The Signings Who Had a Fernandes-Esque Impact in the Premier League

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Virgil van Dijk

The missing piece to the Premier League puzzle.

Virgil van Dijk joined Anfield in January 2018 and Liverpool would finish that season 25 points off champions Manchester City and maintaining a spot in the Champions League was more so the talk of the town rather than a title. However, by Christmas time of that year and well into the next season, the difference from before and after the Dutchman's arrival was clear to see as the Reds headed into 2019 as the favourites to win the Premier League.

Before van Dijk, Jurgen Klopp had still assembled a fantastic, record-breaking squad, as Mohamed Salah netted 32 goals in the 38-game season, which had never been done before. At the same time, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and co. were only getting better, but there was something missing.

With van Dijk's addition, Liverpool went from 75 points to 96, 38 goals let in to just 22, and five league defeats to just one all within a season. The club also captured the Champions League that campaign and eventually won the Premier League a season later, after missing out by a point in the Dutch international's first full season.

Now, with van Dijk having been unable to play since October as the club struggles to get into the top four, it's clear this man's impact has been simply unrivalled at Anfield and he's probably their greatest ever Premier League signing.

Premier League Winner/Top Scorer

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Eric Cantona

Bruno Fernandes has drawn comparisons with Manchester United icon Eric Cantona since his arrival, but he still has a long way to go to match the Frenchman's legacy, given how the slick striker brought in more than just motivation and skill for others to feed off.

Cantona joined Old Trafford from reigning champions and arch-rivals Leeds United in time for the inaugural Premier League season back in 1992, for a fee of £1m, and it remains arguably the best transfer in Premier League history.

The Frenchman was an enigma, both on and off the pitch, lighting up games with swagger and arrogance to match. 'King Eric' as he was called by the United faithful, won four Premier League trophies in his five seasons at the club, ending the club's 26-year wait for a title and this ultimately started the domination of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

The forward also won the PFA Player of the Season award for the 1993/94 season after scoring 18 goals and registering 12 assists in 34 appearances. Cantona went on to retire at just 31 at the end of the 1996/97 season, leaving a legacy better than any other player in a United shirt in the Premier League era.

Vincent Kompany

The man who started it all.

Vincent Kompany joined Manchester City shortly before the billions begin to rain from Sheikh Mansour, who took over the club as the Belgian joined from Hamburg for £6m. 

The arrival of both Kompany and new ownership coincided with a complete change of fortune for a club entirely in the shadow of their neighbours United. The defender joined Mark Hughes' team at the beginning of a new dawn at the club and was appointed captain just three years later in 2011 under Roberto Mancini's stewardship. The City captain ultimately set the standard for the elite talent that followed upon his arrival as Kompany led by example to a number of City stars that included the likes of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva.

Kompany won four Premier League titles with City, the first coming in the 2011/12 season in which City won it in the final minute of the last game of the season. Just weeks prior to that, the defender scored the all-important header in what was basically a title-decider with United, which also helped him win the Premier League Player of the Season.

The Belgian made 265 Premier League appearances for the Sky Blues, keeping 94 clean sheets and conceding just 217 goals in 11 seasons and before the money came in, he was the man that set the standard.


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Dennis Bergkamp

Prior to the goalscoring greatness of Thierry Henry, Arsenal were already well equipped up top with genius and had already won the Premier League title, so the Frenchman takes a back seat in this instance.

Dennis Bergkamp joined Bruce Rioch's Arsenal from Inter Milan in 1995 for a fee in the region of £7.5m, breaking the Gunners transfer record. Arsenal finished 12th the season before they signed Bergkamp, their lowest to date in the Premier League. Hence, the Dutch international being a big coup for the Gunners, who were ultimately struggling.

Arsenal finished at an improved fifth in Bergkamp's first season at Highbury, with the Dutchman striking up a great relationship with Ian Wright, contributing 11 goals and eight assists in 33 games. Despite the improvement in the finish in the table, it wasn't enough to keep manager Rioch in charge, with the club eventually turning to Arsene Wenger into 1996/97.

Bergkamp continued to shine for Arsenal and dazzle the Highbury crowd under Wenger, and it was the 1997/98 season that saw him produce his best season in an Arsenal shirt. The north London outfit won their first Premier League that year, with the Dutchman finishing as the club's top scorer with 16 goals and Bergkamp also managed a further 11 assists in just 28 games.

N'Golo Kante (Leicester & Chelsea)

N'Golo Kante joined Leicester City in the summer of 2015 for a fee of £5m from Caen as a complete unknown to Premier League supporters. 

The combative midfielder started only one of Leicester's first five games in the Premier League. However, after finding his place alongside Danny Drinkwater in the Foxes midfield for the first time in a home defeat to Arsenal, Claudio Ranieri had found his midfield duo for the 5000/1 title challenge.

Kante broke an unimaginable amount of statistics in the 2015/16 season, as the Frenchman topped the charts for both tackles (175) and interceptions (156), and despite this, Kante was booked just three times.

As a result of his form, Kante moved to Chelsea the next season and the ball-winning midfielder followed up his Premier League win with Leicester at Stamford Bridge, becoming one of only two players in history to win back-to-back Premier League titles but with two different clubs. And, considering this other player is Mark Schwarzer, who never actually played a single game in the two seasons he won the title at Chelsea and Leicester back-to-back, Kante is pretty much in a world of his own.

For this reason, he gets on this list for his transfer to both Leicester and Chelsea, as he picked up the PFA Players' Player of the Year in his debut campaign in west London.

