After Arsenal confirmed a one-year loan-deal for Real Madrid midfielder, Dani Ceballos, yesterday, it got my mind thinking; what are the best loan deals the Premier League’s big boys have secured throughout the years.
With money flowing out of every avenue possible in the modern era, it’s uncommon for the elite level clubs to pursue loan deals given the complex nature that they hold, but they do have their benefits. In this list I’ve earmarked five of the best loan deals from the current crop of Premier League heavyweights, with the exception of Manchester City, purely on the basis that the late 1990s/early 2000s saw a prolonged period where they weren’t in the top flight.
5 – Thierry Henry, Arsenal, 2011/2012
From Arsenal present, to Arsenal past, the Gunners’ list of loanees over the years does not equate to happy reading. With Arsenal’s temporary transfers proving to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice, picking out a successful loanee was a task in it’s own right.
Thierry Henry, an icon that extends beyond the confines of the red side of North London, took the plunge to risk his legacy and return to Arsenal in the winter of 2012, joining from New York Red Bulls, during the MLS’ off-season. Henry was brought in as cover for Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh, who were on international duty with Ivory Coast and Morocco, respectively, at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. Henry left Arsenal in 2007, holding the proverbial Straight Flush of cards and miraculously upgraded that hand to a Royal Flush with his seven game cameo.
Ranked at number 5 on this list for a reason, Henry’s return wasn’t spectacular by any means. A typically Henry finish in a 1-0 win against against Leeds United in the FA Cup on his re-debut was bookended by a stoppage-time winner in his last appearance against Sunderland.
So whilst not spectacular by any means, the very fact that Henry managed to return to Arsenal without leaving the most minor of abrasions on his heroic legacy is the most impressive thing. For that reason and the fact he managed to bump up his club-record scoring tally by a pair in doing so, I commend him.
4 – George Weah, Chelsea, 1999/2000
Its not often you get the opportunity to sign a Balon d’Or winner and future President on loan, but in the winter of 2000, that was the situation presented towards Chelsea and Gianluca Vialli. The current President of Liberia had fallen out of favour at AC Milan and was well into his decline, but with Chelsea struggling offensively as Gianfranco Zola had an uncharacteristically poor season, Weah was brought in to offer Tore Andre Flo some much needed support in the attacking dimension.
Weah would immediately win over his new fans with the winner against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur before two more league goals against Wimbledon and Liverpool. A further duo of goals would come in the FA Cup against Leicester City and Gillingham as Chelsea would go on to be victorious in the competition, with Weah starting the showpiece final at Wembley.
An FA Cup and 5 goals in 15 appearances rounded off an impressive, but short loan spell at Stamford Bridge, but Vialli chose not to sign Weah on a permanent deal. He would however remain in England at the expiration of his AC Milan contract in the summer of 2000, joining Manchester City. Spells at Marseille and Emirati side Al Jazira would call time on Weah’s career in 2003, before he engaged on a successful political career. Weah would take to the field once more, aged 51 in a non-FIFA recognized friendly between Liberia and Nigeria on September 11th 2018, becoming the first President of a country to ever partake in an International football match…at least to my knowledge.
3 – Carlos Tevez, Manchester United, 2007/2008 & 2008/2009
We’ll keep it simple for this one, or we’ll try to. Carlos Tevez’s rights were owned by the Kia Joorabchian fronted Media Sports Investment (MSI) and Just Sports Limited. Tevez, at the time was playing in Brazil for Corinthians, who had an existing, contrversial partnership with MSI, with the latter investing in the club’s football department for a return of 51% profits. Tevez would leave Corinthians for a controversial spell in England with West Ham United, with the Argentine excelling ultimately playing a huge role in the Hammers’ survival from relegation.
Things then got messy with Tevez rejecting a move to Inter Milan in July 2007 and Joorabchian claiming he was in talks to stay at West Ham. After news broke from the Daily Mail that Tevez had agreed to join Manchester United in a £20 million deal, West Ham launched an appeal at the prospected transfer and claimed that Tevez was contracted with them until 2010. Joorabchian would proceed to claim that West Ham were actively engaging in talks with Manchester United about Tevez. Both Uniteds would seek FIFA’s verdict on the ordeal, to which the governing body would suggest the matter be taken to the Court of Arbitration of Sport. It wouldn’t make it a CAS hearing, as the Premier League jumped in approving a bespoke deal between MSI and West Ham, where the latter would receive £2 million to release Tevez from his contractual agreement. With West Ham now out of the way, Manchester United and MSI agreed upon a two-year loan-deal.
