Ranking the best Premier League transfers of all time: 100-51


With the 28th edition of the Premier League on an indefinite hiatus, now is a good time to look toward the past. The modern incarnation of the English top flight and the millions (and eventual billions) that flowed into the game totally changed the way we think about soccer. There’s a reason soccer outlets are still publishing transfer rumors on a daily basis while the actual game itself is paused in most countries around the globe: We are desperately obsessed with transfers.

Today, we look back at those transfers with a simple question: Who was the best signing in the history of the Premier League? The league’s clubs have signed more than 4,200 players to permanent deals since its advent in 1992; we’ll run through the top 100 of those signings to find the best of the bunch in this two-part article (the first covering 100-51, and the second focusing on 50-1).

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Of course, transfers can be valuable in many different ways, and one person’s definition of a successful deal might not mean another’s. Here’s how I valued each transfer in relative order of importance:

  • Was the player extremely productive during his time with the club? Was he considered among the best players at his position in the division?

  • Did he become a club or league legend? Is there something iconic that leads him to stand out from a similar signing in terms of talent or success?

  • Did the player win silverware? I considered each of the titles and cups each transfer won during his time with the team, weighing Champions League and Premier League success heaviest. I also made the executive decision of awarding Liverpool the 2019-20 Premier League title for the purposes of analysing their players.

  • Was he a bargain? Given the transfer market of the time, would we look back and consider his fee to be laughably cheap given his level of production?

  • Did the team sell him on for a profit? After adjusting for inflation, did the team realize a serious return by selling the player?

  • Did the player spend a long time with the club?

The last two categories do push some current players down the rankings, which is fine. Stars like Raheem Sterling and Virgil van Dijk have already made an impact in a relatively short time with their clubs, and they’ll continue to rise up the rankings as they continue to win trophies and gain more longevity. This is looking back over the past 28 seasons.

Finally, I need to clarify which players aren’t included. If you’re angry that a notable star isn’t somewhere on this list, please keep the following rules in mind:

  • The player must have been purchased while the club was in the Premier League. In other words, players who were signed before the Premier League was formed (like Peter Schmeichel and Ian Wright) and players who were signed while their club was in a lower league (like Kevin Phillips and Jamie Vardy) don’t qualify.

  • The player must have established himself in senior football before joining the club. Obviously, players like Steven Gerrard who came directly from their own club academies don’t count. I’m also not including players who were signed out of another team’s youth academy, which would exclude Cesc Fabregas’ transfer to Arsenal in 2003, since he hadn’t played a first-team match in La Liga for Barcelona.

  • No loans. Only permanent transfers count. If a player is initially signed on loan and then inks a permanent deal, like Christophe Dugarry’s run with Birmingham, I’m only considering what they did after the full transfer was completed.

  • The team gets credit for what you accomplished while you were at the club under this specific transfer. What happens elsewhere doesn’t matter. Chelsea don’t get credit for what Thibaut Courtois did on loan at Atletico Madrid or how Kevin De Bruyne blossomed after being sold. And if a club re-bought a player for a second time, I split those careers into two separate transfers, so David Luiz’s two Chelsea spells are kept separate for the purposes of this list.

With that preamble, let’s get to the top 100. All the transfer values in this column were sourced from Transfermarkt. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way to No. 1, beginning with one of the best names in the history of the Premier League …

Jussi Jaaskelainen made more than 400 Premier League appearances for Bolton after joining from VPS Vaasa. GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

100. Jussi Jaaskelainen, GK, Bolton

Signed from VPS Vaasa (Finland) for £135,000, 1997

While Jaaskelainen wasn’t even a Finland international when he joined Bolton at age 22, he would become a regular for the national team and a legend for the Wanderers. Jaaskelainen didn’t feature in his debut year, when Bolton were relegated, and that’s not considering the three years he spent starting for the club in what was then Division 1, but he had a lengthy career as Bolton’s top keeper upon their return to the Premier League.

The Finn made 379 appearances for Bolton in the top flight and turned down bigger clubs along the way before leaving for West Ham, where he added 57 more to his total. Not bad for a player whose fee, even adjusted for inflation, would amount to less than £250,000 today.

Signed from Manchester City for £1.2 million, 1996

I’m cheating a tiny bit here to insert Quinn, who became a much-beloved figure on Wearside while serving as the larger half of a legendary big man/little man strike pairing with Kevin Phillips. The Republic of Ireland international fell so in love with his third professional club that Quinn eventually formed a consortium to purchase the club and took over as both chairman and (briefly) manager. Quinn’s numbers aren’t as impressive as others on this list, but his tenure with Sunderland led Quinn to buy the club and help lead it back to the Premier League before selling it in 2009.

