HomeSports21 best signings of 2022-23 European season

21 best signings of 2022-23 European season


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The 2022-23 season delivered some of the biggest transfer deals of all time, but which players shone brightest at their new clubs.

As the curtain prepares to fall on another enthralling year of European football, it’s time to look back on the players that made the biggest impact after completing high-profile transfers.

The Premier League dominated the market, with over £2 billion spent on new players across English football’s top 20 clubs, but significant deals were also struck in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and beyond.

Money doesn’t always guarantee success, though. Chelsea invested more in new players than any other club on the continent, but they won’t be playing in Europe next season after plummeting down into the bottom half of the Premier League standings.

Some of the most expensive signings of the year have thrived, but a large number of cut-price deals have ended up proving to be bargains, and there has also been great value found in free agents. Domestic champions Manchester City, Napoli and Barcelona can all attest to that.

Assessing the best of the best is no easy task, but GOAL is here to rank the most successful signings of the 2022-23 season.

The final 21 includes a host of risk-takers, leaders and mavericks; fearless players capable of delivering at the very highest level week in, week out.

But the main thing that unites them all is their insatiable hunger for victory. Check out the cream of the crop below.

21. Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich, £67m)

De Ligt had his pick of suitors after deciding to leave Ajax at the end of the 2018-19 season, including Barcelona, where he could have continued playing with his Dutch team-mate Frenkie de Jong.

However, De Ligt ended up opting for Juventus due to his “fascination” with Italian football – specifically the art of defending exhibited by his idols Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Nesta

Unfortunately, the centre-back never really managed to settle in Turin. He became a Serie A winner during his time at the Allianz Stadium, but was regularly criticised for his performances at the back as Juve began to decline after so many years of domestic dominance.

De Ligt jumped at a fresh start when Bayern came calling, and after just one month on the books at Allianz Arena, he made the bold claim that the German club was a “step up” for him in terms of quality. The change of surroundings has certainly allowed De Ligt to rediscover his best level.

Bayern might have only scraped over the line in the Bundesliga title race, but they still had the best defensive record in the division, and that’s mainly down to De Ligt. He’s rebuilt his reputation admirably and his continued presence will be vital for Thomas Tuchel going forward.

20. Alexis Sanchez (Marseille, free)

Sanchez’s career to date has been full of ups and downs. The Chile international made his name at Udinese before playing in an all-star Barcelona side and becoming a cult figure at Arsenal.

But then came an ill-advised move to Manchester United in January 2018, which stopped him in his tracks. Sanchez only managed three goals in 32 Premier League appearances for the Red Devils before being shipped out on loan to Inter in August 2019.

A year later, that move was made permanent as the mercurial winger established himself as an important member of the Nerazzurri squad.

He won three trophies as an Inter player while contributing 20 goals and 23 assists to their cause, but his contract was terminated by mutual agreement last summer after he lost favour under Simone Inzaghi.

When Marseille swooped in to snap up Sanchez on a free transfer, expectations were low.

The former Arsenal star’s best years appeared to be behind him, but he has proved all of his doubters wrong at Stade Velodrome.

Sanchez has led Marseille’s latest bid for Champions League football, scoring 14 goals in 34 Ligue 1 games.

He also produced a Man-of-the-Match display to help dump Paris Saint-Germain out of the Coupe de France at the last-16 stage, showing he still has plenty left in the tank at the ripe old age of 34.

19. Paulo Dybala (Roma, free)

Dybala played a vital role in one of the most successful periods in Juventus’ history, helping them to 12 pieces of domestic silverware across seven years at the club.

The trophies dried up last season, though, and Dybala was among those to depart after being told he “would not be part of the future project”.

The forward was heavily linked with a Premier League switch, but Jose Mourinho saw an opportunity to add a world-class player to his ranks at Roma after their Europa Conference League success.

“The last few years at Juventus weren’t easy, a change did me good,” Dybala told ESPN Argentina after signing for the Giallorossi.

“Mourinho called me and in a few minutes I decided.”

The World Cup winner has missed 19 games through injury in his debut campaign at Stadio OIimpico, which goes some way to explaining why they have fallen short of a top-four finish in Serie A again. When he has been on the pitch, Roma have looked a far better side.

