In a fiercely contested Signing of the Season category in which Petr Cech missed out on a place in the top five, our readers produced a surprise winner.
On the eve of the campaign we were told how Petr Cech would be the £10million signing of the season, but despite a solid season for Arsenal there were five other contenders who marched into the top five ahead of the Gunners’ goalkeeper.
Here are our top five Signings of the Season…
5 – Toby Alderweireld
Alderweireld was an ever-present for Tottenham in their title bid and started all 10 Europa ties as he made a fantastic debut season for Spurs, scoring four times.
The classy central defender, who is equally at home at right-back, left Southampton last summer under a cloud after Saints believed they had first-option to but the Atletico Madrid man for around £8million. Atletico thought they had bought out that release clause, but Saints maintained they missed the deadline with their offer. However, Spurs came in and purchased the 27-year-old for a fee of around £11.5million to leave Southampton furious and with a huge gap to fill.
Had they managed to keep hold of the Belgium star who knows where they could have finished. As it was the centre-back helped Tottenham into a third-placed finish and was an integral part of their tilt, albeit unsuccessful, at the title.
The Antwerp-born defender was consistence personified and his defensive partnership with Jan Vertonghen was the best in the Premier League with just 35 goals conceded – a stat equalled only by Manchester United.
4 – Anthony Martial
Martial arrived on transfer deadline day in August 2015 with a huge transfer fee, which many people labelled as a panic buy.
The then 19-year-old cost United £38million and that looked steep for a man who had scored eight goals in 31 Ligue 1 games the previous season. In fact United could end up paying £61.5million to Monaco for if all of the clauses in the deal are met, according to an alleged leaked document earlier this year and even that now looks reasonable for a player who potentially could star for United for 10 years.
The powerful forward started the season well and scored on his debut in the 3-1 win over Liverpool and quickly followed that up with a double against Southampton and a goal in the Capital One Cup. His brilliant strike against Liverpool immediately made him the darling of the Stretford End and he finished the season with 17 goals in 45 starts for Louis van Gaal’s men.
There’s undoubtedly more to come from the France forward and if Jose Mourinho can develop his game and add to his already impressive pace and power then United could have one of the Premier League’s finest on their hands and then £60million will look a snip.
3 – Kevin De Bruyne
When pundits talk about class acts then we should look no further than Man City’s summer arrival De Bruyne. If he stays around at City the 24-year-old could well threaten Frank Lampard’s Premier League record of 177 goals from midfield – he’s that good.
Just where City would have finished the season had De Bruyne not missed nine weeks of the season at the end of January, who knows? Manuel Pellegrini’s men were only three points behind the eventual champions when De Bruyne injured his knee in the Capital One Cup win over Everton. Twelve games later and City were 12 points off the pace and Leicester were on the verge of winning the title.
He still amassed 16 goals in 41 games and claimed nine assists to justify his club-record £55million fee – in fact he’s the second most expensive recruit in British football behind Angel Di Maria. The former Chelsea man has improved greatly from his Stamford Bridge days and he seems to have the knack of arriving in the box at the right time. His finishing is reminiscent of Lampard’s and he is expected to have a big season under Pep Guardiola next term.
2 – N’Golo Kante
With one Soccer already in the bag, Kante almost made it two after polling hundreds of votes in the Signing of the Season category. But ultimately he was narrowly beaten by the Hammers’ free-kick wizard.
Nevertheless Kante had an unbelievable season helping the cogs turn in the title-winners Leicester’s midfield and laying the platform for Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to do their things. A £5.6million signing from French side Caen in August 2015, Kante was a revelation holding Leicester’s midfield and it’s no surprise to see Chelsea and PSG sniffing around him.
In his 33 Premier League starts, he managed four assists and one goal, but it was his tackling and ability to break down opposition attacks which has won Kante, who was a virtual unknown last season, the plaudits. He topped the tackling stats with an average of 4.7 per game, while he also made a league-high 4.2 interceptions per game to define himself as the league’s best midfielder destroyer.
1 – Dimitri Payet
There were a few frowns when West Ham forked out “an eight-figure” fee for the chubby 28-year-old last summer. Those dissenters have now disappeared after Payet delivered a first season in the Premier League that his form over the last few years in Ligue 1 had promised.
Payet had assisted 51 goals in the last six Ligue 1 seasons with St-Etienne, Lille and Marseille, before signing for the Hammers and co-owner David Sullivan was in no doubt about the France international’s quality when he labelled him “world-class”.
“I like attacking football and the fact they’re counting on me to help achieve that gives me a sense of responsibility,” said the attack-minded Payet after crossing the channel and he certainly rose to the challenge.
Payet assisted 12 goals and scored nine times in 29 Premier League appearances, as well as scoring three FA Cup goal as he found himself nominated on the PFA Player of the Year short-list. He didn’t quite take that award, with Riyad Mahrez taking the honours, but he just takes our Signing of the Season award after helping the Hammers up five places into a seventh-placed finish with a season sprinkled with attacking panache.