Signed from Manchester City on a free transfer, 2015

As you might suspect, the current Liverpool side is well represented in this top 100. Milner left Manchester to sign for Liverpool on a free transfer because he was sick of playing in a utility role for City and wanted to play as a full-time central midfielder. Of course, after a brief period in his preferred role, Milner has gone back to that utility. The Leeds product is all but certain to collect his third Premier League winners’ medal should the season resume, and you wouldn’t bet against Milner adding to his total before hanging up his boots, given that Liverpool extended his contract through 2022.

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Signed from Marseille for £13.5 million, 2015

A one-season wonder, but what a season! Payet’s lone full campaign with the Hammers was magical, as the France international scored nine goals and finished second in chances created with 118 despite missing eight matches with an ankle injury. The club signed Payet to a new deal and constructed a mural of their star player outside of the new London Stadium, only for him to push through a transfer back to Marseille in the January transfer window while claiming he was bored. To say this was West Ham’s most successful transfer of the past few years might indicate just how things have gone since the move away from Upton Park.

96. Faustino Asprilla, FW, Newcastle

Signed from Parma for £6.8 million, 1996

Asprilla’s tenure on Tyneside wasn’t long, but the Colombian became a cult hero during his two-plus years with Newcastle. Asprilla unfairly took the blame for Newcastle blowing their 12-point lead at the top of the table after joining the club in January and instead saved his best work for the continent. “Tino” scored nine goals in 11 European matches, including a hat trick in a 3-2 Champions League victory over Barcelona. In an era when England was still coming to terms with stylish players plying their trade in the country, Asprilla established himself as an essential piece of the Premier League story before moving back to Parma in 1998.

Marc Overmars scored 25 goals in 100 league appearances for Arsenal. Simon Wilkinson/EMPICS via Getty Images

95. Marc Overmars, MF, Arsenal

Signed from Ajax for £6.8 million, 1997

After making it to consecutive Champions League finals as part of the legendary Ajax team of the mid-’90s, Overmars moved to Arsenal to link up with fellow Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp. While his tenure with the club wasn’t long, Overmars scored 25 goals in 100 league appearances, including the lone goal in an essential 1-0 win over Manchester United that led to Arsenal winning the double. When Arsene Wenger sold Overmars to Barcelona in 2000, Arsenal received £36m, for a profit of more than 400%. It won’t be the first time Wenger turns a significant profit in this list.

94. Robbie Keane, FW, Tottenham

Signed from Leeds United for £9.5 million, 2002

A surprisingly itinerant player early in his career, Keane sealed meaningful transfers to Coventry, Inter Milan and Leeds before turning 21. Sold to Tottenham at a loss as Leeds desperately tried to raise funds in 2002, Keane made his most notable professional mark at White Hart Lane. The Irishman scored 80 goals across seven seasons with Spurs before being sold to Liverpool for £21.6m. Keane’s brief spell on Merseyside only lasted months before Tottenham repurchased Keane at a significant discount, but that second transfer isn’t part of this equation.

Signed from Ajax for £12.7 million, 2013

Eriksen was likely the best of the players that club chairman Daniel Levy and manager Andre Villas-Boas signed with the money they were to receive from Real Madrid for Gareth Bale. It might not be saying much when that group consists of Eriksen, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and Paulinho, but the Denmark international delivered on the promise he had shown in Amsterdam as a delightfully creative midfield weapon. While his protracted transfer away from the club might have left a sour taste in the mouths of Spurs supporters, Eriksen was named club player of the year twice during his seven seasons in North London.

Signed from Genk for £7.9 million, 2012

One of the many successful Premier League footballers who made their way through the gates of the Luminus Arena, Benteke’s three-year run with Aston Villa had to be considered a surprise. He scored a respectable 39 goals in 89 appearances in his final three-plus seasons in the Belgian top flight and then kept up a virtually identical strike rate at a much higher level by knocking in 42 goals in 89 appearances for Villa.

Benteke’s goals probably kept a flawed side in the Premier League past their sell-by date. After selling Benteke to Liverpool for a profit of nearly £35m, Villa finished last in the Premier League in 2016 and were relegated. Benteke struggled to make an impact with Liverpool, but he did deliver a goal-of-the-season candidate against Manchester United before moving on to Crystal Palace.