Dybala boasts 16 goals and eight assists from 36 appearances this term, with some of his best displays coming during Roma’s run to the Europa League final.

He’s facing a race against time to be fit for the showpiece against Sevilla, but Mourinho’s men will have every chance of victory if the Argentina star makes the starting XI.

18. Take Kubo (Real Sociedad, £6m)

Kubo never got the chance to make his mark at Real Madrid, who finally sold him to Real Sociedad last summer after a series of loans.

The Japan winger showed glimpses of his talent during spells at Mallorca, Villarreal and Getafe, but has blossomed into a far more complete player at the Anoeta.

La Real have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in a decade under Imanol Alguacil, who trusted in Kubo’s unique talents right from the beginning.

The 21-year-old managed 16 goal contributions in La Liga as he dazzled supporters with his direct style of play and superb dribbling ability.

Real Madrid still hold 50 per cent of Kubo’s playing rights, and if he continues on his current trajectory the possibility of a surprise return to Santiago Bernabeu could well emerge.

17. Andre Onana (Inter, free)

Inter have enjoyed a fine season that could yet end with a historic double, as they still have a Champions League final date with Manchester City to look forward to after winning the Coppa Italia.

The likes of Lautaro Martinez, Nico Barella and Denzel Dumfries have grabbed most of the headlines, but Onana also deserves plenty of credit for his exploits between the sticks.

The Cameroon goalkeeper played second fiddle to Samir Handanovic after his initial arrival from Ajax, but soon nailed down the No.1 spot in Simone Inzaghi’s line-up and has been particularly impressive in the Champions League.

Onana has kept seven clean sheets in 12 appearances during the Nerauzzurri’s run to the final, including two shut-outs against arch-rivals AC Milan in the last four.

No other keeper has recorded a higher save percentage in the competition this season, and his stellar performances have reportedly attracted the attention of Chelsea and Manchester United as both clubs seek a new first-choice shot-stopper.

16. Andreas Christensen (Barcelona, free)

Christensen wasn’t always a regular at Chelsea, but he did pick up Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League winners’ medals during his eight-year stay in west London and was always a dependable performer.

The Dane has been equally reliable since joining Barca, forming a strong partnership with Ronald Araujo in the heart of the defence.

The Blaugrana backline has carried them to their first La Liga crown in four seasons, and Christensen has earned a special place in the heart of Culers across Catalunya as a result of his solid displays.

Oh, how Chelsea must regret letting the 27-year-old leave for nothing – their loss has very much been Barca’s gain.

15. Xavi Simons (PSV, free)

Paris Saint-Germain earmarked Simons as one of their brightest prospects after luring him away from Barcelona’s La Masia academy in 2019, but he was made to wait for his opportunity in the first team.

The Netherlands international finally made his breakthrough last term, but ultimately finished the season with only seven appearances under his belt amid intense competition for places.

A loan move to PSV was then proposed, but the deal ended up becoming a permanent one after Simons decided against extending his contract at Parc des Princes. He has since shown PSG exactly what they were missing.

Simons has scored 22 goals in his debut year at PSV while setting up another 12 and getting his hands on the Johan Cruyff Shield, TOTO KNVB Beker and a share of the Eredivisie Golden Boot.

The 20-year-old is a superb technical player equally capable of kick-starting and finishing off attacks, and it’s been a joy to see him start unlocking his potential at Phillips Stadion.

PSG have a buy-back option on Simons, which they may well be tempted to exercise if he keeps up the same standards in 2023-24.

14. Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt, £14m)

Next up is a man who has reportedly been identified as a priority transfer target by both Manchester United and Bayern Munich: The all-action French forward Kolo Muani.

After just one season at Eintracht Frankfurt after leaving Nantes, Kolo Muani is being billed as a £100m player.

That won’t come as a surprise to anyone that has tracked his progress in Germany. The 24-year-old has recorded 23 goals and 17 assists in his first 45 games for Eintracht, helping them reach the DFB-Pokal final in the process.

Kolo Muani has pace to burn and he thrives in one-on-one situations, with very few teams in the Bundesliga able to cope with his energy and deceptive strength on the ball.

