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Rating the impact of every top six side’s record signing

Chelsea look set to cut their losses on Romelu Lukaku, with the club record signing heading towards a departure after a disappointing debut campaign at Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku’s arrival was viewed as a statement signing for the west Londoners last summer, but an underwhelming first season at Chelsea looks set to end with the Belgium international being ushered out the exit door.

 

As Lukaku nears a loan return to Inter Milan, we look at the record purchases for each of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ and rate their impact.

Arsenal – Nicolas Pepe (£72m)

Nicolas Pepe’s eye-catching performances for Lille saw the winger courted by several leading clubs, with Arsenal eventually winning the race for his signature.

The Gunners spent a club record £72m to sign the Ivorian, who arrived with big expectations but has struggled to make the desired impact.

Pepe enjoyed a strong finish to his second season with the Gunners, scoring a flurry of goals to reach 16 for the season in all competitions, but has since fallen out of favour under Mikel Arteta.

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He started just five league games during the 2021/22 campaign, scoring once, and the emergence of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe has restricted his first-team opportunities.

Arsenal continue to be linked with forward additions and Pepe’s time with the club appears to be running out, his struggle to turn his talent into consistency having been a major disappointment.

Sevilla have been named as suitors for the 27-year-old and any exit will see the north Londoners make a substantial loss.

Rating: 4/10

Chelsea – Romelu Lukaku (£97.5m)

Romelu Lukaku returned to Chelsea with a point to prove last summer, having enjoyed a prolific career since leaving the west Londoners as a teenager.

Lukaku scored 64 goals in 95 appearances across two seasons with Inter Milan, his form – which inspired the Italian side to a drought-breaking Serie A title in 2020/21 – persuading Chelsea to spend a record £97.5m on his services.

What, on paper, had appeared a perfect fit has proven anything but as Lukaku has struggled to find his role in Thomas Tuchel’s side.

An ill-advised interview in which he expressed his unhappiness at Chelsea and wish to one day return to Inter Milan did little to improve his fortunes, as the 29-year-old failed to win favour at Stamford Bridge.

He scored just eight league goals for the campaign, his lowest total for more than a decade and now looks set to return to Inter Milan on loan. It is a move that all parties are keen on, demonstrating the disappointment of his Chelsea return.

Rating: 4/10

Liverpool – Virgil van Dijk (£75m)

Liverpool haven’t often faltered when it comes to recruitment in recent seasons, with their big-money purchases of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk having been behind the club’s rise under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds spent a then-world record £75m on a defender to sign Van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018, a stunning fee at that time but one that has proven well worth the investment.

In four-and-a-half seasons Van Dijk has reached three Champions League finals, winning one, and added the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup for a clean sweep of major honours.

Regarded as arguably the finest centre-back in world football, he became just the third defender – after Paul McGrath and John Terry – to win the PFA Player of the Year award in the Premier League era and finished as a narrow runner-up for the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

His status as Liverpool’s record signing might not last much longer however, following the arrival of Darwin Nunez from Benfica. The Uruguay international has signed for an initial fee of £64m, though the figure could reach £85m with a series of add-ons.

Rating: 10/10

Manchester City – Jack Grealish (£100m)

Jack Grealish became the Premier League’s first £100m footballer in 2021, with Manchester City breaking the British transfer record to sign the midfielder from Aston Villa.

Grealish had impressed for England at the summer’s European Championship and joined an embarrassment of attacking riches at the Etihad, though it has proven a difficult adaptation for the 26-year-old despite ending the campaign with a Premier League winners’ medal.

Grealish scored just three goals and provided three assists across 26 league appearances and admitted to beIN Sports that he ‘could have done better’ in his debut campaign.

“I feel like I could have done better, obviously. I’ve said that a lot of times. I feel I could have scored more, assisted more, and had more of an impact on certain games,” Grealish said.

“There’s adapting to a new changing room, to a new manager, to a new staff, to a while new training ground, to a whole new city. For me, all I’d ever known was being at Aston Villa, and being around my family.

“It’s been different, it’s been difficult, but I knew that it wouldn’t be the same. I knew that I’d have to try and step out of my comfort zone a little bit. It’s probably been more than I thought it would.”

Grealish will hope to improve on last season’s performances after a campaign of adaptation at City, as Pep Guardiola’s side look to continue their dominance of the Premier League next season.

Rating: 6/10

Manchester United – Paul Pogba (£89m)

Paul Pogba has divided opinions ever since his then-world record return to Manchester United, rejoining the Red Devils in an £89m deal just four years after leaving the club on a free transfer.

He returned having developed into one of Europe’s best young midfielders at Juventus, racking up winners’ medals and spectacular strikes from distance as if each were going out of fashion.

Understandably excitement was high at Old Trafford, but he departs this summer (again, on a free transfer) as one of the most underwhelming Premier League signings of all time.

League Cup and Europa League trophies arrived in a promising debut season, but the last five have passed without silverware and with Pogba’s best performances having been few and far between.

A habit of upsetting the fanbase, much of which came through controversial comments from his representatives and a sense that he would rather have been anywhere but Old Trafford, did little to improve his standing.

Rating: 5/10

Tottenham – Tanguy Ndombele (£55m)

Tottenham’s signing of Tanguy Ndombele was viewed as a coup on completion, as the north London side secured the £55m signing of a midfielder who had attracted interest from Europe’s elite.

Ndombele, however, has failed to live up to expectations with a series of managers have tried and failed to get the best from the Frenchman.

The 25-year-old has shown flashes of his talent on occasion, but has struggled for form and fitness for much of his time in the Premier League with his inconsistency a source of frustration for four different managers at Spurs.

Having grown somewhat exasperated with his underperformance – which included being booed by his own fans after being substituted against Morecambe in last season’s FA Cup – he was allowed to re-join Lyon on loan during the January transfer window.

He scored once and provided two assists in 15 appearances for the Ligue 1 side, who turned down the chance to make the loan permanent for a fee of £55.5m. As it stands, Ndombele will return to Spurs for pre-season with his future up in the air.

Rating: 3/10

Read – One position each top six side should strengthen this summer

Read Also – Five wingers being chased by Premier League clubs this summer

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