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91. Robin van Persie, FW, Manchester United

Signed from Arsenal for £27.6 million, 2012

In one of the most hotly debated decisions of the decade, Arsenal’s manager Wenger suggested he had “no choice” but to sell the Premier League’s leading goal scorer to his rivals at United, owing to the fact that Van Persie was 29 and entering the final year of his contract. Arsenal took home nearly £28m, but the Dutch star was the spark United needed to retake the title from City — and it remains United’s last Premier League title. Van Persie scored 26 goals to win his second consecutive Premier League Golden Boot, including a crucial last-second winner over City in the Manchester derby. While his influence waned after that title win, Van Persie finished his United career with 48 goals in 86 Premier League matches before moving to Turkey.

Dele Alli was a bargain purchase for Spurs and, at 23, still has plenty more to offer. Getty

90. Dele Alli, MF, Tottenham Hotspur

Signed from MK Dons for £6 million, 2015

It’s fair to suggest that Alli went off of the boil during manager Mauricio Pochettino’s last couple of years at the club, but it would be foolish to assume we’ve already seen the best from him. It’s almost impossible to believe Alli is only 23 years old, having made his debut for MK Dons in the Football League at 16 before making his debut with Spurs as a 19-year-old. Alli has scored 50 Premier League goals with Spurs before turning 24; the only other midfielder to pull that off is Harry Kewell. Alli seemed to return to form briefly after Jose Mourinho took over in 2019, but if he and Spurs decided a fresh start was best for both sides, Alli would still attract a significant transfer fee.

Signed from Barnsley for £3.2 million, 2013

If you ask David Moyes, this transfer was for just £1.5m, although Barnsley refuted Moyes’ claim with an instantly legendary club statement. Everton signed a then-18-year-old Stones from Barnsley in January and put him in the reserves, but he broke through to the first team the following year. By the end of his first full season with the club, Stones made his England debut. He quickly emerged as one of the most promising defenders in the country, which led Manchester City to pay £50m to acquire Stones in 2016. Barnsley pocketed nearly £7m from the transfer as part of a release clause, but Everton already got their revenge by plucking Mason Holgate away for £2m.

88. Dwight Yorke, FW, Manchester United

Signed from Aston Villa for £17.3 million, 1998

CONCACAF’s finest Premier League export, Yorke starred for Aston Villa before eventually forcing through a move to United. Quickly forming a devastating strike partnership with Andy Cole, the two strikers combined for 53 goals as United won the treble. Making his way ahead of Teddy Sheringham into the lineup, Yorke scored eight goals in United’s successful run to the Champions League. The Trinidad international scored 47 Premier League goals in 86 games in his first three seasons with the club before falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson and moving to Blackburn in 2002.

87. Patrice Evra, LB, Manchester United

Signed from Monaco for £7.2 million, 2006

The French international had his ups and downs during his time at United, but at his best, Evra was an essential part of five different championship-winning United sides. Evra wasn’t a huge attacking force, but his defensive positioning and his ability to cover huge swaths of space was key in letting players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez pursue creative opportunities as wingers. It’s telling that Sir Alex Ferguson trusted Evra enough to install the future Juventus defender as an occasional club captain.

86. Nicolas Anelka, FW, Arsenal

Signed from Paris Saint-Germain for £684,000, 1997

Let’s throw one more Arsenal striker into the mix. Signed by Wenger after a brief spell at PSG, Anelka’s Arsenal career really amounted to two seasons. In the first, while scoring only six goals in the league, the Frenchman helped Arsenal win the double by scoring a goal in the FA Cup final. In the second, while the Gunners failed to win any competitions, a 19-year-old Anelka finished third in the Premier League with 17 goals, one off the pace of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dwight Yorke. With Anelka already suggesting he was bored in London and didn’t intend to see out his Arsenal contract, Wenger sold him to Real Madrid for £31.5m. After adjusting for inflation, the profit would amount to £52m in 2020. Arsenal’s replacement for Anelka will show up much later on this list.

Gareth Southgate established himself as an England regular during his time at Aston Villa. Steve Mitchell/EMPICS via Getty Images

85. Gareth Southgate, CB, Aston Villa

Signed from Crystal Palace for £3.4 million, 1995

The current England manager forged his career as a player at international level during his time with Villa, where Southgate won a League Cup and captained the Villans to an FA Cup final. He famously missed the penalty that knocked England out of their dream run at home in Euro 96, but Southgate was capped 42 times with Villa. As seems to be the case with many of the players here at the beginning of our list, his run included a bitter end. Southgate requested a transfer before Euro 2000, and while it took a year for Villa to sell him to Middlesbrough, Villa fans sent Southgate hate mail and even vandalized his car before the move was completed.

