Top 5 expensive Belgian imports to the Premier League
Aston Villa’s spending spree this summer has grabbed the headlines in the British tabloids.
Manager Dean Smith has already shelled out a lot of money to bring as many as ten new players so far, and with just a week remaining before the transfer deadline, it won’t be surprising to see Villa bag a couple of more scalps in the market.
Apart from ironing out permanent deals for last season’s loanees Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi, Villa have also splashed the cash to bring in the likes of Wesley Moraes, Matt Targett, Jota, Trezeguet, Ezri Konsa, Bjorn Engels and Douglas Luiz as a part of their massive squad overhaul this summer.
Interestingly, it is the towering Brazilian centre-forward Wesley Moraes who has arrived at Villa Park in a club-record £22million deal from Belgian heavyweights Club Brugge, making him the most expensive Belgian import ever in the Premier League.
Looking at the past records, Aston Villa have every reason to be confident of Wesley’s ability to make the step up to the Premier League because this is not the first time that Villa have raided the Belgian market for a centre-forward, having enjoyed resounding success with the transfer of Christian Benteke from KRC Genk back in the 2012-13 season.
Besides the other elite leagues in Europe, the Belgian top-flight, despite not being regarded as a highly competitive ground, has emerged as one of the most reliable markets for the Premier League clubs over the years.
Starting from Romelu Lukaku, Benteke and Aleksandar Mitrovic to the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Wilfred Ndidi and, most recently, Leander Dendoncker, there have been numerous success stories of players acclimatising brilliantly to the Premier League after arriving from Belgian clubs.
Apart from Aston Villa, the likes of Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton have also completed big-money raids on the Belgian market this summer to bring in Leandro Trossard and Moussa Djenepo, which further underpins the fact that the English clubs are not reluctant to show confidence in the Belgian league players.
While players arriving in the Premier League from the lower leagues in Europe are still viewed with suspicion by the English fans, it is worth mentioning here that a big number of the Belgian imports in the English top-flight have done their reputation no harm.
It is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most expensive Belgian imports to the Premier League and how they have fared over the years.
Note: Only the initial sign-on amount in each case is taken into account and the values mentioned below do not include add-ons or performance-related bonuses.
Here are the 5 most expensive players to arrive in the Premier League from the Belgian market:
1. Jose Izquierdo – £13.5million
The diminutive Colombian winger rose to prominence in Europe during his three-year spell at Club Brugge in Belgium, where he carved out a real reputation for himself with his pace, breathtaking solo runs down the flanks and a terrific eye for goal.
The left-winger plundered 38 goals and 19 assists in 117 appearances for Brugge in all competitions, winning the Belgian Cup and the Belgian Pro League, whilst also impressing in the Europa League and the Champions League.
Izquierdo’s heroics in Belgium earned him a £13.5millionmove to the south coast of England with Brighton and Hove Albion in the summer of 2017 and the 27-year-old enjoyed a decent first season at the Amex Stadium, registering 5 goals and 3 assists in the Premier League.
However, the Colombian fell out of favour in his second season under Chris Hughton and managed only 9 starts in the league. Now, it remains to be seen whether new manager Graham Potter has him in his plans for the upcoming campaign.
2. Aleksandar Mitrovic – £13million
The towering Serbian centre-forward was one of the best emerging talents in Europe when Newcastle United splashed out £13million to sign him as a 20-year-old from Anderlecht in the summer of 2015.
Prior to his move to England, Mitrovic had already won the Serbian title with his boyhood club Partizan Belgrade and the Belgian Pro League in his debut campaign at Anderlecht.
A strike rate of 44 goals in 90 appearances was apparently enough to convince Newcastle of Mitrovic’s talent and the Serb showed strong signs of promise in his debut season in the Premier League, although his 9 goals in the 2015-16 season weren’t enough to prevent relegation.
Despite Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship, Mitrovic stayed at St.James’ Park with a view to guiding the Magpies back to the top-flight at the first time of asking.
However, a drastic dip in form in the 2016-17 season saw the Serb find the net on only 4 occasions in 25 league appearances in the second-tier, although Benitez’s side did manage to secure promotion, courtesy of Dwight Gayle’s free-scoring form.
