Gabriel Jesus’s stellar start for Manchester City has dislodged Sergio Agüero from Pep Guardiola’s side. The 19-year-old Brazilian, a £27m signing from Palmeiras last month, scored on his full Premier League debut – at West Ham United – and twice in the following game, against Swansea City last Sunday. Here are five other overseas signings who stormed into the English game.
1- Allan Simonsen Charlton Athletic, 1982
Charlton were not in the top flight, which is one reason why this bizarre move is worth recalling. The Dane was 29 and at his peak when he swapped Barcelona for the Addicks in a £300,000 transfer that would never occur in the current age. Even in 1982 Simonsen’s choice of The Valley over the Camp Nou was a shock. Simonsen was the 1977 European Footballer of the Year. He was a treble Bundesliga champion and double Uefa Cup winner with Borussia Mönchengladbach and a Cup Winners’ Cup winner with Barça, and had also lost a European Cup final, to Liverpool, with the German club. Yet Diego Maradona’s arrival forced him from Barça, and on joining Charlton in October Simonsen’s manager was Ken Craggs, who had never played professionally and was in charge only because of Alan Mullery’s departure; he was sacked a month later. None of this fazed Simonsen. The forward scored on debut, a 3-2 defeat by Middlesbrough on 13 November, and would register a further eight times in 16 games. Within three months, though, Simonsen was gone, his move having caused Charlton serious financial problems and the club were unable to pay him.
2- Hernán Crespo Chelsea, 2003
The Argentinian was the first headline signing of Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea ownership, the Russian spending £16.8m to take Crespo from Internazionale in August 2003, a month after buying the club. Crespo missed out on debut, a 1-0 win at Sparta Prague on 16 September, then began seriously firing. He scored twice in a 5-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers next time out and collected four in the following six games for a tally of six in eight. From here, though, Crespo tailed off and managed only six more goals all season to end with 12 in 31 appearances for Chelsea.
3- Sergio Agüero Manchester City, 2011
Given Jesus’s impressive start it is instructive to rewind six years to recall the impact of the striker he has, for the moment, supplanted. Agüero arrived in summer 2011 for £38m from Atlético Madrid and remains the finest signing of the Sheikh Mansour era. The then 21-year-old’s debut featured two goals in the 4-0 rout of Swansea City in the season opener and he followed that up by scoring in his third game, a 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur, a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory over Wigan Athletic, and both goals in a 2-2 draw with Fulham. In all, Agüero plundered eight goals in six games and he finished with 30 in all competitions in his first season in English football.
4- Ángel Di María Manchester United, 2014
The second of Louis van Gaal’s galácticos bombed as spectacularly as the other, Radamel Falcao, though the start from British football’s most expensive footballer at the time at £59.7m was the diametric opposite. Di María was the best performer on the pitch on debut, the 0-0 draw at Burnley on 30 August, operating in a left-sided midfield berth where he ran proceedings. In his next two appearances he scored against Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City, the latter of these a delightful sand-wedge over Kasper Schmeichel that came laced with South American flair. Two matches later Di María struck again, in a 2-1 win over Everton at Old Trafford on 5 October. Three goals in four games and scintillating displays in each suggested Di María would be a force. But this was as a good as it got. He netted only once more – at Yeovil Town in the FA Cup in January – and by summer 2015 he was gone.
5- Zlatan Ibrahimovic Manchester United, 2016
Last spring the always bullish Swede announced he was “warming up” and that age was “just a number”, yet when José Mourinho signed a player who turned 35 in October eyebrows were raised. Ibrahimovic, a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain, instantly ended the view he was a flat-track bully whose previous four years in France’s second-rate Ligue One had been almost a holiday. Handed United’s No9 shirt by Mourinho Ibrahimovic scored four times in his opening three games – against Leicester City, Bournemouth and Southampton – drew a blank at Hull City and struck again in the Manchester derby to make it five in five outings.