Signed from Hull City for £12.3 million, 2017

From one England centre-half to another; Maguire made his way into the England team under Southgate’s reign and became a mainstay as the manager moved to a three-man backline during the 2018 World Cup. In addition to serving as the subject of a World Cup meme, Maguire built on his time at Hull and developed into one of the league’s best centre-backs during his two years at Leicester. What happened next is what propels him onto this list, as Leicester were able to sell Maguire to Manchester United for a stunning £78.3m, making the 27-year-old the world’s most expensive defender.

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83. Gareth Southgate, CB, Middlesbrough

Signed from Aston Villa for £8.8 million, 2001

And then back to Southgate, who is one of several players who make two appearances on this list. While he lost his place in the England team to the ascending Rio Ferdinand, Southgate had a more productive club run during his time with Middlesbrough under Steve McClaren. Reuniting with former Villa teammate Ugo Ehiogu, Southgate captained Boro to his second League Cup title and then to the finals of the UEFA Cup, where they lost to Sevilla. He scored four goals in the league during his time with Middlesbrough, one of which was this truly ugly winner against Liverpool.

82. Youri Djorkaeff, FW, Bolton

Signed from Kaiserslautern for £450,000, 2002

When Djorkaeff was emerging as a young talent in France for Grenoble and Strasbourg, Bolton were buried in the fourth division of English football. The idea that the man who was one of the key creative forces for a World Cup-winning team would end up in Lancashire would have seemed ridiculous then. Given Bolton’s fall, it seems ridiculous now. And yet, there was a two-year window where Djorkaeff and Bolton thrived together. The former Paris Saint-Germain and Inter star compiled 20 goals and 12 assists in 75 matches for Sam Allardyce’s side, a bargain given his modest price tag. The Frenchman’s brilliance probably kept up a middling Bolton side in 2002 and 2003.

At the time, Jurgen Klinsmann’s move to Tottenham was one of the most shocking in Premier League history. Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

81. Jurgen Klinsmann, FW, Tottenham

Signed from Monaco for £2.5 million, 1994

Klinsmann and Manchester City striker Uwe Rosler were the first two Germans to really make a mark on the Premier League. It seems redundant, but read the story about Klinsmann’s acquisition and you’ll see just how concerned the league and its clubs were with proving that England was a safe, viable place for the biggest stars in the world to ply their trade. That is taken for granted now, but it was hardly the case in 1994.

As a sign of how Klinsmann was regarded around the world, Tottenham’s odds of winning the Premier League fell from 125-1 to 50-1 after signing the German star. Klinsmann didn’t stay for long, but he scored 20 goals in 41 Premier League appearances and pushed Spurs to the semifinals of the FA Cup before returning to Monaco. It’s not included in this ranking, but he would later return to the club for a brief spell where he helped save a Spurs side floundering under Christian Gross from relegation with four goals in a win over Wimbledon. We won’t talk about his managerial career.

80. Gary Speed, MF, Newcastle

Signed from Everton for £7.4 million, 1997

A much-loved figure at Newcastle, Speed was both good-looking enough to serve as a model for Topman and fearless enough to be the prototypical box-to-box midfielder for the Magpies. While Newcastle were built around star striker Alan Shearer, Speed added 28 goals and 13 assists in seven seasons with the club before moving on to Bolton. A natural leader, Speed pushed the Magpies to two FA Cup finals and into the Champions League.

Signed from Sligo Rovers for £63,000, 2009

About as cheap as a player can get without being free, Coleman was a regular in the Irish Premier League as a teenager before making the leap to the English Premier League. He established himself as Everton’s first-choice right-back the following year, and only a fractured leg has kept the 31-year-old out of the lineup since. Now the Everton captain, Coleman has 265 appearances under his belt for the Toffees and should push 400 career appearances by the time the Ireland international finishes his time on Merseyside. Not bad for £63,000!

78. Graeme Le Saux, LB, Blackburn

Signed from Chelsea for £945,000, 1993

One of the best transfer classes in Premier League history is the group then-owner Jack Walker assembled as part of his spending spree to try to win Blackburn a title. The key purchase and lead contributor to that unexpected championship will show up later in this list, but Walker bought two longtime club stalwarts in Henning Berg and Tim Sherwood. Le Saux didn’t last quite as long, but he starred during Blackburn’s 1994-95 championship-winning season and took over as England’s starting left-back before an ankle injury kept him out of Euro 96. Blackburn then sold Le Saux back to Chelsea for £9.45m, a tenfold increase on what they had paid four and a half years earlier.