Mitrovic struggled in the 2017-18 season in the Premier League before resurrecting his career on loan at Fulham in the Championship, scoring 12 in 20 games in the second half of the 2017-18 season to propel the Cottagers to the top-flight.
His promotion-winning heroics earned him a permanent deal at Craven Cottage and Mitrovic impressed with 11 goals in Fulham’s 2018-19 Premier League campaign, which ultimately ended in relegation.
3. Wilfred Ndidi – £15million
The tough-tackling and all-action central defensive midfielder made his professional debut for Genk back in the 2014-15 season and his resounding success in the Belgian top-flight over the next couple of seasons paved the way for a £15millionmove to Leicester City in January 2017.
Apart from impressing in the latter half of Leicester’s remarkable run to the quarter-finals of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League, Ndidi soon established himself as one of the most daunting and energetic defensive midfielders in the Premier League and nailed down a regular starting role right from the beginning of his time at the King Power Stadium.
Still only 22, Ndidi has already proven himself to be an exceptional talent and Leicester might struggle to hold on to him for too long if he continues to develop at such a rapid rate.
The Nigerian international continues to be a massive bargain for Leicester and the Foxes are likely to recoup at least two to three times the money should they decide to move him on in the near future.
4. Marouane Fellaini – £15million
The Belgian international’s towering frame and bushy haircut became a familiar sight for the Premier League fans for almost a decade, especially for those at Goodison Park and Old Trafford.
Former Everton manager David Moyes was the man responsible for bringing the 6ft 4in central midfielder to the Premier League in 2008 for a fee of £15million from Standard Liege and he reunited with Fellaini at Man United in the summer of 2013.
Fellaini went on to enjoy an illustrious and distinguished career in English football, and racked up a mammoth 354 appearances in all competitions for Everton and Man United combined, registering a total of 55 goals and 38 assists in the process.
The 2018-19 season proved to be Fellaini’s swansong in the Premier League, with the Belgian moving to the Chinese Super League in January 2019.
However, he has to go down as one of the best ever Belgian imports in the history of the Premier League, having won the FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League with Man United.
5. Romelu Lukaku- £12 million
Currently one of the stalwarts in the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku bagged 41 goals in 98 appearances for Anderlecht and won a host of honours in Belgium, including the Belgian Pro League in 2009-10 and the Ebony Shoe before earning a £12million move to Chelsea in 2011.
Lukaku, however, struggled for playtime at Stamford Bridge and established himself as a free-scoring forward in the Premier League during his loan spells, netting 17 for West Brom in the 2012-13 season and following it up with another 16 at Everton in the following campaign.
The Belgian centre-forward joined Everton permanently in 2014 and subsequently carved out a massive reputation for himself owing to his free-scoring form, which saw him rack up a staggering 87 goals in 166 appearances for the Toffees.
Following his resounding success at Everton, Lukaku moved to Man United for a fee of £75million in 2016 but his returns have dipped slightly during his stint at Old Trafford, as he has accumulated just 42 goals in 96 appearances for the Red Devils till date.
A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s in gameweek 3 including West Ham and Newcastle stars
A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s
From Harry Wilson’s absolute stunner of a free-kick against Man City, Moussa Djenepo’s cracker of a finish in Southampton’s victory over Brighton to Harvey Barnes’ net-bursting half-volley, Round 3 of the 2018-19 season of the Premier League witnessed some magical moments of pure individual brilliance.
However, it was a weekend highlighted by some special performances from the new No.9s in the division, all of whom hit the ground running and played a key role in the victories of their respective teams, albeit a few were unfortunate to end up on the losing side.
Some of the big-money arrivals in the summer transfer window this term, including Sebastien Haller, Oliver McBurnie, Wesley Moraes and Joelinton, were prolific strikers from other leagues and to witness almost all of them coming to life for the first time in the Premier League was certainly a matter of uncanny coincidence.
While the more established centre-forwards like Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero continued to score for fun, let us take a look at how some of the new No.9s in the Premier League hit the ground running in Round 3.