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Alan Shearer (Blackburn)

Alan Shearer joined Jack Walker's Blackburn Rovers revolution in 1992 in the view of taking over as the dominant force in English football. The Lancashire team spent a then-record British transfer fee of £3.3m for Shearer from Southampton after 13 goals in 41 games as a 21-year-old for the Saints in the First Division.

Blackburn were promoted from the Second Division just in time for the inaugural Premier League campaign in 1992/93 and Shearer's arrival saw the striker take the league by storm scoring an incredible 47 goals in 61 games for the newly-promoted club in his first two seasons. The club finished fourth and second in their first two campaigns, respectively, but it was Shearer's third season that saw Walker's vision come to fruition.

Manager Kenny Dalglish signed Chris Sutton from Norwich City to play alongside Shearer, which created the infamous ‘SAS’ partnership, which ultimately took Blackburn to the Premier League title in the 1994/95 season, becoming the first team to win the title other than United.

Shearer won the Player of the Season that year with 34 goals and 13 assists in 42 appearances, and it remains arguably the best individual campaign ever seen. The Englishman would stay on for another year at Blackburn and bag 31 goals in 35 games the following year as the season went from a 42-game league to a 38-fixture campaign - only Mohamed Salah has beaten this feat in Premier League history with 32 goals in 2017/18.

The striker then joined Newcastle United and that transfer also deserves a spot on this list as he became their all-time top scorer.

Frank Lampard

Prior to signing Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo, Scott Parker, Glen Johnson and Claude Makelele in the immediate aftermath of Roman Abramovich taking over the club, Chelsea relied on players like John Terry coming through the academy and astute transfer business with signings like Gianfranco Zola and Gus Poyet.

The club, which was run by Ken Bates after being bought for £1 in 1982, was not looked at as a powerhouse in both league competitiveness and wealth and these signings were key to maintaining a top eight finish. In fact, prior to their 2004/05 title win, Chelsea went 50 years without a league trophy, besides their two Second Division wins in the 1980s.

However, one man that helped start it all before the money came in was Frank Lampard, who joined the club three years prior to Abramovich's takeover and the Englishman became an instant impact.

Lampard would score on his league debut for Chelsea and astonishingly, the midfielder would miss just five league outings in his first six seasons and bag 61 Premier League goals in the process, which helped re-establish the midfield role in England.

The Stamford Bridge legend would go onto win 13 major trophies, including the Champions League and three league titles and eventually become the Blues all-time top scorer.

Honourable mentions

Didier Drogba

Whilst Drogba's first two seasons were not memorable as he struggled to get a starting spot, by 2006, the Chelsea legend became an integral part of their Premier League success, including 29 goals in 32 games in 2008/09.

Thierry Henry

As mentioned, Arsenal had already won the Premier League prior to Henry's arrival, so Bergkamp's transfer was slightly more important. However, Henry is perhaps the greatest this league has ever seen and he has to be included.

Robin van Persie

No, not to Arsenal, to United. Indeed, Robin van Persie is an Arsenal legend despite the volatile transfer to their arch-rivals, but with 26 goals in his debut season at United, the Dutchman practically won the club's record-breaking 20th title by himself.

Robert Huth

Whilst much of Leicester's Premier League-winning squad was with them in the Championship, Robert Huth was brought in for experience to help them stay up as they fought relegation in January 2015. Huth would sign officially a few months later and he would play 35 league games and form a sensational partnership with Wes Morgan that conceded just 36 goals all season and beat the 5000/1 odds to win the title.

Sergio Aguero

Kompany might have been the first of City's golden era, but Aguero was the goals. The Argentine was far from the first marquee signing at the Etihad, but with 23 goals in 32 league appearances in his first season, two on his debut, and *that* last-minute goal that won the title in his debut campaign, arguably nobody has had a better first season in English football.

Les Ferdinand

With Andy Cole leaving two years prior to Les Ferdinand joining Newcastle, the Magpies were seriously lacking goals. Ferdinand would sign in 1995 and score 25 goals in 37 appearances in his first season before Alan Shearer joined him a year later to form a formidable partnership. Newcastle would finish second for the two seasons Ferdinand was there and they infamously conceded a 10-point lead to United after leading the league from the start until March in 1996.

Luis Suarez

Liverpool needed a replacement after selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea in 2011 and with Luis Suarez, they didn't just replace him, but made an improvement at the same time. His first full season brought in just 11 goals, but with 23 the next season and 31 the campaign after, the Uruguayan became a Premier League legend. In fact, despite losing the league by two points on the final day, the ex-Liverpool man arguably had the best individual season of all-time with 31 goals in 33 games and if he hadn't had missed the other five through suspension, no doubt he'd have smashed the record for most in a season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

United were already a winning team when Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club, but with the rise of Chelsea and Arsenal's growth with players like Henry and Patrick Vieira, plus the departure of David Beckham, they needed a new star. Ronaldo didn't start to hit the ridiculous goalscoring numbers that has now become the norm until 2006/07, when he won his first league title with the club, followed by two more consecutively, but, don't get it twisted, he was an instant impact at Old Trafford.

Mohamed Salah

Salah, after being sold by Chelsea, returned to the Premier League with 32 goals in his debut season at Liverpool, and nobody in Premier League history has ever matched this. This in itself is enough to have a shout on this list, but considering he also helped bring the Premier League title in his third season and a Champions League in his second season, it's fair to say that his impact is hard to beat at Anfield.


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