77. Andrew Robertson, LB, Liverpool

Signed from Hull City for £8.1 million, 2017

Who would have thought the back line from a relegated Hull side would deliver two of the best transfers in recent memory? Maguire’s already delivered Leicester a huge fee, but I’m sure Liverpool are quite happy with Robertson, who has gone from Queen’s Park in the Scottish third division to winning the Champions League with Liverpool in a matter of seven years. Along the way, he has emerged as one of the best left-backs in Europe; he leads all Premier League left-backs in tackles and is second in chances created in the past two seasons. The 26-year-old has been ever-present on a Liverpool team that was about to add a Premier League title to their trophy room before the season’s suspension. The Scotland international should continue to rise up the rankings in the years to come.

Signed from Tottenham Hotspur for £9.1 million, 2014

Sent to Swansea as part of a swap for Ben Davies and Michel Vorm, the Iceland international proved to be a wildly valuable attacker for the Swans. During his three seasons with the club, Sigurdsson scored 27 goals and added 26 assists while creating 240 chances, with the latter two figures topping all other players who weren’t on one of the big six clubs. His creativity helped keep Swansea in the top flight; after he was sold to Everton in 2017 for a club-record fee of £44.5m, the Welsh side were immediately relegated to the Championship.

Kolo Toure was yet another example of Arsene Wenger’s transfer market prowess. Phil Cole/Getty Images

75. Kolo Toure, DF, Arsenal

Signed from ASEC Mimosas for £167,000, 2002

While Toure was still playing in his domestic league when Wenger signed him in 2002, the then-20-year-old already had a handful of international appearances to his name. He was once thought of as a player who could spend more time in midfield, but Wenger eventually locked Toure in at centre-back, where he formed stout defensive partnerships with Sol Campbell, Philippe Senderos and William Gallas. Toure was ever-present during the Invincibles campaign and left Arsenal after winning three medals, joining Manchester City after seven years for £16.8m.

Signed from Millwall for £2 million, 2004

After leading Millwall to a stunning FA Cup final run, Cahill’s performances attracted Premier League eyes and led Everton to sign the then-25-year-old Australian. What Cahill did in the top flight suggests that he was ready to make the move years earlier. He scored 11 goals in his first Premier League campaign, helping an Everton side that had finished 17th and just sold Wayne Rooney to Manchester United push all the way to fourth in the division, granting the Toffees an unlikely Champions League place. Cahill finished with 56 goals in 226 appearances for the club, although his most famous strike came in the World Cup.

73. Joe Cole, MF, Chelsea

Signed from West Ham for £8.9 million, 2003

Once thought to be the hottest prospect of England’s golden generation, neither Cole nor that generation lived up to the hype. As a creative force, though, he played a significant role in Chelsea’s success under Jose Mourinho, winning three Premier League titles in seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. The fee was also a bargain, with Cole following fellow Hammers Glen Johnson and Frank Lampard to Chelsea after West Ham were relegated, with Roman Abramovich eventually spending so much on West Ham players that he was credited for keeping the club afloat. Cole furthered his impact with Chelsea by eventually steering Eden Hazard to the club while the two were together at Lille.

Signed from Sheffield United for £5.3 million, 2010

Walker steadily grew during his eight years with Spurs. Signed as part of a package deal with Kyle Naughton after a handful of senior appearances for Sheffield United, Walker spent two years in the reserves before blossoming upon his ascension into the first team in 2011. He was named in the PFA Team of the Year during what was essentially his first full season as a professional and repeated the feat in his final season at White Hart Lane. Spurs eventually couldn’t resist the urge to move on and sold Walker to Manchester City for £47.4m, where he was named to the Team of the Year for a third time.

Signed from Marseille for £7.9 million, 2012

While Chelsea have made far more expensive signings than the Spanish full-back during the Abramovich era, Azpilicueta is one of the best value transfers the club have made in the past 20 years. Marseille’s perilous financial situation before being bought, in 2016, by Frank McCourt might have contributed to the relatively modest price, but it has been to Chelsea’s benefit. Azpilicueta has served as both the first-choice left-back, centre-back, and right-back at different times under different managers during his Chelsea career. His steadiness, distribution and ability to cover up other players’ mistakes has made him an absolutely essential player for Chelsea, leading the club to name him as team captain.

Virgil van Dijk has become the league’s best central defender at Liverpool, but he made his Premier League bow under Ronald Koeman at Southampton. Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

70. Virgil van Dijk, CB, Southampton

Signed from Celtic from £14.1 million, 2015

Southampton supporters probably don’t have fond memories of the Ronald Koeman era or Van Dijk’s protracted departure from the club, but in his 67 league matches on the South Coast, the Dutch international rounded into form as one of the best defenders on the planet. He has hit new heights at Liverpool and might rightfully go down as the best centre-half in the history of the Premier League, but Southampton were left with a lucrative parting gift: a club-record fee of £76.2m, a world record for defenders until Maguire’s transfer to Man United reset the mark.