Eintracht have unearthed a diamond, and will surely make a huge profit in the summer window.

13. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli, £14m)

Few would have predicted how far Anguissa would go after his loan move to Napoli from Fulham in 2021.

The midfielder’s three-year stint at Craven Cottage was largely forgettable, but Italy has proven to be the ideal environment for him to improve.

After an encouraging first year, Napoli signed Anguissa on a permanent deal last summer, which has proven to be a masterstroke.

The Cameroon international was colossal as Luciano Spalletti’s side stormed to the Scudetto, leading their press in the middle of the park and playing a key role in their build-up play.

Anguissa also shone in the Champions League, most notably in a 4-1 demolition of Liverpool during the group stage, and could well be offered the chance to return to the Premier League at a far bigger club in the coming weeks.

12. Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon, free transfer)

Lacazette only scored four Premier League goals in his final year at Arsenal, three of which came from the penalty spot.

It was no surprise that the Gunners decided against extending his contract, and neither was the identity of the club who pounced to sign him after his exit.

Lacazette re-joined Lyon on a three-year deal, returning to the club where he scored 119 goals between 2010 and 2017.

He has added another 31 to that tally in 2022-23, silencing the critics who said his career at the top was over.

Only Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe has netted more goals in Ligue 1 than Lacazette, who netted four in an incredible 5-4 comeback victory over Montpellier that will live long in the memory. There is still plenty of life in this old dog.

11. Sven Botman (Newcastle, £35m)

After a 20-year absence, Newcastle are finally a Champions League club again. Eddie Howe has done a remarkable job on Tyneside without utilizing the full spending power of the club’s Saudi-backed owners, but the signings he has made have been shrewd.

None have made a bigger impact than Botman, with the Magpies managing to see off stiff competition from AC Milan to sign the Lille centre-back on a five-year deal.

The 23-year-old has been an imposing figure at the back for Howe’s side, and his composure and quality when driving the ball out of defence was essential in their bid to crack the top four.

Botman thrived alongside Fabian Schar as Newcastle only shipped 33 goals in their 38 Premier League games – the joint-best record in the whole division.

It will be no surprise if the Netherlands international reaches an even higher level on Europe’s biggest stage next term.

10. Folarin Balogun (Reims, loan)

The 2022-23 season was a rollercoaster for Balogun, who announced himself as one of the top young talents in the game after joining Reims on loan from Arsenal.

The 21-year-old has bagged 20 goals in Ligue 1, including a stunning stoppage-time equaliser against PSG at Parc des Princes.

Balogun has been a menace for defences across France with his speed and intelligence in making runs in behind, and he is ruthless in front of goal.

It remains to be seen whether he will get an opportunity under Mikel Arteta at the Emirates Stadium, but he will have plenty of other options if Arsenal decide against bringing him back.

The 21-year-old, who recently pledged his international allegiance to the United States over England, has already been mooted as a target for AC Milan and RB Leipzig.

The Gunners may regret it if they allow Balogun to continue his development elsewhere.

9. Manuel Akanji (Man City, £15m)

Akanji was the unsung hero in City’s latest title success. His initial transfer to Etihad Stadium from Borussia Dortmund was met with indifference, but Pep Guardiola knew exactly what he was doing.

The Switzerland international is a great reader of the game and an accomplished passer, which helped him adjust to the demands of operating in Guardiola’s well-oiled machine without a hitch.

Akanji quickly forced his way into the team ahead of Aymeric Laporte, and his versatility has been invaluable for City.

Guardiola has primarily deployed Akanji in the centre of his defence, but he’s also shone when filling in at right and left-back.

“The movement defensively and offensively, he executes it perfectly. This is a gift for the manager,” the City boss said of the 27-year-old after his superb showing in a 4-0 home win against Southampton.

Akanji may not have been lavished with as much praise as the other man City signed from Dortmund last summer, but he is without question one of the best value-for-money signings in the recent history of the Premier League.