1. Tammy Abraham
Abraham doesn’t fall in the bracket of a big-money signing but he definitely deserves a place in this list, given that the 21-year-old is a complete newcomer to the Premier League.
The academy graduate from Chelsea opened his account for the Blues in the top-flight with a brace in the 3-2 victory over Norwich City, thus playing a key role to hand Frank Lampard his first win as a manager in the Premier League.
Abraham’s first goal reflected his crisp technical finishing and subtle movement inside the box, while he reminded with his second goal that he is more than capable of beating defenders and finding the net from distance.
2. Oliver McBurnie
The 23-year-old Scottish international, who joined Sheffield United from Swansea City for a club-record £20million earlier in August, is yet to start a game for the Blades in the Premier League this term but he managed to find the net in the top-flight in his third consecutive cameo from the bench.
McBurnie, who came on as a second-half substitute against Leicester City on Saturday, outjumped the Foxes defenders inside the box and scored with a fine header off Chris Basham’s cross from the right to cancel out Vardy’s opener.
That, however, wasn’t enough, as Barnes’ electric strike later on in the second-half handed Brendan Rodgers’ side a 2-1 victory.
3. Wesley Moraes
The £22million signing from Club Brugge failed to deliver the goods in his first couple of games against Spurs and Bournemouth but he finally managed to hit the ground running in the Premier League this weekend, starring in the club’s 2-0 victory over Everton at home.
The 22-year-old pounced on a delightful through ball from Jota and kept his composure to make it 1-0 in the first half, although he contributed a lot more to that victory, including his work rate, hold-up play and slick link-up with the wide players.
Indeed, Wesley has arrived with a lot of expectations on his shoulders and the Villa fans will be hoping that he can make it a habit of finding the net on a regular basis this season.
4. Sebastien Haller
West Ham’s record £45million signing was pretty much quiet in the first couple of games but he came to life at just the right time for the Hammers, as the East Londoners registered their first three points of the Premier League this term with a 3-1 victory over Watford.
Mark Noble’s early penalty was cancelled out by Andre Gray’s strike but it was in the second half that Haller weaved his magic with some help from Felipe Anderson.
The Frenchman was at the right place and at the right time to put away Anderson’s inch-perfect cross from the left to restore West Ham’s lead before he pulled off an amazing spectacle – a brilliant overhead kick off a corner to make it 3-1 in favour of Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
The fans, though, will be hoping for that brace to be the beginning of many more to come from the talisman.
The Brazilian missed a relatively simple chance to score with his head in the defeat against Norwich City but he couldn’t have announced himself in the Premier League at a better time.
Newcastle’s record £40million signing scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 victory over Spurs, thus guiding the Magpies to their first-ever win against a big-six opposition since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago.
Joelinton brought down Christian Atsu’s wonderful lobbed pass with an intricate touch and showed the composure to find a perfect finish past Hugo Lloris between the sticks, as Steve Bruce’s side got off the mark in the Premier League this term after defeats against Arsenal and Norwich.
Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season? Can Norwich and Aston Villa beat the drop?
PL prediction: Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season?
Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are the three newly-promoted teams that have come into the Premier League this season.
Only once in Premier League history have all three promoted teams dropped straight back down, and that was back in 1997-98.
Furthermore, there have been three instances when all three promoted teams have survived, most recently in 2017-18, when Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town all retained their Premier League status.
All the three promoted teams this season – Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, have had contrasting starts to the campaign so far. That being said, let’s take a look at who will finish where in the table.
1. Norwich City – 12th
Daniel Farke’s Norwich City took the Championship by storm and confirmed their promotion fairly early.
During the summer transfer window, the Canaries made some interesting signings in Sam Byram, Patrick Roberts, Josip Drmic and Ralf Fahrmann. Clearly, Farke relies on those players who served the club well last season.
Norwich’s opener against Liverpool turned out to be a heavy defeat for the visitors as they lost 4-1 at Anfield. It could have been worse than that but thanks to goalkeeper Tim Krul, as he made a couple of outstanding saves.
