Football Features

Hit or miss? The first signing of every Premier League club’s current owner

By Chris Smith

Published: 11:00, 14 October 2021

It’s an unfortunate truth that money makes the footballing world go round.

Without stacks of cash, most clubs are unlikely and unable to challenge the established elite, at least in Europe. So, it’s quite understandable that when a big takeover goes through, fans can be found jubilantly celebrating outside their stadium, dreaming of what might come next. In the cases of Chelsea and Manchester City, what came next was, indeed, the dream scenario.

First impressions mean a lot, so new owners will often want to get their debut signing right. But that’s not always the case. Here’s the outcome of every first signing made by current owners of Premier League clubs.

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Arsenal: Denis Suarez

Owner: Stan Kroenke

Stan Kroenke has been immensely unpopular during his time with Arsenal, so it’s little surprise his first signing as outright owner (having previously had majority shares from 2011), Denis Suarez, was a flop, too. The Spaniard joined on loan from Barcelona in January 2019 but played just six very underwhelming games before heading back to his homeland.

Verdict: Miss

Aston Villa: Ørjan Nyland

Owner: Nassef Sawiris and Wesley Edens

Shortly after Nassef Sawiris and Wesley Edens took control of Aston Villa, goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland was signed, just a day before John McGinn. But where McGinn has been a tremendous signing in midfield, Nyland was never able to fully cement himself as the No.1 ‘keeper. Since leaving in February, he’s turned out for Norwich City and, now, Bournemouth.

Verdict: Miss

Brentford: Stuart Dallas, Harlee Dean, Adam Forshaw

Owner: Matthew Benham

Matthew Benham has transformed the fortunes of Brentford, leading them all the way to the Premier League. Just days after his arrival, Stuart Dallas, Harlee Dean and Adam Forshaw were signed as free agents. All three were excellent during their time with the London club, while Dallas and Forshaw went on to play Premier League football with Leeds United. Dean left a sour taste in the mouth by refusing to extend his contract with Brentford, leaving for Birmingham in August 2017, but still turned out 249 times for the Bees, often as captain or vice-captain.

Verdict: All hits

Brighton & Hove Albion: Mark Wright

Owner: Tony Bloom

Like Benham at Brentford, Tony Bloom has worked wonders for Brighton. But his first signing, Mark Wright, didn’t really settle in the area, quickly leaving to join Bristol Rovers after just three months (and four appearances).

Verdict: Miss

Burnley: Nathan Collins

Owner: ALK Capital

A very recent takeover, Republic of Ireland youth international Nathan Collins was the first to arrive at Burnley in the ALK Capital era. The 20-year-old centre-back is yet to establish himself, though, making just three appearances across all competitions since joining from Stoke in June for £12m. Understandable, though, given the partnership between Ben Mee and James Tarkowski.

Verdict: TBD

Chelsea: Glen Johnson

Owner: Roman Abramovich

Much bigger names were to come, but Glen Johnson was brought in from West Ham United for £6m as Roman Abramovich’s first signing at Chelsea. The future England international was never able to fully establish himself in the starting XI and was even made to play in net against Newcastle once after Carlo Cudicini was sent off during an EFL Cup tie. Johnson picked up a couple of winners’ medals but the fact that he permanently left for Portsmouth in 2007 for £2m less than Chelsea paid for him probably puts him in the ‘miss’ category.

Verdict: Miss

Crystal Palace: Randell Williams

Owner: Steve Parish

After spending time in the Tottenham youth system and in non-league with Tower Hamlets, Randell Williams joined Crystal Palace shortly after Steve Parish acquired a majority stake in the club. He was released 18 months later and now plays for Hull City.

Verdict: Miss

Everton: Maarten Stekelenburg

Owner: Farhad Moshiri

Everton have spent huge sums since Farhad Moshiri came on the scene, but his first signing at Goodison Park was veteran Dutch goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg. The 2010 World Cup finalist did okay in his first season and even saved two penalties in one game against Manchester City, denying Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. Stekelenburg lost his place to Jordan Pickford in his second season and put in some underwhelming displays in the cups thereafter. Still, for less than £1m, he was alright.

Verdict: Hit

Leeds United: Hadi Sacko

Owner: Andrea Radrizzani

Hadi Sacko was one of 20 new arrivals in the summer of 2017 following Andrea Radrizzani’s takeover of Leeds United. The Mali international never truly settled at Elland Road and, after a series of loan spells, joined Denizlispor in 2019. He now plays for Romania side, CFR Cluj.

