The 2020 summer transfer window has, to adopt the stereotype, slammed shut, meaning that there will be no more international signings until January.
Every Premier League side has made additions to their squad, some more intelligently than others.
While certain teams have failed in their pursuits of top talent, others have shocked the world by bringing in megastars and future megastars.
Here at Premier League Central, we have decided to make a ‘smartest signings XI’, by making a functional team from the 11 most intelligent transfers in the league.
It is important to note the difference between the smartest and the best.
For example, Arsenal new boy Thomas Partey is a better player than Crystal Palace recruit Ebere Eze but factors age and price tag make Eze a better piece of business by Palace.
A smart piece of business would be signing somebody on the cheap, signing a player with great potential or signing a player that filled a gap that badly needed filling.
If we were to make a best XI of new signings, Partey, along with the likes of Ruben Dias, Gabriel Magalhaes, Allan and Gareth Bale would probably feature. But other teams have done a better job in filling their problem areas while solidifying their future at the same time.
Alphonse Areola kicks off our XI in between the sticks.
Fulham scraped into the Premier League via the play-offs last season, so clearly needed incomings this summer.
This was particularly in the goalkeeping department, where Marcus Bettinelli and Marek Rodak shared the role in the Championship.
To go out and get a World Cup-winning ex-PSG and Real Madrid shot-stopper on loan for a season was a fantastic piece of business.
The Frenchman could probably have had his pick of teams to join this summer with a CV like his, yet the relegation-battlers secured his signature.
Aston Villa are quite possibly the biggest winners of the 2020 summer window, with numerous smart recruits like Emiliano Martinez and Ollie Watkins.
Yet right-back Matt Cash may be the smartest of the lot.
Young, talented and relatively cheap, Cash is exactly the type of player that Premier League teams should be after.
The former winger is great going forward, but, importantly, he shines defensively too with 3 tackles and interceptions per game in the Championship last campaign.
At 23, he will probably cement the position for the next number of years.
Right centre-half is probably the most hotly contested position in this side.
Gabriel Magalhaes, Wesley Fofana, Joachim Andersen, Malang Sarr, Ben Godfrey, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Ki-Jana Hoever should all prove to be great signings, but Veltman could be the best of them all.
This is mainly because of his price tag and versatility.
Despite being an experienced international who has played for one of the world’s biggest clubs for a number of years, Veltman cost Brighton just £900,000.
With the ability to play at right-back or centre-back, the Dutchman is perfect for Graham Potter’s three-at-the-back system.
His Premier League debut against Everton was very promising. He was subbed on at halftime at right wing-back and completed a staggering five tackles and five crosses.
Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu may be the most unknown player in this XI but he is very possibly the smartest of all this summer’s signings.
Salisu was one of the top young centre-backs in the world for Real Valladolid in 2019/20, yet the Saints managed to pick him up for a measly £10.8 million.
He is outstanding from a physical sense, with excellent pace to go with his 6-foot-3-inch frame. He also has a great left foot which will only improve in time.
The Ghanaian is the perfect combination of a mid-2010’s intelligent Southampton signing (Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane etc.) and a Ralph Hassenhuttl Red Bull-style genius move (Dayot Upamecano, Timo Werner).
The track record of both the club and the manager with this type of transfer is fantastic, so, in short, Salisu is bound to be a success at St. Mary’s.
Left-back is another position that numerous teams strengthened in this summer.
Ben Chilwell, Jamal Lewis, Alex Telles and Kostas Tsimikas should all prove to be good signings, but Spurs’ capture of Sergio Reguilon is the highlight.
The one slight issue is that Real Madrid inserted a buyback clause.
Yet the Spanish champions already have the superb Ferland Mendy in their side, so are unlikely to use the cause. Even if they do, Spurs will have gotten a few years of Reguilon practically for free.
The Spaniard scored twice and got four assists on loan at Sevilla in 2019/20.
This is where the term “smart signing” really comes into play.
Ebere Eze is not the best midfielder that was signed this summer. In fact, he is probably not even in the top five, with Thiago, Partey, Allan, Donny van de Beek and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg all better than him.
Yet Eze might be the smartest due to his age, homegrown status and cheap fee.
Unless a miracle happens, Palace will get a few good years from the unbelievably talented 22-year-old before selling him for a profit.
Yes, Partey and Allan will improve their teams more, but only in the short term. Eze is a long-term project that will bring an element of unpredictability to the Eagles that not many teams have.
For that reason, the ex-QPR man makes our smartest signings XI.
Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool is the best transfer of the 2020 summer window.
Liverpool have signed a player that is probably the best out-and-out centre midfielder in the world.
Yes, he is 29, older than Thomas Partey. But while Arsenal are a team in transition, Liverpool are right in the middle of their period of dominance.
This means that they can afford to bring in older players to help with immediate success, while if the Gunners sign players that are 27+, they will most likely be well past their peak by the time they are actually in contention to win major honours.
Thiago will most likely play a major part in helping Liverpool cement themselves as one of the elite teams in Europe over the next 2-3 years.
He should have a bigger impact on his new side than any of the other signings this year.
This is a rather simple inclusion.
Manchester City signed one of Europe’s hottest young prospects for well below market value.
Pep’s men took advantage of Valencia’s current crisis by snapping up Torres for a mere £20.7 million, which is absolute peanuts in today’s market.
Website Transfermarkt estimated his value to be £40.5 million, and they usually undervalue players. For example, Kylian Mbappe’s Transfermarkt market value is £162 million, yet it will probably cost upwards of £200 million to actually get him out of PSG.
Essentially, City have got a 20-year-old future superstar for about £40 million less than he’s worth.
An obvious deal to complete, but incredibly smart business all the same.
Another simple one – Everton have signed a world-class playmaker on a free transfer. Should be enough said right?
You would be forgiven for believing that James Rodriguez is no more than a forgotten man, half the player he was five years ago.
But when the Colombian superstar has taken to the field in recent years (albeit these were becoming few and far between), he has been magnificent. While he was overrated in 2014, he has since become incredibly underrated.
The Toffees are incredibly lucky to have signed a player of his class, and he has proved his ability in the opening league games of the season.
The regular football fan now knows what the football student has known for the last few years – James is far from finished.
Some may be surprised to not see Kai Havertz in this team.
While he will most likely become a world-class star, he was not signed with any plan for him in mind.
He has already played in three positions in the league for Chelsea, despite only playing four games. If Frank Lampard had a plan in mind for him to come in and play a certain role in the side, then he would probably be in this team.
Instead, the Blues just forked out £72m+ on a 21-year-old and decided that they’d work out what to do with him as they went.
Yes, Timo Werner was also probably signed with no particular plan in place for what to do with him. But he has performed at a high level for a longer period of time than his compatriot, while he also cost much less than him.
Signing one of the best forwards in world football for less than £50 million will always be a great deal, especially when he is just 24-years-old.
Our line-up of smartest signings is complete with a £23 million 20-year-old without a minute of top-tier football to his name.
Does this sound like smart business? No, probably not.
But Rhian Brewster is a remarkable talent. His record of a goal every other game during his loan spell at Swansea last season is proof of this.
If he wasn’t determined to go out and play first-team football immediately, he would probably still be perfecting his trade at Melwood.
Further evidence of how highly Liverpool rate him is the buy-back and sell-on clauses that the Reds inserted in the deal to take him to Bramall Lane.
The Blades badly need someone to put the ball in the back of the net. If the Englishman’s start to life in the men’s game is anything to go by, he will do exactly that.
If Jurgen Klopp thinks a player is good, he probably is. Simple, right?