But Farke’s side have shown great character to come back from the disheartening opening day defeat at Anfield. They defeated Newcastle United 3-1 at Carrow Road in their first home game of the season, with last season’s star Teemu Pukki scoring a fabulous hat-trick.
If Farke can be flexible with his tactics and get Pukki firing every weekend, the Canaries can certainly enjoy a respectable mid-table finish.
2. Sheffield United – 16th
After conceding the joint-fewest goals and keeping the most number of clean sheets in the Championship last season, Sheffield United are the most impressive defensive unit among the promoted sides.
The Blades have returned to the top-flight for the first time since 2007 and the plans have been laid down in order to stay at the top for a long period of time.
Having snapped up experienced defender Phil Jagielka on a free transfer following his release from Everton, Chris Wilder focused on bolstering his attack in the transfer window, with the likes of Lys Mousset, Oliver McBurnie, Callum Robinson and Luke Freeman arriving at Bramall Lane.
And to everyone’s surprise, they have enjoyed a really promising start to the Premier League campaign, picking up four points from the first two games. Wilder’s men drew 1-1 with Bournemouth before beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at home at the weekend.
If Sheffield United can make the Bramall Lane a fortress, chances of them beating the drop would become higher.
3. Aston Villa – 17th
Aston Villa beat Derby County in the playoff finals at Wembley to become the third promoted side this season.
Upon their return to the top-flight since the rock-bottom finish in 2016, they were one of the biggest spenders in the summer window as Dean Smith signed as many as 13 players.
The Villans released a number of experienced stars including Alan Hutton, Micah Richards and Glenn Whelan in order to reduce the squad’s age and pump in some fresh, young talents.
Despite reinforcing the backline, Aston Villa have conceded five goals in the first two games. There is a lot to improve for Smith’s side, who are yet to open their account in the points table.
Villa’s massive summer spending is risky and reminds us of Fulham’s approach last season after their promotion. The plan backfired and the Cottagers now find themselves back in the Championship.
Certainly, it won’t be a similar case as far as Villa are concerned, with Smith being a smart tactician. He also has assistant coach John Terry to somehow help the club in difficult situations. It’ll be a close shave, nevertheless!
2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters
2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters
Frantic see-saw promotion battles, brilliant individual performances, controversies on and off the field, edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers and goals galore – the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship had everything in the locker for all sets of fans to rejoice, reminding one and all why the Championship is regarded as arguably the most competitive second-division league in the world.
While the likes of Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United ended the campaign on a high and secured their berths in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, others like Leeds United, Derby County and West Brom tasted the agony of narrowly missing out on promotion glory in the playoffs.
However, all that is nothing but history now and with the 2019-20 Championship season set to kick off this weekend, it is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most thrilling encounters from the previous campaign.
1. Aston Villa 2-3 Leeds United – 23rd December
Operating in the upper reaches of the table and very much the favourites in the race for automatic promotion at that time, Leeds United made the trip to Villa Park on 23rd December high on confidence, having won each of their last five encounters in the Championship.
Up against a Villa side with a vulnerable backline, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were very much the favourites to stretch their winning run to six games in a row. However, the Lions roared early on their home turf and caught the game by the scruff of the neck to stun the visitors.
John McGinn’s bursting run set up Tammy Abraham for a neat close-range finish just 5 minutes into the game before Conor Hourihane’s beautifully-placed low curler into the bottom corner made it 2-0 for Aston Villa at the 17th-minute mark.
Leeds had it all to do after the interval and the Yorkshire giants fought back with two quick-fire goals within a span of five second-half minutes to restore parity at 2-2.
Half-time substitute Jack Clarke scored his goal for the Whites before Pontus Jansson’s header just after the hour-mark set up a tense finish at Villa Park.
Both teams missed scoring opportunities and Leeds had a shout for a penalty turned down, although it was the visitors who had the last laugh.
Kemar Roofe took advantage of a sloppy headed clearance from Ahmed Elmohamady and fired home his 11th goal of the campaign to complete a remarkable comeback and claim all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
2. Leeds United 3-2 Blackburn Rovers – 26th December
If Leeds’ comeback victory against Aston Villa three days earlier was remarkable, then what followed at Elland Road on Boxing Day has to go down as simply awe-inspiring.
