With just over a week until the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season kicks off, over £350 million has already been spent by teams looking to bolster and improve their squads, for upcoming title challenges, relegation dogfights and European adventures.
Most clubs have been busy in the window so far, with only Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United recruiting less than three new signings.
This article selects ten of the 'best' summer acquisitions, based upon value for money, quality of player and likelihood to improve their new club.
1. Nicolas Anelka (Juventus to West Bromwich Albion - Free Transfer)
When Anelka switched Stamford Bridge for Shanghai Shenhua, you could be forgiven for thinking his career at the top level was over, but after a dire season in China in which the Frenchman only scored three times in twenty four games; Anelka signalled his intention to return to the heights his career had previously reached, by joining Italian giants Juventus, though that move only saw Anelka make three appearances, without scoring.
Steve Clarke, who worked with Anelka at Chelsea, saw fit to take a punt on the 34-year-old and, as far as pre-season form goes, Anelka looks to be as sharp as he was at his previous five English clubs, scoring a hat-trick against Cork City, as well as finding the back of the net on several more occasions.
West Brom were in desperate need of a striker after Romelu Lukaku returned to Chelsea following a phenomenal season for the Baggies last year. On both past reputation and pre-season form, Nicolas Anelka should be able to fire West Bromwich Albion to similar heights as achieved last season, and as a free transfer is an absolute steal.
2. Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem to Swansea City - £12 Million)
Two goals on your competitive debut are the perfect way to endear yourself to a new club and new set of supporters (as I found out at under 14 level, but enough about me...). Wilfried Bony announced his arrival in South Wales with a fine brace in Swansea City's Europa League qualifier against Malmo. Bony was courted by Swansea for the entire summer until Michael Laudrup finally got his man, due in no small part to a phenomenal goal scoring record held in the Dutch Eredivisie where he netted 46 times in just 64 appearances. Bony looks to have immediately connected with last year’s signing of the season Michu, and together, Swansea may well be able to push on and qualify for the Europa League again this season, though this time by virtue of league position.
3. Steven Caulker (Tottenham Hotspur to Cardiff City - £8 Million)
Many onlookers were surprised when Tottenham offloaded England international Steven Caulker to Cardiff City, despite being relatively short in that department, but Spurs' loss is the Premier League newcomers’ gain. Should Cardiff manage to ensure that they get the same levels of performance from Caulker as their Welsh neighbours Swansea did in their first season in the Premier League, they may well be able to replicate their compatriots’ first season success.
4. Leroy Fer (FC Twente to Norwich City - Undisclosed fee)
Having seen a £9 million move for Dutch ace Leroy Fer fall through in January, it was believed that Everton would revisit the FC Twente midfielder during the summer, however it was Norwich who stole a march on their Premier League counterparts, securing the Dutchman’s signature on a four year deal. Described in some quarters a similar to Marouane Fellaini, and the next Patrick Vieira, Fer arrives with high hopes. At just 23, Fer has already been capped twice by Holland and is most definitely an exciting prospect for the Carrow Road faithful.
5. Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus to Sunderland - £6.5 Million)
Paulo Di Canio's revamp of his Sunderland squad has seen nine signings arrive at the Stadium of Light, none more exciting than the prospect of former Juventus midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini. Giaccherini spent the past two seasons in Turin, playing 40 times in a midfield which included Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, so to get so much game time is no mean feat. However, owing to the competition, Giaccherini has sought to challenge himself elswhere, not being content with a rotation role, and will look to run the Sunderland midfield. The 28-year-old Italian, while arriving relatively late to the international scene, has begun to establish himself as a key member of Cesare Prandelli's squad, playing in each of Italy's Confederations Cup games, and will also become an indispensible figure in Di Canio's side.
6. Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla to Manchester City - Undisclosed Fee)
One of the summer's biggest signings unsurprisingly comes from the Etihad Stadium. Manuel Pellegrini has sought to stamp his authority on the blue side of Manchester in a quest to regain the Premier League title that the Citizens surrendered so meekly last season. With Carlos Tevez departing, the onus was on finding a replacement striker, and Alvaro Negredo was seen as the perfect signing. Negredo has a phenomenal record of 125 goals in 284 career appearances as well as nine goals for the Spanish national team. He is an early contender for the golden boot, and if he does carry over his La Liga form into the Premier League, then Manchester City will be a force to be reckoned with.
7. Jores Okore (FC Nordsjaelland to Aston Villa - £4 Million)
Jores Okore may not be a household name, but he's a Danish international, with Champions League experience, scouted by many of the Premier League's top teams, but snapped up by Paul Lambert, who continues to trust his youth policy. At just 20, Okore has already represented his national side on seven occasions. Okore reportedly turned down a move to Chelsea in January, and though he fell asleep during his medical, Villa have on their books a fine young talent.
8. Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea - £18 Million)
Jose Mourinho has been quieter than expected during this transfer window and the £18 million signing of Andre Schurrle was pretty much completed prior to Mourinho officially returning to the Bridge. Even so, 'The Special One' has a special player at his disposal. Part of the influx of top, young German talent, Schurrle can operate on either wing or behind the striker, and will look to co-exist with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, to form potentially one of the most lethal and creative attacking trios in Premier League history.
9. Roberto Soldado (Valencia to Tottenham Hotspur - £26 Million)
To those who think that the potential departure of Gareth Bale from Spurs may see the Lilywhites quest for Champions League football fall by the wayside, think again. The £26 million capture of Spanish international Roberto Soldado clearly shows that Spurs are willing to invest in high-class players and are keen to push on, with or without Bale. Soldado bagged 24 goals in only 35 appearances for Valencia last season, and will almost guarantee goals for Spurs next term, something neither Jermain Defoe nor Emmanuel Adebayor could on a regular basis last year.
10. Maarten Stekelenburg (AS Roma to Fulham - £4.8 Million)
After losing Mark Schwarzer earlier in the summer, Fulham had some big shoes to fill in goal. Fortunately Maarten Stekelenburg is no stranger to filling big shoes and excelling. Having spent much of his career as an understudy to former Fulham goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar both at Ajax and at International level with the Netherlands. Firstly at Ajax, under current Fulham boss Martin Jol's tutelage for a time, Stekelenburg quickly stepped out of Van Der Sar's shadow to cement the number one jersey at the Amsterdam club, helping his side to 2 Eredivisie titles. After Van Der Sar's retirement, Stekelenburg became the Dutch number one, and was part of the Dutch squad to finish runners up in the 2010 World Cup. Stekelenburg will prove to be a steady, solid signing, for a relatively inexpensive fee.
Obviously not all signings can be discussed, but honourable mentions go out to Victor Wanyama of Southampton, Paulinho of Tottenham Hotspurs and Steven Jovetic of Manchester City who will each grace their new club and the Premier League in the coming year. This is by no means the end of the spending and with the futures of Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney all still up in the air, we have a frenetic three weeks remaining of this summer's transfer window.
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