Top 10 players that were signed and turned out to be the missing link for the club as they transformed into champions.
The arrival of Jadon Sancho significantly boosts Manchester United’s chances of Silverware next season. A quality addition that many reckon gets United at a place where they are behind only Chelsea and Manchester City’s squads. Diving back to the past, let’s check out the top ten signings that transformed their clubs into champions. Players that have gone down in history as one of the greatest legends of the clubs.
1 RONALDINHO – BARCELONA
Ronaldinho’s first match at the Camp Nou in a Barcelona jersey kicked off at 5 minutes past midnight. A seemingly bizarre time for a football match! Ronaldinho had to fly to Brazil on the very day and so the match was preponed to enable his departure. And what a day it turned out to be! Despite the late hour, 80,000 supporters turned up for the match and although the Catalans lost, they went home with a smile.
“When you play with him and see what he does with a ball, nothing surprises me anymore. One of these days, he will make the ball talk.”— Barcelona teammate Eiður Guðjohnsen
Barca keeper Victor Valdes threw the ball to Ronaldinho around the hour mark. The No.10 picked up the ball in his own half and drove forward 50 yards, beating two Sevilla players in the process. He ended the move with a ferocious strike from 30 yards out. That very moment epitomises Ronaldinho’s impact in Barcelona.
The ingenuity, with his skills and tricks, outstanding ball control and mind-boggling dribbling. But, above all, a smile that can slay even the mightiest. Ronaldinho’s exuberance was resonating in Catalonia. Just a season after his arrival, Barcelona won the La Liga title and then again in the following season. In 2006 they won the UEFA Champions League and the Supercopa de España. Ronaldinho guided Barcelona back to winning ways! The transformation they truly needed.
2 SERGIO AGUERO – MANCHESTER CITY
Screams of Aguerooooooo.. still rings in the years of all those who tuned in to the final matchday in the 2011/12 season. A last-minute clincher that gave Manchester City their first Premier League title since 1968. A move from Atletico Madrid in what was a record transfer brought Aguero to the Premier League. Many had expected big things from the Argentine but none could have predicted his paramount importance. Aguero went on to lift the cup a further four more times in his decade long tenure at the club, establishing himself as a club legend.
Aguero left the club as Manchester City’s record scorer. He also registered one of the best goal involvement records the Premier League has ever seen, only behind Thierry Henry. Aguero also won every other domestic competition with Manchester City. The striker’s only elusive trophy was the Champions League.
3 MARADONA – NAPOLI
Always in our hearts 💙
Ciao, Diego pic.twitter.com/I2gTWqdtdB
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) November 25, 2020
Welcomed by 75,000 fans, Diego Maradona was already a legend upon arrival in Napoli. The Barcelona forward was considered to be the saviour the club needed. Newspapers printed headlines that portrayed the Argentine as the icon of the city. With so much pressure mounting and even more speculations, Maradona had a lot on his shoulders.
“Diego was capable of things no one else could match. The things I could do with a football, he could do with an orange.” —Michel Platini, former French midfielder
Maradona wasn’t fazed by the challenge and led the Partenopei to their first league title and Coppa Italia in 1987. To everyone in the city, the left-footed genius was a god-like figure. When Maradona retired from Napoli, they retired the No.10 jersey in his tribute.
‘The magician, the cheat, the god, the flawed genius’- Guillem Balagué
4 N’GOLO KANTE – LEICESTER CITY AND CHELSEA
Relatively unknown to the rest of the world, N’Golo Kante joined Premier League side Leicester City in 2015 at a reported fee worth just around eight million euros. Consistently making excellent tackles and interceptions, Kante’s presence was felt in every corner of the field. A player that simply never stopped running. Although he does not flaunt fancy footwork or over the top flicks, Kante’s brilliance was in his simplicity. A transfer that many believe led the Foxes to their first Premier League title in the 2015/16 season.
— N'Golo Kanté (@nglkante) May 30, 2019
Chelsea immediately swooped in for the player in the transfer window and paid three times what Leicester did. His influence in the club was evident. Shining in every match he played, Kante helped Chelsea lift the Premier League title. He became the first player after Eric Cantona to win back-to-back titles with two different clubs. In the process, he was named the PFA Player of The Year, the FWA Footballer of The Year and the Premier League Player of the season.
