English Premier League clubs notoriously spend vast sums of money in the transfer market, with last season representing a prime example of that.
Specifically after the 2016 January transfer window closed, it was revealed that Premier League clubs had spent more than £1bn on transfers during a single season for the first time.
Whilst the Premier League clubs 2015 summer spending reached £870m, they spent a further £175m during January, to give a total transfer expenditure for the season of £1,045bn. That exceeded the previous record of £965bn, which was spent during the 2014-2015 season.
Of the £870m paid out by Premier League clubs on transfers last season, a staggering 14.94% of that was attributable to the three biggest individual transfer fees.
Two of those were paid by Manchester City, as they signed Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg for £55m and Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for £49m, whilst the third largest individual fee was the £36m Manchester United parted with to recruit Anthony Martial from Monaco.
Nevertheless although Premier League clubs spending on transfers reached an unprecedented high last season, amidst that a number of players were signed on free transfers and proved to be extremely valuable acquisitions for their respective teams.
In total 30 players were signed for free by Premier League clubs during the 2015-2016 campaign and whilst many of those played well throughout the season, five stood out as doing so more than the others, with those handful of players now profiled.
The former PSV Eindhoven attacking midfielder, joined Stoke on a free transfer from Barcelona, after only making 35 appearances for the Catalan giants, over the course of a four-year stay at the club.
Although Afellay was sent off in just his fourth Premier League game for mischievously tapping West Brom’s Craig Gardener on the face, he recovered from that setback to establish himself as a first team regular for Mark Hughes’ side and appeared in 31 of Stoke’s first 35 Premier League matches before dam a knee ligament injury in April, which has ruled the Dutch internationalist out until December.
That represents a major blow to both Stoke and the player himself, since Afellay was just beginning to both, show glimpses of his best form and adjust to the demands of the Premier League, which he illustrated by scoring superb goals against Bournemouth in February and Swansea at the start of April.
Subsequently both Hughes and Stoke’s supporters will hope that Afellay makes a full recovery so that he is able to play for the club during the second half of the forthcoming season
Ayew arrived at Swansea on a free transfer after his contract with Marseilles had expired. However the deal was not altogether cheap for the Swans, since they agreed to pay Ayew £60,000 over the course of his four-year contract.
Nevertheless the striker proved his worth by scoring 12 goals and providing assists for another two during his debut season in the Premier League. The 26-year-old immediately adjusted brilliantly to playing in English football by scoring in his first two games, whilst also being named Premier League player of the month for August.
Whilst Ayew’s finished the season as Swansea’s joint top scorer, along with Gylfi Sigurdsson, he endured a barren time in front of goal from the end of October until the end of April. Specifically during that time, the Ghanaian scored only three times in 23 appearances. Nevertheless fine scoring streaks at the start and end of the season illustrated his excellent finishing capabilities, as Ayew scored a goal for every 244.8 minutes he played.
Despite being a member of the Bournemouth team which won the 2014-2015 Championship title to earn promotion to the Premier League, Boruc was then only on loan from Southampton and signed permanently for Eddie Howe’s side at the start of last season.
During that Boruc made 32 appearances and kept seven clean sheets, whilst producing two superb penalty saves to help Bournemouth earn valuable draws against Leicester in January and in his team’s penultimate game of the season against West Brom.
Although the Polish internationalist, who has 63 caps for his country, conceded 52 goals in the Premier League last season, which was the second highest with only Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan letting in more – 58 – Boruc’s was often left woefully exposed as a result of Bournemouth’s commitment to playing attractive free flowing football.
Nevertheless the former Celtic goalkeeper played an important role in helping Bournemouth retain their Premier League status for the forthcoming season.
The 30-year-old signed for Leicester on a free transfer from Schalke 04 and was a key member of the Foxes championship winning side.
Operating as a left back, Fuchs performed exceptionally well throughout the season and became the first Austrian to win a Premier League medal since Alex Manninger did so for Arsenal in 1998.
Prior to joining Leicester, Fuchs had amassed 183 Bundesliga appearances during spells with VFL Bochum, Mainz 05 and Schalke 04, with that experience shining through in the majority of his performances for Leicester as he established himself as one of the most reliable left backs in the Premier League.
After enjoying five fairly successful seasons with Manchester City, whereby he won the Premier League twice, as well as the FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield, Milner moved to Liverpool on a free transfer and performed superbly well throughout the 2015-2016 season.
As well as scoring five goals, the 30-year-old also provided assists for 11, which was the most of any English player in the Premier League.
Milner delivered his most impressive performance when captaining Liverpool to a 4-0 win against Everton at the end of April, as he set-up two of his team’s goal’s and produced a generally excellent all round display.
Another quality of Milner’s which shone through during his first year with Liverpool was the England internationalist indefatigability, as he covered an average distance of 11.88km per Premier League game, which was bettered only by Dan Gosling of Bournemouth’s, who averaged 11.98.
As such, Milner has established himself as one of Liverpool’s most reliable performers and is likely to again play a key role for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.