It’s been another busy summer of ins and outs in the Premier League, and as usual plenty of players have left continental Europe for a crack at the big time in England. Our regular foreign writers and correspondents, Laure James, Mina Rzouki, Jason Pettigrove and Susie Schaaf take a quick look at the latest batch of players to arrive in England ahead of the big kick-off on Saturday.
Jason Pettigrove on La Liga’s latest departees
The 29-year-old Dutchman arrives at Stoke with his footballing reputation intact, just.
Despite various short and long-term injury concerns which have blighted his career to date, there’s no doubt that Afellay remains a high-quality exponent.
His acquisition points to Mark Hughes taking the Potters in a different direction and if he can stay fit, Afellay’s pace, accuracy and ability to beat his man will quickly make him a fan favourite.
Juan Miguel Jimenez Lopez has joined the Koeman revolution on the South Coast and the summer capture from Malaga is keen to prove he’s got what it takes to survive in the Premier League.
Quick and intelligent, Juanmi’s best position is anywhere behind a number nine. He may struggle initially with the physicality of the EPL, but has the tools to impose his natural game relatively quickly and effectively.
18 goals in 43 starts last season is a reasonable, if not prolific, return but the 22-year-old will certainly enhance Koeman’s attacking options. At a reported £5m, the signing is a no-brainer.
Stuani joins promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough from Barcelona’s cross-city rivals Espanyol.
The 28-year-old’s fitness won’t be in question having spent a portion of his summer at the Copa America with Uruguay, and as a direct replacement for Patrick Bamford who has been loaned to Crystal Palace by parent club Chelsea, manager Aitor Karanka has bought well.
Another who will need to up his recent goals output, but a player who shouldn’t find this to be too much of a problem against Championship defences.
His guile and experience in the role will ensure that if Karanka’s new-look attack can gel quickly, Stuani and Boro will take some stopping.
Mina Rzouki on Serie A stars
A product of AC Milan’s youth team, Matteo Darmian was the forgotten defender until his performances at Torino not only grabbed the headlines but the attention of Italy’s former National Team Coach, Cesare Prandelli.
A versatile full-back who can play on either flank and in various different formations, Darmian is one of the few rare gems left in the world who defends like a champion and yet can still contribute brilliantly in attack. A man who boasts tactical intelligence, it doesn’t take him long to understand the patterns of play and how to contribute and with the attitude of an experienced veteran, Darmian is a quality purchase capable of making the difference.
Once touted to be a great central defender, one who could rival the best in the world, Ogbonna was never quite able to make the step up when he was offered the chance to play for a giant. Easily overwhelmed, he succumbed to the pressures of a big club and panicked in crucial moments of a match when it was once thought composure was his greatest asset.
Refusing to give up, he developed nicely in his last year at Juventus and became a reliable back-up option. Strong, intelligent and aware of his strengths, he has returned to being calm under pressure and is desperate to prove how great he can be when offered consistency.
Thought to be the man who would cure Roma’s problems with the left-back role, Jose Holebas who boasts wonderful dribbling skills and an excellent physique started off his Serie A career well only to suffer a downturn in fortunes. Defensively, this is a man who can be overcome and needs to maintain his focus and understand his priorities if he wishes to be considered one of the greats.
While he can always affect the game offensively, defensively he can be caught out of position and can be easily pushed out by opponents who double-team him. However, he is determined, has a wonderful energy and experience that should stand him in good stead as he embarks on his new adventure.
Despite some poor performances in the early part if his career, Benalouane matured during his time in Atalanta and his attachment to the city and the club inspired courageous and well-balanced performances. Playing in the heart of the defence, his powerful and determined style of play helped secure the defence.
However, timing has proved to be an issue for the player while his reckless performances have resulted in one too many yellow cards. Not the most disciplined or focused defenders in the world, his performances do improve if he feels integral and well supported by those around him.
Laure James on Ligue 1’s latest lost players
A bit part player at PSG, where he only played 13 league games last season. Anxious to retain place in France squad for Euro 2016 and recognises need to play regularly this season. Rejected Atletico and Roma to sign for Palace having worked previously with Alan Pardew at Newcastle.
Cost an initial £10m rising to £12.5m, and is club’s record signing. Earning around £80k-a-week. Will be the team’s playmaker, a No.10, though he has only shown flashes to date in pre-season. Will take time for new teammates to click on to his wavelength.
Capped 15 times by France, subject of three bids by West Ham over the summer. Marseille were desperate to keep him, but failure to qualify for the Champions League meant his wages would drop by around £12,000-a-week in France. So he was up for the move. Four-year contract with an option for a further season, £70,000-a-week. Signed for Marseille from Lille in 2013 and can play across the front line and as a No10, contributing most assists in Ligue 1 last season.
Brother joined Swansea earlier in the summer. Poor scoring record at Marseille but more productive with Lorient (12 in 29 last season). Not that physically imposing, though, and has to replace Benteke at Aston Villa, which suggests his signing is a gamble even at a relatively meagre £8m. Ghana international and son of Abedi Pele.
Won the title in France with Lille in 2011, and has played in Champions League and Europa League. Energetic midfielder, so direct replacement for Fabian Delph, who went to Manchester CIty. Should have the ammunition to do well in England if he plays things simple. Knew Joe Cole from Lille.
Susie Schaaf on Bundesliga buys
Germany captain and veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger’s move to Manchester United was met with a fair amount of consternation by legions of Bayern Munich supporters. But after 17 years and 500 caps with the Bavarian outfit– winning everything there is to win along the way — the 31 year-old lovingly nicknamed “Fussballgott” was ready for the next challenge.
It will be up to Louis van Gaal to use him smartly, however, as Pep Guardiola stated that Schweinsteiger has not been truly fit over the last few seasons. Should Schweinsteiger stay healthy, he will be a boon in the dressing room — and on the pitch — for Man United. The move also frees up space, and minutes, for a Bayern roster unbelievably heavy on Guardiola’s uber-talented, preferred midfielders.
Roberto Firmino was a question mark, to start, at map-cap Hoffenheim with his transfer in 2011. From Tombense, many were wondering why the Sinsheim outfit were paying four million euro for a skinny Brazilian. They would go back on their words when he registered 22 goals in the 2013-14 season, while grabbing another ten over the course of last year.
In Germany, his 41 million Euro transfer to Liverpool is seen as a bit of a risk — coupled with the knowledge that with the Premiere League’s new television deal, meaning any first division club can pay almost any price. But, despite lacking European competition, Brazilian coach Dunga called him up for Copa America. He rewarded his inclusion in Selecao with a goal against Venezuela.
The centre-forward, Joselu, made waves in German football despite his Spanish upbringing. Born in Stuttgart, the tall striker went to Real Madrid before coming back to Germany and Hoffenheim in 2012, then ending up at Hannover 96 last season with ten goals in domestic league and cup competition.
He is Mark Hughes most-expensive signing to this date, but may well adapt to a role in Stoke City’s front two. Again, an eight million euro fee might give the continental Europeans some pause.
Newly promoted Watford FC will look to veteran defensive midfielder Valon Behrami after the Swiss’ dumpster year at Hamburg. Not that Behrami was garbage, mind you, it is just that the venerable team has been trash for a few years in the Bundesliga.
Just squeaking out of relegation, HSV is nowhere for the 59-time capped Schweizer. And although most will remember him for seeing red against Arturo Vidal in 2010’s World Cup group stages — first Swiss player ever to get sent off during that tournament — he should be valued for what he does best: A strong, hard tackler with a good eye for the ball.