Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund, £56m, 2017)
Given that Aubameyang only joined Arsenal in January 2017, to name him as the Gunners’ finest January arrival speaks volumes for the impact that the Gabonese international has already made at the Emirates.
The former Borussia Dortmund speedster has managed 26 goals in 40 appearances and counting, 14 of those coming in the league this term. He’s also helped to bring the best out of team-mate Alexandre Lacazette: the Frenchman has netted seven times himself this season, making them the top flight’s most prolific strike partnership.
Honourable mention: Emmanuel Adebayor
Bournemouth: Matt Ritchie (Swindon, £500k, 2013)
Ritchie joined then-League One Bournemouth from division rivals Swindon, the club he'd helped to promotion as League Two’s player of the season in 2011/12.
Two-and-a-half seasons later, Ritchie and the Cherries (not a failed ‘60s pop band, sadly) found themselves in the Premier League. The wide man played a huge part in their sensational rise too, racking up 15 goals and 17 assists in their Championship promotion season of 2014/15 alone – form that led to his nomination as the Football League’s best player by FourFourTwo readers later that year.
Honourable mentions: Ryan Fraser, Charlie Daniels
Brighton: Glenn Murray (Bournemouth, loan made permanent for £3.15m, 2017)
Murray first joined Brighton in January 2008, plundering 57 goals in 136 games for the Seagulls when they were a League One club still playing at the Withdean. That earned him a move to Championship side Crystal Palace, who he helped to promotion in 2013 with a belting 30-goal campaign.
But just when it looked like Premier League life wasn’t for him – over the three seasons from 2013/14 to 2015/16 he managed 11 goals for Palace and Bournemouth – along came Brighton to drag him back to the south coast.
Murray initially re-joined on loan in summer 2016 to assist their promotion charge, and the deal was made permanent the following January. Since returning he’s bagged 45 times in 101 appearances, making him only the second player in Brighton history to hit a century of goals after Tommy Smith.
Honourable mention: Anthony Knockaert
Burnley: Charlie Austin (Swindon, £1.25m, 2011)
A cruel hamstring injury meant it took Austin until his first full season to start firing for Burnley following his move from Swindon in January 2011, but he was worth the wait.
The Englishman managed 16 goals in his first Championship campaign, ending it as the Clarets’ top scorer. In his second he’d bagged 20 before the end of November – the fastest a Burnley player had ever reached that total – and finished the term with 28 goals in all competitions.
QPR snapped him up that summer for £4m, and promotion to the Premier League soon followed.
Honourable mentions: Ashley Barnes, Michael Keane
Cardiff: Peter Whittingham (Aston Villa, £350k, 2007)
Unable to make his mark in the Premier League with Aston Villa, Whittingham joined Championship side Cardiff in January 2007 – beginning what would prove to be a 10-year association with the Bluebirds.
The left-sider was soon bumped forward from left-back and set about establishing himself as one of the second tier’s finest players, peaking in 2009/10 with a stunning 20-goal league season.
Whittingham was named Cardiff’s player of the year twice, made the PFA Championship Team of the Year three times, and earned his place in the Football League Team of the Decade 2005-2015. Bargain.
Honourable mention: Fraizer Campbell
Chelsea: Branislav Ivanovic (Lokomotiv Moscow, £9.7m, 2008)
Life at Stamford Bridge didn’t start quite as Ivanovic would have hoped following his 2008 move from Russia. The Serbian spent his first six months on the bench for the reserves, and the next six in and out of the Blues’ first team.
Fortunately, he managed to turn things around with a little help from Carlo Ancelotti – plus team-mate Andriy Shevchenko, who convinced him to stay at Stamford Bridge – and went on to become one of Chelsea’s most valuable players of the next decade as they triumphed at home and abroad. He cemented his status as a cub legend with the winning goal in the 2013 Europa League Final.
Honourable mentions: Nicolas Anelka, Nemanja Matic, Gary Cahill
Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United, loan made permanent for £6m, 2015)
Having left Selhurst Park in 2013 for the grand lights of Old Trafford, Zaha was welcomed back with open arms when he returned less than 18 months later after a botched spell at David Moyes’s Manchester United.
Having originally re-joined on loan in August 2014, his move was quickly made permanent for a relative pittance after the New Year – and since then, Zaha has matured to become one of the Premier League’s most coveted stars.
The Ivory Coast international’s dazzling footwork, speed and improving eye for goal have made him the Eagles’ talisman… and their player of the season for the last three campaigns.
Honourable mentions: Luka Milivojevic, Joe Ledley
Everton: Seamus Coleman (Sligo Rovers, £60k, 2009)
Sixty-thousand pounds. Coleman came recommended to then-Toffees boss Moyes from Willie McStay, a former international team-mate of the Scot – and what an endorsement it turned out to be.
A decade and 274 appearances later, Everton fans owe McStay a big hand for helping them find one of their most consistent and important players of the last 10 years at such a bargain price.
Honourable mentions: John Stones, Lee Carsley
Fulham: Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution, £2m, 2007)
The American defied all expectations in his five-and-a-half years at Craven Cottage, having initially joined as a soon-to-be-23-year-old from MLS. Dempsey struck 60 goals during his successful first stint in west London – 36 of those coming in his terrific final two years before an upward move to Tottenham in summer 2012.
