There are usually two types of transfers football clubs will make, players who will sore to the ascendancy or ones that will disappear from plain sight without anyone noticing.
In the Premier League especially, it is well documented that some players have come in for large sums of money, only for their careers to take a negative turn for different reasons and for the big investment to look like a waste of money.
However, whilst players have been moved on to pastures new, there are still some contracted to their clubs, even if they spent last season out on loan. Here are our top five.
Nicolas Pepe – £72 million: Arsenal [on loan at Nice]
Soon to be displaced as Arsenal’s record signing by Declan Rice, Pepe arrived in north London to major fanfare after an impressive season in Ligue 1 for French side Lille. The Ivorian scored 22 goals and assisted 11 times during his final season for Les Dogues in 2018/19 before departing for the Gunners that summer.
Since signing, the forward has notched just 27 goals and provided 21 assists in 112 matches for Arsenal before departing on loan to Nice for the 2022/23 season. Six goals and one assist in 19 Ligue 1 outings was not the greatest return and the Ivorian arrives back in London looking for a permanent move away. Linked to various French clubs, it might be the best solution if Pepe were to return to France permanently.
Transfer rating: C-
Donny van de Beek – £39 million: Manchester United
It just has not worked out for Donny van de Beek in England. Signing for £39 million on deadline day back in 2020/21, the Dutchman has cut a disappointed figure at Old Trafford, with even Erik ten Hag, his manager at Ajax, not putting his faith in the midfielder. A goal on debut against Crystal Palace was to be his only goal of the season, with muscle injuries plaguing his campaign.
His second and third seasons at United proved just as unsuccessful, with injury plagued loan spell at Everton in the second part of the 2021/22 season the icing on the cake. Just 60 matches played for United in three seasons is not a good return for van de Beek, who has come onto the radar of Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma.
Transfer rating: D-
Tanguy Ndombele – £55 million: Tottenham [on loan at Napoli]
When Ndombele signed for Spurs from Lyon in August 2019, the Frenchman was coming off the back of an impressive season at the French club, where he impressed in Ligue 1 and the Champions League. Fast forward four years and the midfielder became the latest in a long list of players to have left north London and win silverware, this time with Italian champions Napoli.
Glimpses of quality were seen under first Mauricio Pochettino then Jose Mourinho, but after Antonio Conte’s arrival in 2021/22, the 26-year-old was sent back to Lyon on loan in January 2022. Another loan away followed as the midfielder spendt the entire of 2022/23 in Naples, after 91 appearances to date for the Whites. Now with Ange Postecoglou at the helm, there are reports that the Australian will analyse Ndombele during preseason, with Napoli and Fenerbahce waiting in the wings to end the Frenchman’s Spurs nightmare.
Transfer rating: C-
Kalvin Phillips – £42 million: Manchester City
Whilst this does seem harsh on the Englishman, who is coming off the back of a historic treble and his first ever England goal, it would be easy to forget that he was apart of the all conquering Citizens. Only 21 appearances in all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side, the former Leeds captain completed a full 90 minutes only three times, getting his first league start in the 36th game of the season against Chelsea. The midfielder’s torrid campaign started in the worst possible way with a shoulder injury ruling him out until the World Cup.
It is becoming a habit for big money signings to struggle in their first campaign at City before excelling in their second, whether the Citizens are willing to wait on Phillips is another story. He was lauded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the division prior to his move to Manchester, and maybe a move is exactly what he needs, with Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham all linked to the 27-year-old.
Transfer rating: E
Amad Diallo – £37.2 million: Manchester United [on loan at Sunderland]
Having arrived in Manchester for £37.2 million at the age of 18 from Atalanta in January 2021, the Ivorian had only made five senior appearances for the Italian club before switching to the Premier League. Used sporadically by the Red Devils in his first year at the club, with just three league appearances, the forward departed for his first loan spell in January 2022 to Scottish champions Rangers. That brought along just three goals in ten appearances.
Another loan spell followed, this time to the Championship with Sunderland, and it was the most rewarding season of his career to date. 14 goals and three assists in 39 appearances showed just what United saw in Diallo when they signed him. Talk of him returning to Old Trafford early did the rounds but the Ivorian stayed in the north east to guide the Black Cats to the play-offs. It appears Erik ten Hag likes the look of the 20-year-old, with next season set to be pivotal for his development.
Transfer ranking: C+