2021 is coming to an end and it is time to reflect back on the last 12 months.
The transfer market remained massively affected by the coronavirus pandemic this year, with clubs counting every penny and limiting themselves in what they could spend on new players.
Not even the big deals that were completed have been great successes. Lionel Messi moved as a free agent but has not started at PSG, while Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to pull Manchester United back to its former glory as hoped.
But less about the business that did not strike and more about those that did. Here is a look back at the best transfers 2021 …
Southampton took a chance on Tino Livramento and have been rewarded / Mike Hewitt / GettyImages
Tino Livramento was just 18 and had never played a senior match for boys’ club Chelsea when Southampton chose to pay £ 5 million in the summer and throw him straight into the deep end as a first-team starter.
The teenage right-back has seized the opportunity with both hands and impressed in 18 straight Premier League starts for the Saints until he was forced to miss the final game of the calendar year.
Given his form, you would not put it past Chelsea to trigger a £ 25m repurchase clause at some point in the future.
Demarai Gray cost Everton less than £ 2m / Chloe Knott – Danehouse / GettyImages
After losing his way at Leicester, Demarai Gray took a step away from English football altogether when he joined Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021. But Everton saw an opportunity to take him back to the Premier League just a few months later for around 1.7. million pounds.
The eyebrows were raised but Gray has been a bright spark during an otherwise disappointing season for Everton, with his performances all the sweeter because he was such a bargain.
Goals against Leeds, Brighton, Burnley and Arsenal have helped the Toffees accumulate crucial points, without which their season would be a disaster.
Takehiro Tomiyasu has become an instant hit for Arsenal / Craig Mercer / MB Media / GettyImages
After recently turning 23, Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu deserves huge credit for how he has seamlessly ended up in an improved Gunners team in a whole new country.
The Japanese national team player moved from Serie A club Bologna in the middle but has not been fascinated by the step up to a team that is determined to return to the Champions League.
In only his third Arsenal appearance, Tomiyasu met Tottenham in a north London derby, went through it with brilliance and has not looked back.
Emmanuel Dennis keeps Watford’s fire burning / Alex Pantling / GettyImages
Even in a struggling team, Emmanuel Dennis has shown that he has the quality of being a very decent Premier League forward, after finishing 2021 with eight goals and five assists in 16 games.
This means that the player that the Hornets landed for around £ 3 million from Club Brugge has had a direct hand in almost 60% of all their goals since returning to the top flight this season.
Had they not sent 35 goals in 17 games at the other end, they might have been much higher up the table than in 17th place at the end of the year.
Fikayo Tomori has been excellent in Italy / Nicolò Campo / GettyImages
AC Milan recruited midfielder Fikayo Tomori twice in 2021, first on loan in January before triggering an option for 30 million euros to make it a permanent deal during the summer. Besides, they have not regretted it a bit.
The English national team player, whose chances at Chelsea had long ago dried up, immediately became regular and helped Rossoneri return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.
During the first half of this season, he has only missed two games and is again part of a team that is on its way to a top four position and perhaps a title challenge.
Aaron Ramsdale has proven that the doubters are wrong / Stephen Pond / GettyImages
Many were skeptical when Arsenal secured the signing of Aaron Ramsdale for up to 30 million pounds, a goalkeeper who had suffered successive Premier League relegations with Bournemouth and Sheffield United.
But the ambitious 23-year-old has proven that the doubters are wrong. He has made many fantastic saves and has kept nine zeros in 16 Premier League matches since replacing Bernd Leno as number one.
Arsenal have every opportunity to return to the Champions League next season with a solid foundation in the goal, while Ramsdale is now practically a CAC for England’s World Cup squad 2022 – he can even start.
Conor Gallagher claims a long-term future at Chelsea / Sebastian Frej / MB Media / GettyImages
Conor Gallagher impressed on loan at West Brom last season but has taken another level this season with Crystal Palace.
The midfielder on loan from Chelsea is the Eagles’ best goal scorer to date and has six goals, as well as three assists, in his name. He got one of each in a stunning 2-0 win over Manchester City in October.
Gallagher has taken the form at the right time to give himself a chance to play in England’s squad for the 2022 World Cup next winter, while Palace have all the chances for a top half at the end of the season.
Jose Sa has made a seamless transition from Greece to England / Naomi Baker / GettyImages
Wolves have not missed Rui Patricio, who was sold to Roma last summer, due to the form of replacement starting goalkeeper Jose Sa.
The Portuguese stopper came to English football from Olympiacos and only had experience as a back-up before moving to Greece in 2018. But now he has got his chance in the Premier League, he has taken it and is without a doubt the league’s best new signing of the 2021 season / 22.
Only Manchester City and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than Wolves during the first half of the campaign, with seven zeros for Sa.
Edin Dzeko is still going strong at the age of 35 / Marco Canoniero / GettyImages
Inter needed a reliable but cheap goal scorer when financial concerns demanded the summer sale of Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea, and they have found it in the form of veteran striker Edin Dzeko.
The Bosnian, who in 2018 became the first player to reach 50 goals in three of Europe’s five best leagues, came as a free agent from Roma and has scored eight goals in Serie A to help Inter end up at the top of the table.
His goal in the Champions League group stage was also crucial for Inter to get into the knockout rounds of the competition for the first time since the 2011/12 season.
No one expected Jesse Lingard to do what he did in West Ham / Pool / GettyImages
Jesse Lingard is perhaps the single biggest signing in January in almost 20 years of the transfer window in the middle of the season after the impact he had on a loan to West Ham in the second half of last season.
After not playing in the Premier League at all for Manchester United until the time of the promotion, Lingard was stone cold when he borrowed the switch to London Stadium in January 2021.
But that did not matter as he scored two goals in his Hammers debut and finished with nine goals and five assists in 16 games, ensuring the club ended the season by qualifying for the Europa League.
Sebastien Haller is reborn at Ajax / BSR Agency / GettyImages
Sebastien Haller has had a spectacularly productive fresh start since joining Ajax from West Ham in January 2021, ending the calendar year with 33 goals for the Amsterdam giants.
Haller scored four goals in his Champions League debut when Ajax beat Sporting CP and was the first player to score five goals over his first two matches in the competition.
The Ivory Coast national team player finished with 10 goals in the group stage, which corresponds to an Ajax record for most goals in a single season in the Champions League or the European Cup, which he has plenty of time left to beat.
Hakan Calhanoglu supports Inter’s Serie A title defense / Marco Luzzani / GettyImages
Inter managed to catch Hakan Calhanoglu from city rival Milan on a free transfer during the summer and are fully reaping the benefits of defending their Serie A title this season.
Calhanoglu has been crucial for the Nerazzurri to reach the top of the table with a cushion with four points at the halfway point of the season, and has made 14 direct goal mixes in 17 games so far.
Inter ended the calendar year with seven straight Serie A victories to leave them in a commanding position to start 2022, with Calhanoglu accounting for four goals and five assists in that match alone.
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