Football Features

The top 10 loanees in Europe right now

By Ben Green

Published: 9:58, 22 January 2021

Some of the best transfers in football history have been loan moves.

Real Madrid loanee Fernando Morientes famously collected the Champions League ‘Golden Boot’ as Monaco reached the final in 2003/04; George Weah helped Chelsea win the FA Cup on loan from AC Milan in 2000; and cult hero Amr Zaki proved an inspired temporary punt by Wigan in 2008/09.

And while fans may clamour for the big-money signing, history has told us that price tags don’t always equate to guaranteed success. Some managers prefer a test drive before splurging the big bucks. I mean, can you imagine if Man Utd forked out around £40m on Radamel Falcao from Monaco instead of loaning him first?

Indeed a temporary transfer can prove one of the most astute pieces of business a manager can produce in the market, and the below candidates are a testament to that. So, here are the 10 best loan moves across Europe’s top five leagues this campaign.

Alvaro Morata

Club: Juventus

On loan from: Real Madrid

It’s a loan move that reportedly set Juve back around €10m, but it’s so far proving money well invested for Andrea Pirlo, as Alvaro Morata has picked up from where he left off in Turin. The Spaniard is so far leading the Champions League scoring charts with six goals to his name, and has provided a club-best five assists in Serie A for Juve.

He has also netted four goals, putting him second only to Cristiano Ronaldo (15) in the league, while he has also proven the perfect foil for the Portuguese superstar. His three assists to Juve’s leading scorer makes the Morata-Ronaldo partnership the second most prolific in Serie A, behind only Dries Mertens-to-Hirving Lozano (four).

Taiwo Awoniyi

Club: Union Berlin

On loan from: Liverpool

Union Berlin are absolutely flying this season, with the capital club just one point off fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga table and enjoying a recent run which has seen them claim a point off Bayern Munich, and secure wins over BVB as well as Bayer Leverkusen.

Max Kruse has been the fulcrum of Urs Fischer’s side, but the summer freebie has been injured since early-December and in his absence Taiwo Awoniyi has really come to the fore. The 23-year-old has scored five times and registered a further assist for the Berliners, while he also boasts the second-most successful take-ons (11) and the best non-penalty xG (3.99), highlighting his all-round game.

Awoniyi has endured a nomadic career since joining Liverpool in 2015. He has been farmed out to several clubs on loan as he has been unable to gain a work permit, and while he says it is his “dream to play for Liverpool” one day, he admits a “permanent” departure is likely as he seeks stability in his career.

Gael Kakuta

Club: Lens

On loan from: Amiens

Gael Kakuta was once caught up in the infamous revolving loan door at Chelsea during his nascent years, and at 29 you would have thought the DR Congo international had finally settled down, but this season he is enjoying his ninth loan spell away from his parent club, donning the colours of Lens, whom the Blues initially signed him from in 2007.

Back where it all started, Kakuta has been in scintillating form for Sang et Or, involving himself directly in 12 goals (eight finishes, four assists) in Ligue 1, topping the charts for Lens in both departments. His exploits have proven invaluable for the newly-promoted club as they sit comfortably in mid-table.

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Lucas Olaza

Club: Celta Vigo

On loan from: Boca Juniors

Lucas Olaza has been a part of the Celta furniture since January 2019, with the 26-year-old Uruguayan enjoying his fourth loan spell at the club (he played for Celta B in 2015/16). A dynamic and tidy player, Olaza is the definition of a steady full-back, providing bundles of energy and enterprise on the left flank for the Sky Blues.

He has been a near ever-present since initially joining two years ago from Boca Juniors, and is once again proving his worth at Balaidos, completing more crosses than any other Celta player this season (13), which has culminated in two assists, while also impressing further back, ranking second for interceptions (24) and possession won in the defensive third (54).

Cristian Romero

Club: Atalanta

On loan from: Juventus

When the final whistle blew at Anfield towards the end of November, all eyes were on the wondrous Papu Gomez who, despite not scoring, produced an exhibition of dribbling virtuosity that had Liverpool scrambling, but arguably the keystone of that 2-0 victory on Merseyside was Cristian Romero.

The precocious Argentine was impenetrable, thwarting Mohamed Salah and Co as they tried to fashion chances, but he was having none of it. Gian Piero Gasperini’s players have cultivated a reputation for attacking with intense fluidity, but defensively they were near perfect at Anfield, and that was down to Romero.

The 22-year-old is currently on loan from Juventus, but Atalanta included an option to buy, and they will likely activate that clause come the end of his loan spell. He is a mainstay in Gasperini’s defence, and one to keep an eye on in the future. What were Juve thinking?

Moise Kean

Club: PSG

On loan from: Everton

The Everton-PSG divide is one that’s gaining serious traction of late, and the latest to cross over is Moise Kean. The 20-year-old was unable to nudge his way to the front of the queue at Goodison Park, so has naturally swapped the Everton bench for a starting role at the Champions League runners-up, as you do.

However, you can toss your preconceived notions about the Goodison Park bench to one side, as Kean has been in stellar scoring form in the French capital, notching an impressive nine goals in just 13 Ligue 1 starts, and two in two Champions League starts.

Alphonse Areola

Club: Fulham

On loan from: Real Madrid

Despite Fulham’s current predicament, with the Cottagers toiling in the relegation zone this term, they could be a whole lost worse were it not for the dexterous exploits of France international Alphonse Areola, who has proven a shrewd piece of business by Scott Parker.

The 6ft 5in Parisian was never going to be a spectator in west London; instead, the Real Madrid loanee has been the Premier League’s fifth-busiest shot-stopper (64 saves) and boasts the fourth-best save percentage of goalkeepers with 10+ appearances (74.12%). If Fulham secure safety, then Areola deserves huge plaudits.

Sandro Tonali

Club: AC Milan

On loan from: Brescia

It is a credit to Stefano Pioli that AC Milan remain the front-runners in Serie A despite the Italian being without (arguably) his best player in Ismael Bennacer for the last seven games. The former Arsenal man has been sidelined with a muscle injury, so Sandro Tonali has stepped up to partner Franck Kessie, and it has worked a treat.

The mop-haired midfielder has made a vivid impression in the middle of the park and has lived up to the hype that had everyone yelling “Pirlo 2.0” during his Brescia days. If the Rossoneri are to end a decade-long wait for the Scudetto then the Kessie-Tonali partnership will be one of the main reasons for that.


Club: RB Leipzig

On loan from: Man City

RB Leipzig have run rampant this term under young technocrat Julian Nagelsmann, and few players encapsulate his front-foot, up-and-at-’em approach more than the flinty full-back Angelino.

Pep Guardiola gave him a go, but he largely flattered to deceive at Man City so once again left the Etihad and has joined Leipzig, where he has been in breathtaking form. The 24-year-old has a quite ridiculous three goals and three assists in the Champions League, as well as four goals and two assists in the Bundesliga, not bad for a so-called ‘defender’.

Roger Ibanez

Club: Roma

On loan from: Atalanta

He will be a Roma player in the summer but for the time being he remains an Atalanta loanee. The Brazil Under-23 international joined the capital club last January after playing only one Serie A game for Atalanta, who signed him the year prior from Fluminense.

Since relocating to the Eternal City, Ibanez has been defensively superb and attracted plenty of attention for covetous heavyweights across the continent. The Brazilian has been integral to Paulo Fonseca’s back-three system and will play a major role in determining whether the Giallorossi end their two-year exile from the top four in Serie A.

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