8. Enzo Fernandez (Benfica, £10m)

Fernandez’s rise to prominence over the past year has been unprecedented. Right now, he’s struggling with the weight of a record-breaking £106 million price tag in arguably the worst Chelsea team of all time, but he earned his move to Stamford Bridge after a remarkable six-month spell at Benfica.

Not much was known about Fernandez when Benfica acquired his services from River Plate last July, but it didn’t take long for him to make his mark at Estadio da Luz.

The Argentine was the driving force behind Benfica’s march to the top of the Primeira Liga and progression to the Champions League knockout stage, which led to a deserved call-up for the 2022 World Cup.

Fernandez starred alongside Lionel Messi as Argentina clinched their third global crown in Qatar, and returned to Benfica as the hottest property in European football.

Chelsea went all out for his signature as soon as the winter market opened, but the Portuguese giants refused to be bullied into a deal.

Chelsea got their man in the end, but only after smashing the British transfer record, and Benfica made a huge £96m profit on a player they’d only had for half a season. Fantastic business.

7. Niklas Sule (Borussia Dortmund, free)

“Of course I believe that I can win the championship with Dortmund. I made the decision with full conviction and I am convinced that we will really put in a fight for the title.”

Sule’s claim to Sport Bild after completing his shock move to BVB would have done little to scare Bayern, who had only a few weeks earlier clinched their 10th successive Bundesliga title.

The German centre-half was allowed to strike an agreement with Dortmund mid-way through the season, despite being a regular in the Bayern lineup.

That decision almost backfired on them, and Sule played a key role in Dortmund getting themselves in position to win the title, even if they eventually came up short on the final day.

The 27-year-old struck up a telepathic relationship with Mats Hummels while playing arguably the best football of his career to date.

Dortmund have lost top stars such as Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze to Bayern over the years, but Sule’s success represents a long-awaited slice of revenge for the Yellow and Blacks.

6. Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal, £45m)

Jesus scored 95 goals in 236 games for City – a more than respectable haul for a player that was never a frequent starter for Guardiola.

The Brazilian, though, decided he was no longer content with a bit-part role after picking up his fourth Premier League crown last season, and reunited with Guardiola’s former assistant Arteta at the Emirates Stadium.

Jesus’ winning mentality rubbed off on his new team-mates almost instantly. After a series of eye-catching pre-season performances, Jesus inspired Arsenal’s best-ever start to a Premier League season.

The Gunners would go on to mount a genuine title charge, with Jesus finally seeing the regular minutes that he’d been starved of for so long in Manchester.

A serious knee injury stalled his momentum heading into the new year, but Jesus still finished the campaign with 11 goals and eight assists to his name from 32 appearances in all competitions.

Despite Jesus’ presence up top, Arsenal could not stay the course and ended up finishing five points behind City. However, he almost single-handedly changed their mindset, and Arteta’s young squad are well placed to come back even stronger.

5. Kim Min-jae (Napoli, £16m)

Napoli fans were left heartbroken when Kalidou Koulibaly joined Chelsea after eight years at the club in the summer of 2022, and Kim’s subsequent arrival from Fenerbahce initially did little to appease them.

But any doubts over whether the South Korean could replace Koulibaly were completely erased once he took to the pitch.

Kim has actually proven to be an upgrade on the Senegal star. The 26-year-old, who has been fondly dubbed ‘Monster’ as a result of his powerful showings at the back this season, is a complete all-round defender.

He’s quick, powerful and technically astute, which has made him a nightmare for attackers across Serie A.

Kim relishes one-on-one duels and his positional awareness has allowed Napoli to play a high line without getting caught in the transition.

The Partenopei simply would not have ended their 33-year wait for domestic glory without Kim, but they will have a real fight on their hands to keep him this summer.

Manchester United are reportedly leading the race for the Napoli star, and it is believed that he has a £44m ($55m) release clause in his contract. In truth, he’s worth at least double that.

4. Casemiro (Manchester United, £70m)

United have had plenty of problems in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, but the most glaring one was a lack of bite and quality in midfield.

Never was that more evident than during their stunning 4-0 loss at Brentford at the start of the season, which prompted new manager Erik ten Hag into action.

Casemiro was the man he turned to, with United agreeing a big-money deal with Real Madrid that saw the Brazil international depart the Spanish capital after nine-trophy laden years.

