Five new kids on the block looking to make a Premier League splash
Sanches at Swansea and Aurier at Tottenham are among the new signings hoping to impress
Renato Sanches – Swansea City
(loan from Bayern Munich)
In 2003 Swansea supporters would have found it hard to believe they would have a European Championship winner in their side. Only one player was going to be awarded a contract the following season as they flirted with relegation to the Conference. After signing Spain’s Fernando Llorente – recently departed for Tottenham – last summer and now Sanches, the fans are being spoiled.
The Portugal international joined Bayern Munich in May 2016 for an initial €35m from Benfica and won the Euro 2016 title, earning the Young Player of the Tournament award. The midfielder’s move to the Bundesliga champions did not go to plan and he became frustrated that he started only six times. That paved the way for Paul Clement, who worked briefly with Sanches at Bayern and has a long-standing relationship with their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, to pull off a coup.
Sanches is in line to make his Premier League debut at home to Newcastle on Sunday.
Serge Aurier – Tottenham Hotspur
(£23m from PSG)
With Kyle Walker signing for Manchester City for £50m, Mauricio Pochettino needed to add strength in depth at right-back. Purchasing a 24-year-old with 11 domestic titles and an Africa Cup of Nations crown for half the price of Walker does not seem bad business. Yet when a player of Aurier’s stature is purchased for a relatively small fee, one might wonder whether there is a catch.
The asterisk on the Ivorian’s career appears to be his previous misdemeanours. He was found guilty of assaulting a police officer less than a year ago, suspended by PSG for homophobic insults aimed at his then coach, Laurent Blanc, and called his then club-mate Ángel Di María a clown during a fan Q&A on social media. Aurier could be handed his debut at Everton on Saturday.
Davide Zappacosta – Chelsea
(£25.8m from Torino)
Antonio Conte wanted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but the former Arsenal man chose Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp instead. The Chelsea manager duly turned his attention to Zappacosta, who is likely to provide competition for Victor Moses at right wing-back.
Conte did not pick Zappacosta in his Italy squad for Euro 2016 but the player’s five assists last season for Torino suggest he can influence the attacking third from wing-back. That was something César Azpilicueta struggled to do against Burnley in the first game of the season in Moses’s absence. Zappacosta bolsters a Chelsea squad in need of greater strength in depth for the Champions League. The 25-year-old may get the chance to show what he can do at Leicester on Saturday.
Aleksandar Dragovic – Leicester City
(loan from Bayer Leverkusen)
Dragovic has had an up-and-down career. He developed an impressive reputation at Basel and Dynamo Kyiv, with clubs including Manchester United rumoured to be keen on him. What might have put off certain suitors was his performance at Euro 2016, where he was sent off in Austria’s first game, against Hungary, and missed a penalty in a crucial match against Iceland. In the end Austria finished bottom of the group.
Leverkusen took a chance on Dragovic but it did not appear to pay off as the German club finished 12th last season compared with third the previous campaign and conceded 15 more goals. The defender will compete at Leicester with Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire, with Robert Huth set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Dragovic’s first task could be stopping the Premier League champions.
Ezequiel Schelotto – Brighton & Hove Albion
(£2.8m from Sporting)
Usually when someone has played for eight clubs at a professional level before he is 29 – including being released on a free – it rings alarm bells. Schelotto started as a winger for Cesena and Atalanta before he moved in 2013 to Internazionale, for whom he scored in the Milan derby. That appeared to be the highlight of his spell at San Siro, however, as he struggled to nail down a starting place and was loaned to Sassuolo, Parma and Chievo before having his contract terminated.
Sporting snapped up the Argentina-born player in 2015 and predominantly used him at right-back. He still showed his attacking intentions, though, setting up seven goals last season and is likely to offer something different from Brighton’s other right-backs, Bruno and Liam Rosenior. His versatility also means he could cover on the wing for Anthony Knockaert or others if needed. With Bruno aged 36 and a lack of quality wide options available Schelotto could be crucial for Brighton.