In the background of a surprisingly entertaining European Championships, Premier League clubs are continuing to inspect the globe for huge, crowd pulling signings.
None more so than new Manchester City manager Mark Hughes, who has been linked to an endless list of players from Jo to Ronaldinho in recent weeks.
But regardless of whether the ostentatious, buck-toothed icon is tempted to Lancashire, the true signing of the summer may arrive not from the Mediterranean coastline—but from just a short hop over the county.
He may not be an entertainer. He may not astonish the home support with unbelievable flicks, rolls, shimmies and jigs. But Christopher Samba could well have a similar impact at Eastlands to when he first arrived in England back in Jan. 2007.
At that time, Hughes’ Blackburn side were short of centre backs—Ryan Nelsen was the only man who could be relied on in the back line. Hughes’ reaction was to enter the hurly-burly of the January transfer window, where managers often live or die by their decisions.
With just a week remaining of the window, Hughes finally got a centre half in. But nobody could have predicted who it was.
Mark Hughes had secured some magnificent dealings in the transfer market in years prior to this. Ryan Nelsen, Aaron Mokoena, Benni McCarthy, Lucas Neill and others had all surpassed expectations in the Premier League. Fans expected a similar unknown face.
Enter six foot, five inch tall Samba. He was an unwanted man at Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin, stuck rotting in the reserves after making just 20 appearances in three years. Some supporters were sceptical; but most had faith in Hughes’ judgment. Very few of his previous signings had failed to impress.
Samba’s first half-season saw him produce some solid performances at the heart of the Rovers' defence helping them to a top-half spot. Hughes then promoted him to a starting role alongside Nelsen.
It was soon clear to see Samba’s great aerial ability, classy defensive qualities and decent amount of pace. And one of the steals of the season at just £400,000.
It is always nice to see a cheeky bit of flair on show on a football field. But players of commitment and desire, such as Samba, can sometimes surpass all expectations.
Yes, Manchester City already has two very capable defenders in Micah Richards and Richard Dunne, but with the possibility of Dunne leaving the club, Samba may just become one of the signings of the season again.