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Surprise transfers in the Premier League that paid off

Several surprise transfers in the Premier League era, involving unknown players or shock deals, have paid off and brought positive results for the clubs involved.

The summer transfer window will open on June 14 and top-flight clubs already have targets on their lists. Some of them might be high-profile and cost a fortune, while others might not even be on the radar of the casual football fan.

Once in a while, there are surprise signings, which involve under-the-radar players moving to top teams or famous faces plying their trade in unforeseen environments. These signings often come with risk, but the reward can be high.

This season, for example, Tottenham made a bold move by signing Guglielmo Vicario. Few from inside the Premier League bubble had heard of the shot-stopper, who arrived from Italian mid-table outfit Empoli to replace Hugo Lloris.

The 27-year-old had never previously played for a so-called ‘big team’ or even outside Italy. Nevertheless, he has been an impressive performer in his debut campaign in North London.

The former Udinese and Cagliari goalkeeper has cemented his place almost seamlessly and featured in all of Spurs’ games this season. His consistent performance will keep Tottenham tickets in high demand next season.

Here are some other surprise transfers that worked out well.

Nathan Ake (Bournemouth to Manchester City)

Manchester City have splashed the cash on some star signings across the last decade, so the £40m arrival of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth caught some by surprise. Sure, the Dutch defender had impressed on the south coast, but having failed to make the grade at Chelsea, some questioned the wisdom of the signing.

Ake made just 19 league starts across his first two Premier League campaigns with the Citizens to add weight to those doubts, but has since developed into a dependable performer in Pep Guardiola’s side. Whether at left-back or centrally, Ake has been a model of consistency for City, where he has now won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among his honours. He has been integral to Guardiola’s change to a more physically dominant defensive line up.

Gabriel Martinelli (Ituano to Arsenal)

Arsenal took a chance on the signing of Gabriel Martinelli after agreeing a deal to sign the teenager from Ituano in 2019. Brazil’s fourth tier is not a common shopping place for the Premier League’s elite, but Arsenal agreed a deal to bring Martinelli to North London.

His first season saw Martinelli score 10 goals in all competitions in a breakout year, before delivering his best season to date in 2022-23. The winger scored 15 times in the Premier League as Arsenal ended the campaign as runners-up. His initial fee of £6m has proven to be a bargain for Arsenal, who have aided his development into a senior Brazil international.

Andy Robertson (Hull City to Liverpool)

Liverpool spotted signs of real potential in Andy Robertson, who despite forming part of Hull City’s relegated side in 2016-17 caught the eye of the Reds’ recruitment team.

The Merseysiders spent £8m to bring Robertson to Anfield and it proved to be one of the wisest investments of the Jurgen Klopp era. Robertson has been a fixture in a decorated era for Liverpool, where he has won the lot after claiming Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup winner’s medals.

His 59 assists in the Premier League is a record for a defender.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan to Stoke City)

Xherdan Shaqiri arrived at Stoke City with a packed résumé. After an exciting emergence at Basel, Shaqiri won nine trophies at Bayern Munich – including the Champions League – and also represented Inter Milan before arriving in the unlikely setting of the Potteries.

He signed for Stoke, a team with a rather robust reputation, in a £12m deal and added a sprinkling of star quality to a team who had become known for being awkward rather than aesthetic opponents.

Shaqiri helped Stoke to a ninth-place finish in his debut season and recorded 30 league goals and assists across his three seasons. His final campaign, that delivered eight goals and seven assists, ended in relegation but earned the Swiss winger a move to Liverpool where he went on to win the Champions League and Premier League.

Carlos Tevez (Corinthians to West Ham)

Few Premier League transfers have ever shocked quite like this one.

Football was stunned when Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano rocked up at West Ham in 2006, with the two sought-after Argentina internationals linked with Europe’s elite before their move to Upton Park. Each struggled to start, but while Mascherano’s time with the Hammers failed to work out, Tevez departed a club icon.

He scored seven goals and provided three assists in the final 10 games of the season, a return that kept West Ham in the division. It included a final-day winner at Manchester United, who signed the striker at the end of the campaign.

It was a controversial deal with third-party ownership uproar and a bitter court case with relegated Sheffield United as a result. On the pitch, however, Tevez was terrific.

Noughties Nines: Carlos Tevez – El Apache

Keylor Navas (PSG to Nottingham Forest)

Nottingham Forest’s search for a shot-stopper of reliability led them to Keylor Navas in January 2023.

Signed on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, the experienced Costa Rica international swapped the Champions League for the City Ground. It proved a smart signing for Forest as Navas helped the side to safety in their first Premier League season for 23 years.

A multiple European Cup winner had not been seen in the club’s colours since Forest’s own back-to-back triumphs in 1979 and 1980.

Read – Five England players that could move clubs this summer

See more – A 26-man squad of players England snubbed for Euro 2024

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