The £70m price tag raised a few eyebrows and Casemiro was handed a four-year deal despite entering into his 30s, but it was a calculated gamble that has ultimately paid off.

United’s “guard dog” has given the team what it was missing in the middle of the park. Casemiro’s ferocious style instantly won over supporters, and he’s led by example throughout the campaign, helping to raise the level of those around him.

Former Red Devils defender Gary Neville picked Casemiro as the best Premier League signing of the season during Sky Sports’ end-of-season awards show, saying: “I could not think of a player who has had a bigger impact on their team.

“I look at United’s season, they are in the top four, they won the Carabao Cup and they are in the FA Cup final.

“I genuinely don’t think they would be anywhere near top four or doing what they are doing in those competitions without Casemiro. He makes them 30 percent better.”

The 31-year-old’s level dipped slightly towards the back end of the campaign, but Neville is right. Casemiro is the main reason that United are back.

3. Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona, £42m)

After winning 19 trophies and scoring 344 goals at Bayern across eight memorable years, Lewandowski made up his mind to step out of his comfort zone. The Polish star swapped the perennial German champions for a Barca side very much in transition, and one still reeling from the loss of Lionel Messi a year earlier.

The 34-year-old’s record at Allianz Arena was staggering, but there were some critics that doubted whether Lewandowski would still be as prolific in a more competitive league.

Real Madrid were the top dogs when he touched down in Spain too, and Xavi was still in the process of shaping a squad in his image.

A period of adjustment would have been understandable for Lewandowski, but he smashed home nine goals in his first seven La Liga appearances.

The veteran striker looks set to go on and win the Pichichi ahead of Karim Benzema as Barca have finally wrestled the title back from Real.

The scary thing about Lewandowski is he only seems to be getting better with age, and he could benefit further from the potential return of Messi next season. With those two up front, there would be no limit to what Barca can achieve.

2. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli, £9m)

When Lorenzo Insigne left Napoli, it felt like the end of an era. The Italian was the Partenopei’s captain and talisman for so many years, and his departure for MLS outfit Toronto FC left an entire fanbase feeling pessimistic about the future.

Georgian forward Kvaratskhelia was the man chosen to fill Insigne’s boots as Napoli struck a deal with Dinamo Batumi.

He was a completely unknown quantity and scepticism was rife when he was initially drafted into Luciano Spalletti’s ranks, but he changed that dynamic in the blink of an eye.

After just a couple of months, Napoli supporters began calling the winger ‘Kvaradona’ in a clear nod to the late club icon.

The moniker didn’t feel silly, either. Kvaratskhelia thrilled throughout his maiden year in Italy as he showed off his unique dribbling skills and explosive finishing ability in the final third. Thirty-two goal contributions from 42 appearances only tells half the story.

There is no other player quite like Kvaratskhelia in European football right now, and certainly none that are more exciting to watch.

Europe’s top clubs are lining up for his signature as a result, but Napoli will hope he sticks around for at least one more season after becoming one of their new immortals.

1. Erling Haaland (Man City, £51m)

At this point, we’ve run out of superlatives to describe Haaland. City’s £51m capture of the Norwegian from Dortmund felt like a steal at the time given his record at Westfalenstadion, and at previous clubs Molde and Red Bull Salzburg, but no one could have imagined just how devastating he would be in the Premier League.

Haaland has smashed record after record on his way to amassing 52 goals in all competitions.

He’s notched six hat-tricks, one more than all other Premier League players combined, and also became only the third player to ever score five in a single Champions League game.

City dominated English football without a natural striker, but Haaland has completed Guardiola’s team.

It’s no coincidence they are now on the cusp of the treble. With the 22-year-old in the starting line up, City must start as huge favourites in their respective final clashes against Manchester United and Inter in the FA Cup and Champions League.

Haaland is the perfect striker, an unstoppable goalscoring terminator with no weaknesses.

He also sets incredibly high standards for himself. When asked to sum up his first season at City as their title party began after a 1-0 victory against Chelsea, Haaland replied: “Not bad.” It’s safe to say that he won’t be a one-season wonder with that mentality.


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