The departures of Alberto Aquilani and Robinho this summer show that high-profile, gifted footballers cannot always flourish in the Premier League. Fans, journalists and managers are divided over the time it takes for a player to adapt to the rigours of the English game. Yet the PL is still an attractive destination for huge swathes of foreign talent and for every flop there is a success story. Here are ten PL new boys to watch out for this season.
Mario Balotelli – Manchester City
Signed from Inter Milan for a fee of £22.5 million, the talented if troublesome striker will team up with Roberto Mancini for a second time. The 20-year old thoroughbred was routinely criticised by the Italian media and his team-mates for being immature and unprofessional. Patently unperturbed, Mancini believes the youngster will soon become a world class forward. ‘Super Mario’ scored on his Manchester City debut against FC Timisoara in the Europa League play-offs. Whether it is for his on or off-field antics, the Italy international will be impossible to miss.
Yaya Toure – Manchester City
David Silva, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov may all arguably warrant places on this list but the PL’s first £200,000-a-week player is worthy of consideration. Having moved from Barcelona to play alongside his brother Kolo, this versatile midfielder has already demonstrated his varied skills to the Eastlands crowd. Powerful, physical and technically proficient, the Ivorian has proved a handful for PL defences in recent weeks by pushing forward to support Carlos Tevez.
Chicharito – Manchester United
City’s rivals Manchester United believe they have found the signing of the summer in the form of the youthful Javier Hernandez. The Mexican international had a fantastic World Cup but was actually snapped up in April from Guadalajara. Known for his pace, skill, movement and finishing ability, he has been likened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian would have told him that every goal counts after his peculiar finish against Chelsea in the Community Shield.
Pablo Barrera – West Ham United
Fellow Mexican international Barrera has been the only bright note of West Ham’s worst start to a PL season. Signed from Pumas for a fee of £4 million this speedy winger glistened during the first half of West Ham’s home defeat to Bolton. Unafraid to run at players, exhibit skill and go for goal, Hammers fans will hoping that this Mexican import can improve their fortunes.
Asamoah Gyan – Sunderland
It is an old adage that you should never buy a player off the back of a good World Cup. However another player who shone in South Africa has been signed by an ambitious club. On transfer deadline day Sunderland paid in excess of £13 million for the Ghanaian striker. Gyan has moved from Ligue 1 Rennes after the departure of Kenwyne Jones and the serious injury suffered by Frazier Campbell. Gyan missed a penalty that would have taken the Black Stars to the semi-finals in South Africa but was the team’s best player of the tournament, scoring three. The 24-year old is already said to be looking forward to the Tyne-Wear derby.
Hatem Ben Arfa – Newcastle United
Ben Arfa is another Ligue 1 import eagerly anticipating that fiercely contested derby. The French international has moved to St James’ Park on a season long loan from Marseille. The winger/attacker is a prodigious talent who has 8 senior caps for France and rather stereotypically went on strike from training in an attempt to force through his protracted move. Are Newcastle ready for yet another abrasive dressing room character?
Marouane Chamakh – Arsenal
The French top flight has been a fruitful source of talent this summer, particularly for Arsene Wenger who has also added Laurent Koscielny to his squad. The Moroccan striker had been linked with a move to the Emirates from some time but was made to wait until his contract with Bordeaux had expired. He scored his first PL goal with a header against Blackpool, despite missing a hatful of chances throughout that drubbing. Sporting a suspiciously oily hairstyle, Chamakh is seen as an intelligent, strong centre-forward who is aerially adept. Arsenal fans will be relieved that in the absence of Robin van Persie they will not have to solely rely on Nicklas Bendtner.
Nikola Zigic – Birmingham City
Another striker who will undoubtedly catch the eye is Birmingham’s 6ft 8in Zigic. The 29-year old Serbian international did not have the best World Cup nor did he boast a good scoring record at Valencia. But he did prosper on loan at Racing Santander last season and subsequently made the switch to St Andrews. With his giant frame, the Serbian target man will seek to intimidate and out-muscle defences.
Raul Meireles – Liverpool
After the unsettled Javier Mascherano eventually left Anfield for the Camp Nou, Roy Hodgson did well to swiftly swoop for Porto’s Meireles. Signed for an £11.5 million fee, the player who has 38 caps for Portugal has said he is no Mascherano clone. Presumably he would not take kindly to being talked of as a replacement to Xabi Alonso either. If the combative midfielder is somewhere between the two Liverpool fans will be satisfied.
Moussa Dembele – Fulham
This Belgian winger moved from AZ Alkmaar to join Mark Hughes’ Fulham. He scored 10 and assisted many in the Dutch side’s 2008/09 title winning season. Fulham hope to have secured a bargain who can perform in the PL. He found the net in their 6-0 victory over Port Vale in the League Cup and set up both goals as Fulham drew 2-2 with Blackpool at the weekend.