69. Carlos Tevez, FW, Manchester City

Signed from Manchester United for £26.1 million, 2009

Tevez scored 43 league goals in his first two seasons with City before his relationship with manager Roberto Mancini soured, but his most important role during his run with the club might have been serving as the physical manifestation of power shifting from United to their crosstown rivals. City made more valuable signings, but capturing Tevez’s signature and the “Welcome to Manchester” billboard that followed were the first signs the club were going to be more than noisy neighbors. Now, a decade later, United are the ones looking up at City.

Signed from Borussia Dortmund for £57.3 million, 2018

The past three seasons haven’t exactly been pleasant for Arsenal fans, but it’s difficult to imagine how far the Gunners would have sank without their star striker. Aubameyang has scored 49 goals in 75 Premier League appearances during his time in North London. In the past two seasons, he has scored a league-high 39 times. The Gunners might be forced to sell the 30-year-old this summer before his contract expires, but even given the general distaste we saw for aging players during last summer’s transfer window, they should have no trouble recouping a significant fee for the Gabon international.

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67. Duncan Ferguson, FW, Everton

Signed from Rangers for £5.5 million, 1995

The definition of an absolute unit, the 6-foot-4 Ferguson instantly transformed Everton’s fortunes after arriving at the club on a permanent deal from Rangers. The Scot scored eight times in only 23 league appearances and marked his first Merseyside derby with a goal in a 2-0 win over Liverpool. Ferguson helped Everton get out of relegation trouble and pushed them all the way to the FA Cup final, where they beat Manchester United.

Ferguson would go on to score 37 goals in 116 appearances during his first stint on Merseyside, although he would miss time because of a knee injury and spend three months of his second season with the club in jail after elbowing a Raith Rovers player during his time with Rangers. As you might guess, Ferguson was a physical handful and became an iconic player for Everton. After leaving for Newcastle, Ferguson would return for a second stint at the club and now serves as Everton’s assistant manager under Carlo Ancelotti.

66. Shay Given, GK, Newcastle

Signed from Blackburn for £2 million, 1997

Once on Celtic’s books, Given took over as Newcastle’s starting keeper after 24 career appearances elsewhere, most of which came in the lower leagues. The 21-year-old didn’t seem to feel the pressure, though, as Given made the position his own for most of the next 12 seasons. A two-time member of the PFA Team of the Year, Given was a critical member of Newcastle’s best teams under Dalglish and Bobby Robson. When Given left for Manchester City in February of 2009 on an £8.1 million deal, a struggling Newcastle side went down to the second tier for the first time since 1993.

Dimitar Berbatov, right, is one of the most elegant players the Premier League has ever seen. Nigel French – PA Images via Getty Images

65. Dimitar Berbatov, FW, Tottenham

Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £14.1 million, 2006

Other strikers scored more goals than the Bulgaria international, but there are few players who made brilliance seem as easy as the future United and Fulham striker did during his time in England. Take Berbatov’s second goal for Spurs, where he takes two defenders out of the play with his first touch and fires a perfect strike into the top corner with his second. Or this this three-goal run where he lobs in a free kick from the edge of the box, takes on two defenders and passes the ball into the back of the net, then casually volleys into the corner from 18 yards out. Things didn’t end well in London, with Berbatov forcing his way into a £34.2 million move to United, but Spurs more than doubled their money after getting 27 league goals in two seasons.

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Signed from Hoffenheim for £36.9 million, 2015

If we’re awarding Firmino a Premier League winners’ medal for his work with Liverpool this past season, the only thing the Brazilian needs to do to move further up this list is spend more time on Merseyside. As one-third of what might go down as the most devastating Premier League attack in league history alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Firmino scored 10 goals in each of his first four seasons with Liverpool and was on pace to make it to five in five before the league was suspended this year. He’s already in the debate for the best Brazilian player to ever ply his trade in the Premier League, and while other players had flashier peaks before fading, Firmino seems to be getting better.

Signed from Bolton for £7.5 million, 2012

With Cahill’s contract running out over the summer and Bolton desperate to receive a fee for their England defender, Chelsea ended up getting one of the best bargains in Premier League history. Cahill immediately stepped into the Chelsea team and helped lead the club to its first Champions League title. Cahill was part of a rotation with David Luiz alongside John Terry before taking the job over on a full-time basis once Jose Mourinho returned to the club. The Villa trainee proceeded to win every major piece of silverware during his time in West London.