The Whites were on top of the standings in the Championship at that time and were pretty much the outright favourites to make it seven victories in a row against a struggling Blackburn side.
After a rather quiet first half-hour, it was Leeds United who took the lead, courtesy of an own goal from Rovers defender Derrick Williams, who sliced Jack Harrison’s cross into his own net.
That own goal, however, was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half, as Charlie Mulgrew converted from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the box by Leeds skipper Luke Ayling.
Blackburn Rovers looked to have won the game in the 90th minute when Mulgrew scored his second of the night from a long-range free-kick, putting Tony Mowbray’s side 2-1 up with just injury-time left to play.
However, the tides turned completely in the dying moments of the game, as Kemar Roofe once again emerged as the saviour and scored twice in the first and fourth minute of injury-time to complete an awe-inspiring comeback for the second time in a row.
3. Norwich City 4-3 Millwall – 10th November
Norwich City were very much one of the favourites for automatic promotion at that time and hardly anybody would have expected Championship strugglers Millwall to travel to Carrow Road and give Daniel Farke’s side a real run for their money.
Well, the game turned out to be an absolute edge-of-the-seat thriller, with four goals in the last 16 minutes, including two in injury-time, sealing the game in Norwich’s favour.
Tom Elliott headed past Tim Krul midway through the first half to put Millwall in the driver’s seat before Teemu Pukki’s neat close-range finish early in the second half restored parity for the home side.
Pukki then had a spot-kick saved after Onel Hernandez’s goal-bound effort was handled inside the box by Murray Wallace. However, the Canaries did take the lead midway through the second half, thanks to Moritz Leitner’s thunderous low drive into the Millwall net.
There was more drama to unfold at Carrow Road though, as quick-fire goals from Ryan Leonard and Jed Wallace made it 3-2 in favour of the visitors.
Norwich, however, had the last laugh in a thrilling contest as Jordan Rhodes’ equaliser in the second minute of stoppage-time followed by Pukki’s winner in the 97th minute ensured that the Canaries bagged all three points and prevented an upset.
4. Norwich City 3-4 Derby County- 29th December
Norwich managed to edge past Millwall in a gripping game at home in November but Frank Lampard’s Derby County ensured that they finished the year on a high with an astonishing comeback win at Carrow Road.
Norwich dominated the first 35 minutes and took a deserving 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Ben Godfrey and Teemu Pukki.
However, things changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the first half, as strikes from Chelsea loan duo Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount ensured that the Rams went into the interval with the scores level at 2-2.
Pukki restored Norwich’s lead nine minutes from time just before the floodlights in one section of the ground went out, forcing both the teams to head for the tunnel.
Taking advantage of the stoppage, Florian Jozefzoon levelled it up for Derby County in the 87th minute from a goalmouth scramble before Jack Marriott’s lovely dinked finish over Tim Krul sealed an exceptional comeback victory for Lampard’s side.
5. Aston Villa 5-5 Nottingham Forest- 28th November
This has to go down as one of the best free-scoring games in the Championship for quite a while, although Villa could only manage a draw against a 10-man Nottingham Forest.
Early goals from Lewis Grabban and Joao Carvalho handed the visitors a 2-0 advantage before Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham restored parity with a quick-fire brace, ensuring that the first twenty minutes of the game produced as many as four goals.
Matthew Cash made it 3-2 in favour of Forest but Abraham once again rose to the occasion to make it 3-3 before half-time.
Joe Lolley restored Forest’s lead for the second time in the game with a thunderous long-range effort but things went astray for Aitor Karanka’s side when Tobias Figueiredo was sent off. Abraham capitalised on the numerical advantage and headed it in from Jack Grealish’s cross to make it 4-4.
Anwar El Ghazi’s curling effort gave Villa the lead for the first time on the night but Lewis Grabban ensured with a near-post finish that the scores finished at 5-5.
Thus, an eventful night at Villa Park ultimately ended in a stalemate, with both teams keeping the fans on the edge of their seats with plenty of goals but neither doing enough to earn three points.
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