5 ALAN SHEARER – BLACKBURN
130 goals in 171 appearances are probably enough evidence to prove Alan Shearer’s importance for Blackburn Rovers. Although Shearer missed half of his first season for the club after being signed from Southampton, he did register 16 goals. In his second season, he helped them to a second-place finish in the league. In the 1994-95 season, Shearer guided the Lancashire club to their first-ever Premier League title.
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) July 14, 2021
Blackburn Rovers remain one of only two sides to have ever won the league outside the top six. The other being Leicester City. Shearer won the golden boot the same year and was also awarded the PFA Player’s Player of the Year. He was also the Premier League Player of the Year during his title-winning campaign. Shearer went on to become the Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer.
6 ERIC CANTONA – MANCHESTER UNITED
Manchester United was on a desperate hunt to find a creative player capable of scoring goals and providing them. Eric Cantona was their man. After winning the title with Leeds United in the 1991-92 season, Cantona put in his request to move away from the club after a dispute with the manager. He joined Manchester United in the 1992-93 season and helped the Manchester club to lift the title in the same season. He thus became the first player to win the Premier League title with two different clubs.
His presence was immense and although his numbers don’t reflect it, Manchester United needed Cantona. The Frenchman helped Man Utd lift the trophy four times in tenure and also went on to lift the FA Cup twice. With many individual awards and even greater quotes, Cantona remains one of the most influential players the club has ever had.
7 VIRGIL VAN DIJK – LIVERPOOL
Joining Liverpool from Southampton for a then-record fee for a defender, Virgil Van Dijk was tipped by many as too expensive. The Dutch defender did not heed to the criticism and proved everyone wrong with an immaculate display with Liverpool.
🔢 Number of times opponents have dribbled past @VirgilvDijk this season:
🎶 “He’s our centre half, he’s our number 4.” pic.twitter.com/GIvh1VHWDH
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 2, 2019
In his first full season at Liverpool, the towering centre-back helped the Reds to their sixth Champions League title. The following season he was instrumental in helping them lift the first Premier League title in over 30 years. Many argue that Van Dijk is probably one of the best defenders of his time but with just two and a half seasons worth of football to back it, that might be a discussion for the future.
Van Dijk’s record up until now has been almost flawless. His presence elevates the team and his absence causes damage. VVD has been one of the most immediate impactful players of the Premier League era and is no longer an overpriced entity.
8 DENNIS BERGKAMP – ARSENAL
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) March 2, 2021
Another Dutchman that influenced the Premier League was Dennis Bergkamp. Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, Bergkamp’s move to Arsenal helped the Gunners in their cause. Bergkamp went on to become a club legend in his decade long tenure and revived Arsenal to glory days.
“He needs fewer touches to score. Sometimes just one, when others need two or three.” – Wenger on Bergkamp
Bergkamp scored and assisted over eighty goals in the Premier League, a record that only a handful of players possess. Arsenal won the league 3 times during his tenure and the FA Cup four times. His fear of flying earned him the nickname, “non-flying Dutchman” but his presence helped the Gunners fly to the pinnacle of their success.
9 ROMELU LUKAKU – INTER MILAN
Belgium’s all-time record scorer has had a rocky career but his last season at Inter Milan is considered to be one of his best. In his first season at Inter Milan, the striker did what he does best, scoring goals and loads of them. In Serie A he scored 23 goals in 36 appearances for the club, only behind Cristiano Ronald and Ciro Immobile. Inter Milan finished just a point behind Juventus in 2019/20 and Lukaku’s presence was key to their run.
The next season, Lukaku scored 24 goals and assisted 11 times to help the Milan side lift the coveted silverware. A remarkable run in the league and Lukaku’s performances were brilliant. No player in the team had the goal involvement Lukaku showcased and it was vital to their triumph in the Serie A.
10 CRISTIANO RONALDO – REAL MADRID
A remarkable tenure at Manchester United got Real Madrid to secure the signature of the Portuguese forward. It took a world record transfer fee to bring the star forward to Bernabeu. Ronaldo did not need time to mark his arrival, he was already a superstar and in Real Madrid, he shaped to be a legend.
— FootTheBall (@FootTheBall) July 18, 2021
In his 438 appearances for the men in white, Ronaldo scored an astounding 451 goals. Only Lionel Messi has a comparable record to the Portuguese captain. Winning 4 European Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 3 UEFA Super Cups, 2 La Liga titles, 2 Copa Del Rey’s and 2 Spanish Super cups in the process. Cristiano Ronaldo’s record-breaking tenure in the Spanish capital was nothing short of exemplary.