things to come for the young midfield duo.

    Robin van Persie's switch to Manchester United also proved pivotal when he signed for the Old Trafford side in August 2012. Without the Dutchman's 26 goals and 15 assists, it's highly unlikely that United would have won their 20th Premier League crown last season.

    Daniel Sturridge's January 2013 move to Anfield has emerged as a phenomenal piece of business. Formerly a journeyman footballer, the striker has finally found a fitting home with Liverpool, where he is currently enjoying his position as the Premier League's top scorer.

    For a fee in the region of £12 million, Sturridge was a steal.

    At White Hart Lane, Tottenham's acquisition of Jan Vertonghen from Ajax has proved to be shrewd. At £11 million, he was a relatively cheap buy and, when playing in his natural position as a centre-back, he has impressed in his performances for Spurs and the Belgium national team. 

    In France, PSG were busy buying world-class talents Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for a combined fee in the region of £55 million, both making the switch from AC Milan. Quite simply, one of the best strikers and one of the best defenders in world football, their move to Parc des Princes was a coup for club and Ligue 1 alike.

    In the Bundesliga, Mario Mandzukic's transfer from Wolfsburg to Bayern Munich ended up to be an inspired  move. In what must have been a delight for both player and club, the striker netted 15 goals in the league, three in the Champions League and DFB Pokal.

    Bayern went on to win all three tournaments and Mandzukic's form saw Mario Gomez ushered towards the bench. The Croatian cost £11.4 million.

    Marco Reus' debut season at Borussia Dortmund was almost as impressive. Without winning the silverware of Mandzukic, Reus still managed to bag 19 goals and 16 assists for Jurgen Klopp's team after making the move from Borussia Monchengladbach

Best Signings of 2013/14

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    The 2013/14 season is still young, so picking "the best" would be folly at this early stage.

    One thing is certain, it was the summer of the mega-deal. With £630 million spent in the Premier League alone, some of the world's biggest names were on the move in 2013.

    Gareth Bale's transfer from Spurs to Real Madrid was the single most expensive summer switch, at £85 million. He joined Isco and Asier Illarramendi who also came to the Bernabeu this term.

    Cavani, Falcao and Neymar all transferred over the summer to PSG, Monaco and Barcelona respectively for a combined sum in excess of £160 million.

    James Rodriguez joined the Monaco revolution along with fellow countryman Joao Moutinho while Marquinhos swapped Roma for PSG.

    Arsenal's record-breaking outlay of £42 million for Mesut Ozil looks like money well spent and Manchester City were flooded with new faces during the off-season, including Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic and Jesus Navas.

    Not to be outdone, Chelsea signed up Willian, Samuel Eto'o and Andre Schurrle.

    Spurs, flush with cash from Bale's sale, spent big, bringing in Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen. 

    Borussia Dortmund welcomed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan while Mario Gotze jumped ship to join Bayern Munich, along with Barcelona's Thiago Alcantara.

    Who will emerge as the best signings of this season? That remains to be seen.