Signed from Wigan for £6.8 million, 2007

While Baines’ Everton career is pretty clearly winding down as he approaches age 36, the England international has to be considered in the debate as Everton’s best player during the Premier League era. At his peak, Baines was one of the best chance creators in the entire division while simultaneously holding down his defensive duties at left-back. Baines’ wicked left foot also came in handy on free kicks, perhaps most notably when Baines scored on two free kicks in the same match to beat West Ham in 2013. Linked to Arsenal, Chelsea, and most significantly Manchester United over the past decade, Baines will go down in Everton lore.

Signed from Leicester for £32.2 million, 2016

One of the most sought-after players in the world after his stunning debut season in England with Leicester, Chelsea paid Kante’s release clause and quickly reaped the benefits. Kante served as the fulcrum of manager Antonio Conte’s side and led Chelsea to his second Premier League title in as many campaigns. Things haven’t been quite as rosy since for Kante, who was played out of position during Maurizio Sarri’s two seasons with the club and hasn’t been healthy during Frank Lampard’s first season as manager, but I don’t think anybody doubts what a healthy Kante can do in midfield.

Sol Campbell, right, became one of the few players in Premier League history to make the move from Spurs to arch rival Arsenal. Ben Radford/Getty Images

60. Sol Campbell, CB, Arsenal

Signed from Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer, 2001

One of the most controversial moves in the history of the division came when Campbell left Spurs for their rivals on a free transfer. Even after Spurs failed to come to terms with Campbell on a new deal as his contract wound down, it seemed likely that Campbell would leave for the continent or for Manchester United on a free transfer. Both of those options were far preferable to Spurs fans than what happened next. Arsenal brought reporters to a news conference to announce their new signing, who was expected to be Ipswich keeper Richard Wright. Instead, Campbell walked in the door as an Arsenal player.

In the end, both sides did fine. Tottenham moved Ledley King to centre-back on a permanent basis to replace Campbell, with the future England international excelling when healthy. Campbell replaced Arsenal club legend Tony Adams and became a key member of the Arsene Wenger sides which dominated after the turn of the century, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups in his five years with the club. Campbell’s first return to White Hart Lane remains one of the most passionate moments of the Premier League era, if not one of its most pleasant.

59. Martin Keown, CB, Arsenal

Signed from Everton for £2.7 million, 1993

Another one of the Arsenal defenders who were phased out around the time Campbell arrived, Keown spent 12 seasons and played 310 times in the league for Arsenal. Originally signed by manager George Graham, Keown took over for Steve Bould in that impeachable Arsenal back line and made it that much better. While Virgil van Dijk and company took plenty of deserved plaudits for Liverpool’s defensive dominance a year ago, Keown’s Arsenal side remain the stingiest defense in Premier League history, having given up 17 goals during the 1998-99 season. Arsenal came up one point short of United that season, but Keown would finish his career in North London with three Premier League titles and three FA Cup victories.

Signed from Sunderland for £16.2 million, 2011

Things used to be different for the PFA Player of the Year candidate, who was once offered by Brendan Rodgers to Fulham as a makeweight to bring Clint Dempsey to the club. Henderson hasn’t always been seen as a world-class player, in part because he was played out of position on his arrival at the club and then given the impossible task of replacing Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard as club captain.

The arrival of better players under manager Jurgen Klopp and a more frequent rotation at midfield has helped Henderson reach the next level as a complete midfielder. Whether he takes home the Player of the Year award or not, he has proven to be a worthy successor to Gerrard and will go down in Liverpool lore as the captain of one of the best sides in club history.

57. David De Gea, GK, Manchester United

Signed from Atletico Madrid for £22.5 million, 2011

Now in his ninth season with United, it’s fair to say that De Gea’s time in Manchester has been eventful. Every United supporter can probably conjure up a howler or two the Spain international has let in during his time with the club. It’s also fair to say that there were stretches where he has looked like the best goalkeeper in the world and carried ordinary United sides to victories they didn’t deserve. It’s telling that De Gea is the only person in club history to be named Player of the Season four times. For whatever frustrating moments he has had in Manchester, don’t be surprised when United supporters long for the 29-year-old after he leaves the club.

56. David Ginola, MF, Tottenham Hotspur

Signed from Newcastle for £2.6 million, 1997

The mercurial French star had already announced himself to English audiences during his time with Newcastle, but Ginola’s best performances came during his time in London. Ginola wasn’t able to propel Spurs out of midtable during his three seasons with the club, but in addition to claiming a League Cup with Tottenham, he was sufficiently inspirational to win multiple Player of the Year awards in 1999. Most notably, Ginola was able to pip United striker Dwight Yorke to the PFA Player of the Year trophy. Afterward, Alex Ferguson told Ginola most of the United players had voted for the Frenchman. Ginola wasn’t necessarily surrounded with much striking talent most of the time thanks to injuries and poor recruitment, but he made the likes of Chris Armstrong and Steffen Iversen look their best during his run at White Hart Lane.