Verdict: Miss

Leicester City: Frank Moussa

Owner: The Srivaddhanaprabha family

The Srivaddhanaprabhas have got most things right since taking over Leicester City, but the signing of Frank Moussa was not one of them. The Belgian midfielder played just 15 times for the Foxes and, after an emergency loan spell at Doncaster Rovers, mutually terminated his contract in May 2012.

Verdict: Miss

Liverpool: Luis Suarez

Owner: FSG

Most Liverpool supporters will tell you that although his success was over a much shorter time span, Luis Suarez was better during his ridiculous 2012-14 run — where he scored 61 goals in 81 appearances — than the likes of Fernando Torres and Michael Owen were in their Anfield primes. The Reds made over £40m in profit from his sale to Barcelona, too. So, taking all of Suarez’s controversies out, FSG got off to a great start here.

Verdict: Hit

Manchester City: Robinho

Owner: Sheikh Mansour

Robinho’s arrival at Man City was so transformative that people are now wondering who Newcastle’s “Robinho signing” will be. He wasn’t with the Citizens long but certainly put them on the map.

Verdict: Hit

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar

Owner: The Glazer family

Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabian Barthez, Tim Howard, Roy Carroll. Man Utd’s search to replace Peter Schmeichel was arguably even painful for fans of rival clubs let alone those of a red persuasion. But, shortly after the Glazer’s tempestuous reign at Old Trafford began, Edwin van der Sar arrived, with the Dutchman going on to win four Premier League titles, a Champions League and a League Cup, while also setting a world record after going 1,311 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal in the 2008/09 campaign.

Verdict: Hit

Newcastle United: TBC

Owner: Public Investment Fund

All manner of players are now being linked to Newcastle United, so sit back and enjoy the rumour mill ahead of what could be a pivotal moment for the Magpies.

Norwich City: Matt Jackson

Owner: Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones paid out £500,000 to bring centre-back Matt Jackson from Everton to Norwich in 1996, just a year after helping the Toffees to an FA Cup win. Jackson was named the Canaries’ Player of the Year in 1997/98 and remained at the club until 2001.

Verdict: Hit

Southampton: Wesley Hoedt

Owner: Gao Jisheng

£15m is a lot to pay out for a centre-back for a club with the spending history of Southampton’s but then again, it was a preemptive strike with Virgil van Dijk Liverpool-bound in January 2018. Wesley Hoedt proved not to be the replacement Saints were looking for and was loaned out to Celta Vigo, Antwerp and Lazio before joining Anderlecht on a permanent basis over the summer.

Verdict: Miss

Tottenham Hotspur: Teddy Sheringham

Owner: Daniel Levy

It feels like a lifetime ago since Daniel Levy took control of Tottenham from Alan Sugar. Teddy Sheringham was the first chapter in this long-running saga, returning after four trophy-filled years with Manchester United. His two-year homecoming at Spurs wasn’t quite as prolific as his original spell, but Sheringham’s return was still regarded as a success overall.

Verdict: Hit

Watford: Manuel Almunia and Fitz Hall

Owner: The Pozzo family

It’s been a merry-go-round on and off the pitch at Watford under the Pozzo. In terms of players, that all started with Manuel Almunia and Fitz Hall. The former was extremely reliable between the sticks (without him there would be no Hogg… DEENEY!) before being forced to retire ahead of a move to Cagliari due to a rare heart condition. The latter’s spell was disrupted by injuries as Hall headed toward the end of his career.

Verdict: Hit (Almunia), Miss (Hall)

West Ham United: Benni McCarthy, Mido, Ilan

Owner: David Gold & David Sullivan

The two Davids set to work early annoying the West Ham fanbase, bringing in Benni McCarthy, Mido and Ilan. None of them delivered the goals they were signed for. Ilan was the closest to being a success, netting four times in 11 Premier League appearances.

Verdict: All misses

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Helder Costa

Owner: Fosun Group Guo Guangchang

With the help of Jorge Mendes, there’s been a Portuguese wave at Wolves under the Fosun Group. Helder Costa was the first arrival under their ownership and he scored five goals in 36 Championship appearances in 2017/18 as the Midlands club secured promotion to the Premier League. Although he struggled to adjust to the top-fight, Costa was an important piece in getting Wolves there, and he was sold to Leeds for a handsome £15m.

Verdict: Hit