As we head towards the business end of our assessments on the signings of the 2016/17 Premier League, we look at the best attacking transfers of the campaign.
Goal-to-game ratio’s look good on paper and, more often than not, give us a solid indication of how an attacking player fared during a season.
But not all strikers are just about goals, as Jose Mourinho was so eager to tell us about when Zlatan Ibrahimovic went on a little barren run early in the season. That’s in the past now, though, as the enigmatic, arrogant and headline-writing Swedish journeyman has unleashed years of pent up aggression (kind of…) from British journalists discrediting his accomplishments until he ‘proved himself’ in England by doing just that, all in classic and flamboyant fashion.
His injury in late April ended his season, and possibly his future at the club, but did his time on the sidelines make way for someone to topple his ranking in our list of the best attacking signings of the 2016/17 Premier League?
5. Gabriel Jesus – Palmeiras to Manchester City for £27 million
The impact made by Brazilian teenager Gabriel Jesus has been so profound that it sparked rumours of Sergio Aguero’s exit from Manchester City.
Jesus has only played 11 games in the Sky Blue of City, yet his performances have suggested that the league champions of 2014 have picked up a player with quality and composure beyond his years.
He is City’s 2nd top-scorer in the Premier League, despite joining the club in January and making just eight starts, where he’s scored seven times and assisted twice.
What’s more impressive than his goal-to-game ratio is his efficiency in front of goal; the Brazilian has registered 13 shots on target in the Premier League, scoring with seven of them, and has the 6th-highest shots on target per game ratio in the league.
Jesus, who turned 20 in April, is tipped to be the future of Manchester City’s attack. Judging by his start to life in England, it’s not hard to see why.
4. Fernando Llorente – Sevilla to Swansea City for £5 million
It’s been a strange season for 32-year-old former Spanish international Fernando Llorente. He went from winning trophies in Italy and Spain to battling relegation with Swansea in a season where they went through four different managers.
Out of all the chaos that came from Swansea’s season, one thing’s for sure: they wouldn’t be a Premier League side next season if not for the goals of Fernando Llorente.
He finished with a strong total of 15 from 33 league appearances, but it’s the weight that those goals hold in the context of Swansea’s future that makes them so meaningful to their fans.
His goals were often decisive and came at a time when it was all or nothing for The Swans. He scored late winners against Crystal Palace (a crazy 5-4 shootout), Burnley and West Brom, netted a brace at Anfield in a huge upset and found the net in all of Swansea’s last three games.
Interest in the Spaniard is growing after an impressive season, but Llorente has gone one step further to endearing himself to the Swansea faithful by insisting he is happy to stay at the club next season.
3. Leroy Sane – FC Schalke to Manchester City for £43 million
Eyebrows were raised when Manchester City splashed the cash to sign then-20-year-old Leroy Sane from Schalke, and stayed fixed when the German made just four Premier League starts by the conclusion of 2016.
However, the German international has since made a further 16 starts in the league, scoring five times and assisting three, looking dangerous on the right flank of Pep Guardiola’s attacking front three.
Sane added a further four goals and two assists from his nine appearances in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
His contributions across the park have been solid, adding 39 key passes (4th-most amongst City players) and completing 53 out of 95 attempted dribbles (3rd-most amongst City players) in the Premier League.
A transfer fee of £43 million is hefty but to be expected when signing young players who can break into their national set-up (the German national set-up, mind you) at 19 years of age.
2. Sadio Mane – Southampton to Liverpool for £32 million
The missing piece to Liverpool’s creative fluency, Sadio Mane’s signing added a part of the fierce cutting-edge that has been lacking at Anfield since the departure of Luis Suarez.
Drifting inside from the right flank in Liverpool’s fluid attacking system, Mane finished the season as their joint top-scorer in the Premier League with 13 goals, despite picking up a late knee injury that ruled him out of their last eight matches.
His pace and movement makes him difficult to mark for defenders, and the width he brings to the side gives them an entirely different and much-needed outlet, something that was proven in the last two months of Liverpool’s season.
Liverpool’s record with and without Mane is no coincidence; they’ve lost just three times in the 28 games he’s started for the club, with six of their eight losses in all competitions coming when Mane was not in the Liverpool squad.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United on a free transfer
It seemed as though Zlatan Ibrahimovic had left it too late to play in the Premier League.
Coming off his fourth straight Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain, a 34-year-old Ibrahimovic looked set to spend the twilight of his career in a lower-profile league such as the MLS or Chinese Super League.
Instead, Zlatan decided that late is better than never, and joined English giants Manchester United on a free transfer. Sure, his wages are probably enough to feed the next seven generations of his family, but Zlatan’s acquisition has undoubtedly been one of the most successful business moves in world football.
The big Swede has gone on a scoring frenzy, netting 17 Premier League goals from 28 appearances and 28 from 46 appearances in all competitions.
Though Zlatan’s incredible career record of never finishing below 2nd with his club side since moving to Ajax ended with United’s 6th-place league finish, his first season at the club ends with a treble of honours: Community Shield, League Cup and UEFA Europa League.