Marcel Desailly was a dominant force in the air and on the ground for Chelsea. Jon Buckle/EMPICS via Getty Images

55. Marcel Desailly, CB, Chelsea

Signed from AC Milan for £6.1 million, 1998

One of the pre-Abramovich Chelsea stars who got lost in the shuffle of what happened afterward, Desailly’s positioning, strength, and ability to create counter-attacks with his distribution made him a successful centre-back for club and country. Chelsea didn’t have the talent to compete with United and Arsenal during Desailly’s run in London, but it was telling that United were linked to Desailly even after the Frenchman lost his place in the Chelsea team via injury to John Terry. Desailly won an FA Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge, but if he had just timed things slightly differently and hung around for a couple of more seasons, he could have added even more hardware to his glittering trophy case.

Signed from Chelsea for £31.8 million, 2014

Even leaving Lukaku’s year-long loan spell with the Toffees aside, the Belgian’s three seasons spent at Goodison Park as a permanent member of the Everton side have to be considered an enormous success. After converting 15 goals in 33 appearances during his season on loan, Lukaku improved slightly on that rate by scoring 53 Premier League goals in 110 appearances for Everton. After Jose Mourinho sold Lukaku to Everton during his time as Chelsea manager, the Special One attempted to correct his mistake by paying £76.2 million to bring him to United in the summer of 2017. Everton’s transfer business has been spotty at best over the past few years, but it’s hard to argue that they didn’t play their cards right with Lukaku.

53. Sami Hyypia, CB, Liverpool

Signed from Willem II for £3.5 million, 1999

Gerard Houllier probably couldn’t have imagined that the Finnish centre-back would be around for a decade after the then-Liverpool skipper signed Hyypia in 1999. To say Hyypia was an afterthought would be an understatement; on the day that Liverpool signed their future captain, the bigger story was Liverpool missing out on Seth Johnson, who would later be part of one of the most memorable (and perhaps apocryphal) transfer negotiations in recent memory with Leeds.

A knee injury forced Johnson to retire by 2007, while Hyypia was still three years away from leaving Liverpool. The 6-foot-4 centre-back eventually made 318 appearances for Liverpool in the league, and while he wasn’t able to take home a Premier League winners’ medal, Hyypia was in the starting 11 as Liverpool won two FA Cups, two League Cups, the UEFA Cup, and the Champions League in Istanbul. The combination of Hyypia and Jamie Carragher was the best centre-back combination Liverpool had before Virgil Van Dijk arrived at the club.

52. Edwin van der Sar, GK, Manchester United

Signed from Fulham for £3.6 million, 2005

Alex Ferguson’s goalkeeper recruitment might charitably be described as mixed. Most United fans look back on the glory years and back Peter Schmeichel (who was signed before the Premier League was formed) as the best keeper the club had during the Fergie era, and De Gea might be the most talented keeper of the bunch. But Van der Sar might have a case as the most consistent and reliable keeper Ferguson ever signed. Other keepers struggled with the pressure of playing for United, but having played at the highest level with Ajax and Juventus, Van der Sar stepped right into the first team and never looked back. Despite joining United as a 34-year-old, the Dutchman was named to the PFA Team of the Year three times in his six seasons with United and was still a reliable first-teamer at age 40. Those six campaigns yielded four league titles, three League Cups, and a Champions League medal. Ferguson’s only regret with Van der Sar has to be not signing him earlier.

Fernando Torres scored 24 Premier League goals in his first season at Liverpool. Getty

51. Fernando Torres, FW, Liverpool

Signed from Atletico Madrid for £34.2 million, 2007

About the only thing Torres didn’t do during his four years with Liverpool is win a trophy. Manager Rafa Benitez couldn’t have asked for much more from his prized signing, as Torres scored 65 goals in 102 league appearances during his time with the club. Torres was named in the PFA Team of the Year in each of his first two seasons with Liverpool before being left out via injury in his third campaign. Torres still managed to score 18 goals in 22 starts during that shortened season. Liverpool also turned a healthy profit by selling Torres at the transfer deadline to Chelsea for £52.6 million in January of 2011. I’m not sure whether Torres’ struggles to recreate his form at Stamford Bridge would have popped up in Liverpool had Torres stayed with the club, but Liverpool can probably think that they sold at the right time. (The decision to use much of that money to sign Andy Carroll, on the other hand, does not look quite as smart with hindsight.)





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