Football Features

The 10 best surprise package Premier League signings this season so far

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:53, 1 December 2020

Everyone loves transfers, don’t they?

Much as the rumour mill can get tiresome, the thrill of clubs signing new players is tremendously good. And with January now just a month away, we’ve decided to have look back at the summer transfer window. Not to spotlight the big-name transfers that have since worked out, or even the big name transfers that haven’t. No, we’re looking at the surprise packages.

James Rodriguez being brilliant for Everton surprised no one, given his enormous pedigree, but there were other transfers without that kind of hype, some that may have even happened without people knowing. Here we list the 10 best surprise packages of the 2020 summer transfer window. Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

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1. Danny Welbeck

Signed for: Brighton
Transfer fee: Free
Football Index value: £0.20 (Sell)  £0.40 (Buy)

Danny Welbeck is beloved by basically everyone. It’s impossible to hate him. Of course, because of injuries limiting his appearances, people have also mostly forgotten about him. So when he rocked up at Brighton after being released by relegated Watford, no one expected much. Welbeck has been great, though. Looking reborn under Graham Potter’s excellent coaching, he’s been a huge part of big results against Aston Villa (his first goal) and Liverpool (won the equalising penalty). Dat Guy is back in business!

2. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Signed for: Spurs
Transfer fee: £15m
Football Index value: £0.33 (Sell)  £0.49 (Buy)

Everyone knew Hojbjerg was a talented player; he had broken through at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola after all. But when Spurs signed him it looked like they were acquiring decent depth for their midfield. Turns out Hojbjerg is the second-coming of Xabi Alonso and has very quickly morphed into José Mourinho’s favourite player. The Dane has been absolutely fundamental in Spurs’ incredible start to the Premier League season and if he keeps it up, who knows how far Spurs can go?

3. Edouard Mendy

Signed for: Chelsea
Transfer fee: £22m
Football Index value: £0.77 (Sell)  £0.84 (Buy)

Edouard Mendy arrived with the immense burden of having to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga, the misfiring Spaniard. People sort of hoped and maybe expected he’d be a bit better, but he didn’t have a massive reputation or anything. Well, if he didn’t have one before, he’ll have one now. Mendy has been a colossus at the back for Chelsea, leading them to a string of clean sheets (the most in the league) and being such a stable and calming presence that Chelsea challenging for the title isn’t a ridiculous notion.

4. Vladimir Coufal

Signed for: West Ham
Transfer fee: £5m

The Czech right-back was one of West Ham’s more low key bits of business in the summer and no one was expecting too much. However, he has been absolutely impeccable for the Irons since making the move. Coufal is a hard-tackling player (his total of 16 is the second-highest in the squad) and has added a level of solidity to West Ham’s right flank.

5. Diogo Jota

Signed for: Liverpool
Transfer fee: £41m
Football Index value: £2.22 (Sell)  £2.40 (Buy)

Diogo Jota seemed to be Liverpool scrambling for someone to sign after Timo Werner proved too costly. Upon first inspection, the verdict was “yeah, good back-up” but Jota has been so much more. The Portuguese has had a rocket start to the season, scoring 5 times in his first 8 league games (9 in 14 across all competitions). He’s been so good that Jurgen Klopp has both altered his formation and even dropped members of his hallowed front three, all to get Jota into the side. He looks born to play for Klopp, much in the same way Sadio Mané did when he first signed, and you can expect him to follow a similar career trajectory right to the very top.

6. Ferran Torres

Signed for: Manchester City
Transfer fee: £24.5m
Football Index value: £1.87 (Sell)  £2.01 (Buy)

People were confused by the signing of Ferran Torres as, talented though he obviously was, he wasn’t a centre-back. Turns out Guardiola knew what he was doing by bringing in the talented Spaniard, who has already scored five in his first 10 games (all comps) playing all across the front three and has shone so much that he’s broken through with the Spanish national side, devastating Germany with a hat-trick in an absurd 6-0 win.

7. Marcal

Signed for: Wolves
Transfer fee: £1.8m
Football Index value: £0.09 (Sell)  £0.20 (Buy)

No one knew what to make of Wolves signing Marcal. Who even was he? A back-up for Lyon? Well, he came in for Wolves and even though Rayan Ait-Nouri came with the bigger price tag and scored on his debut, Marcal has arguably been more impressive. A solid tackler who puts a shift in whatever position he’s asked to play, he’s the kind of player whose contributions will never be appreciated, but whose solid work helps build a platform for Wolves’ success. He’s played 90 minutes just twice this season and Wolves have won both those games.

8. Gabriel

Signed for: Arsenal
Transfer fee: £27m
Football Index value: £0.68 (Sell)  £0.91 (Buy)

Gabriel was treated much like William Saliba, or indeed Pablo Mari… Arsenal signing a defender no one has heard of who will probably be good technically but easily bullied. Turns out Gabriel is nothing like that. The Brazilian is a phenomenally robust defender, an aerial titan the likes of which Arsenal haven’t seen since Per Mertesacker. This kid is already Arsenal’s best defender and could be the pillar of their defence for years to come.

9. Theo Walcott

Signed for: Southampton
Transfer fee: Loan
Football Index value: £0.21 (Sell)  £0.39 (Buy)

Speaking of Arsenal, if you told someone that Theo Walcott was on loan at Southampton from Everton they wouldn’t believe you. Few remember Walcott’s spell on Merseyside, to be truthful, not many really remember Walcott at all. Naturally then, little was expected of his homecoming but he’s actually been pretty excellent. Turns out a coach like Ralph Hasenhuttl was what he needed this whole time.

10. Ollie Watkins

Signed for: Aston Villa
Transfer fee: £28m
Football Index value: £1.00 (Sell)  £1.15 (Buy)

Ollie Watkins has proven himself to be a reliable Championship goalscorer, notching 26 in 50 last season for Brentford. But no one expected Aston Villa’s big reach for him to yield too much straight away. Maybe after a season of adjusting to the Premier League pace, he could perhaps show what he was about.

Well, nobody told Watkins, because after two goals in the EFL Cup he announced himself in his third Premier League game with a devastating hat-trick against defending champions Liverpool. Watkins led the line as the Reds were routed 7-2 (no, seriously) and has since scored another three times to make it eight goals in 11 on the season so far.