Tevez’s spell at Manchester United was an unrivalled success with 99 appearances, 34 goals and 14 assists. He won every trophy he was able to at United, with the exception of the FA Cup (which he’d eventually win with Manchester City), winning the Premier League twice, League Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup. His tenacious attitude on and off the pitch would win him admirers and detractors in equal measure. Tevez complimented United’s free-flowing attacking unit forming a jealousy inducing quarter with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and later, Dimitar Berbatov.
As if his two transfers in England weren’t under enough scrutiny already, Tevez continued to rock the boat by rejecting United’s proposal to sign him permanently after frustrations about his playing time. So what did Tevez decide to do? Move accross the city to the blue half of Manchester, of course.
Tevez joined Manchester City, with the Premier League confirming that the club were the sole owner of Tevez ending any deal with MSI and Joorabchian for good, but City did have to pay a fee rumoured somewhere between £25.5m and £47m to MSI in the process. As of 2019 Tevez is currently in his third spell with Boca Juniors and a decade since leaving Manchester United, regardless of the controversy surround him, he was an unbridled success story.
2 – Jurgen Klinsmann, Tottenham Hotspur, 1997/1998
Sitting atop the tree of Tottenham transfer coups with Edgar Davids and Rafael van der Vaart either side of him, Jurgen Klinsmann initially joined Spurs in 1994/1995 from Monaco producing a remarkable 29-goal-season. He’d leave Spurs after just one year, joining German giants Bayern Munich. With his mark already cemented at the club, the then-33-year-old Klinsmann had one last present for Spurs fans as he returned on-loan for the remainder of the 1997/1998 season from Sampdoria.
With Spurs languishing in 18th place and facing the real threat of relegation, Klinsmann returned following a disastrous spell in Italy and his arrival would coincide with an upturn in Spurs’ fortunes with the German scoring in six different games, dragging them to 14th place and safety.
Klinsmann’s form in his first few weeks back at the club didn’t look promising with just 1 goal and 1 assist in 9 appearances, including a trio of games in the FA Cup. Despite this poor return by his standards, his contributions were appreciated by the fans as he provided the assist for Allan Nielsen in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal, before scoring the winner in a crucial 1-0 victory against West Ham United.
In an act of true German efficiency, Klinsmann would rediscover the form that endeared him to the Spurs faithful three years earlier, scoring 8 goals in the final 9 games of the season. Goals against Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Wimbledon and Southampton would be the last of his club career, with a notable 4-goal-haul against Wimbledon in a 6-2 away victory being the highlight. Klinsmann’s Superman-like spell ended with 9 goals in 15 Premiership appearances. Klinsmann’s new-found form would carry over into his last games as a professional in the post-season, scoring three times for Germany at the 1998 FIFA World Cup before retiring from professional football.
There’s very little doubt in my mind that Jurgen Klinsmann is one of the best foreign imports the Premier League has ever seen. His first spell with Spurs was breathtaking, and his second wandering around White Hart Lane proved equally impressive, but more important. 38 goals in 68 appearances for a Tottenham team who are a shadow of the team they are today has cemented him near-legend status in North London and fans are forever thankful.
1 – Ronny Rosenthal, Liverpool, 1989/1990
Before the Premier League came the Premiership, and before the Premiership came the First Division. Delving deep into the archives, Ronny Rosenthal’s impact whilst on loan at Liverpool in early 1990 may just be the greatest loan signing of all.
For context, Liverpool were heading towards the tail-end of their dominance over English football and had just lost the 1988/1989 League title to Arsenal at Anfield. Michael Thomas’ famous 91st minute goal won the Gunners their first league title in 18 years via the tertiary tiebreaker of goals scored; both teams finishing level on points and goal differential.
By the time Liverpool had got up off the deck, licked their wounds and refocused, they were engaged in a title fight with Aston Villa heading into the latter stages. On March 22nd 1990, 26-year-old Ronny Rosenthal arrived from Standard Liege in order to offer Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool some added depth in the attacking positions after John Aldridge left for Real Sociedad.
The Israel international would go on to introduce himself to fans of the English game with a perfect hat-trick in his full debut against Charlton Athletic. He’d follow his this with a goal against Nottingham Forest, before a goal and an assist against Chelsea in his fifth appearance. With the League title now firmly back in Liverpool’s hands, Rosenthal would end the season with an assist against Derby County and two goals against Coventry City in a 6-1 victory at Anfield bringing his stats to a highly impressive 8 appearances, 7 goals, 2 assists.
‘Rocket’ Ronny’s incredible form whilst on loan lead Liverpool to shell out £1 million for his services on a permanent basis and he’d stay with the club between 1990 and 1994. Unfortunately for Rosenthal his form would not persist and he’d score just 14 goals, with 2 assists in 78 appearances as a permanent member of the club.
Rosenthal would perenially struggle to find a starting role at Anfield when his team-mates were fully fit and would be sold to Tottenham Hotspur in January 1994.