The midfielder's glorious lobbed winner against Juventus in the 2009/10 Europa League last 16 is the stuff of legend in SW10, where memories of that famous run to the final under Roy Hodgson still sparkle.
Honourable mention: Brian McBride
Huddersfield: Nahki Wells (Bradford, £1.6m, 2014)
Wells’s impressive scoring record with Bradford in League One and Two led to interest from the higher echelons of English football, but it was Huddersfield who wanted him most and landed their man in 2014.
The Terriers broke their transfer record to sign the Bermudan forward, who didn’t disappoint. Wells managed 49 goals in three-and-a-half seasons, and was a vital member of the squad that earned promotion to the Premier League in 2017.
Honourable mentions: Pawel Abbott, Anthony Pilkington
Leicester: Riyad Mahrez (Le Havre, £400k, 2014)
Pound for pound, one of the finest transfers in English football history. In 2011, Mahrez was playing in the fourth division of French football with tiny Quimper. Five years later he was a Premier League champion with Leicester and named PFA Player of the Year.
Having cost the Foxes a mere £400,000 a few months before their promotion to the top flight, Leicester sold him to Manchester City in a deal that could eventually rise to £75m. Ker-ching.
Honourable mentions: Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater
Liverpool: Luis Suarez (Ajax, £22.7m, 2011)
Suarez’s signing on deadline day was somewhat overshadowed by the addition of £35 million Andy Carroll just hours later. But while one turned out to be all bark and no bite, the other became a Kop legend and so nearly led the Reds to a long-awaited Premier League title.
Controversy was rarely far from conversations about the Uruguayan, but Suarez’s blistering form in 2013/14 – 31 goals in 33 Premier League games – ultimately dominated all else and led to his deserved £65m Barcelona transfer after the 2014 World Cup.
Honourable mentions: Virgil van Dijk, Philippe Coutinho, Javier Mascherano
Manchester City: Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg, £27m, 2011)
Manchester City have made a number of fine January signings over the years – Aymeric Laporte, Nigel de Jong, Gabriel Jesus, Robbie Fowler and David James (don’t laugh) spring to mind – but it’s Dzeko who takes the crown as the best of the bunch.
Roberto Mancini splashed for what was then City’s second-biggest transfer of all time, but 72 goals in four-and-a-bit seasons – including major roles in two title wins – made the burly Bosnian worth every penny.
Honourable mentions: As above
Manchester United: Nemanja Vidic (Spartak Moscow, £7m, 2006)
Has there been a better January signing in Premier League history? After joining Manchester United from Spartak Moscow, the Serbian went on to win five Premier League titles, three League Cups and the Champions League.
He was also voted into the PFA Team of the Year four times, won the Premier League’s Player of the Year gong twice and was named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI twice for good measure.
Honourable mention: Patrice Evre
Newcastle: Papiss Cisse (Freiburg, £9.3m, 2011)
Cisse had an huge act to follow when he took on Alan Shearer’s iconic No.9 shirt at Newcastle in 2011 – but the Senegalese certainly gave it a good effort.
The striker hit 13 goals in his first 14 games for the Magpies alongside compatriot Demba Ba, helping the Magpies to a memorable fifth-placed finish under Alan Pardew. His good form continued the next season, but the goals began to dry up when Ba left for Chelsea in early 2012. The odd moment of magic still meant he remained a cult hero on Tyneside. Petr Cech knows that all too well.
Honourable mention: Tino Asprilla
Southampton: Jose Fonte (Crystal Palace, £1.2m, 2010)
Southampton were struggling to make an immediate escape from League One when Fonte arrived from Championship side Palace in 2010, having made a relatively slow start after already been hit with a 10-point deduction.
The following season was different: with their new stopper in tow the Saints finished second, and by 2012 were a Premier League side once more after consecutive promotions. Fonte soon established himself as one of the top flight’s most reliable centre-halves – leading to a distinctly unsuccessful transfer to West Ham in 2016 – and even won the European Championship with Portugal.
Honourable mention: Ryan Bertrand
Tottenham: Dele Alli (MK Dons, £5m, 2015)
Jermain Defoe was terrific in two spells for Spurs, having signed for them in the winter on both occasions, but Premier League bargains don’t come much better than Alli.
The teenager didn’t have a Championship appearance to his name before linking up with Mauricio Pochettino’s side that summer, but had helped his local team to League One promotion and dazzled with a string of maturing displays.
It was alarming just how easily he found his step up to the top flight. Alli was a huge part of Tottenham’s title assault in his first season, scored 18 times in his second and then directly contributed to another 19 Premier League goals in his third. What would he fetch now?
Honourable mention: Jermain Defoe
Watford: Abdoulaye Doucoure (Rennes, £8m, 2016)
Doucoure didn’t even play for Watford in his first half-season at Vicarage Road, instead spending it straight out on loan at partner club Granada. He played only six minutes over the first 18 games of 2016/17 too, and can’t have been thrilled even when he became a regular – Watford lost seven of their last eight games of the campaign.
But in 2017/18 the Frenchman was reborn; colossal as the Hertfordshire side’s player of the season, when he weighed in with seven goals. This term the goals may have dried up, but Doucoure has contributed five assists and is generally far more respected for his passing and box-to-box work anyway. Links with Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and PSG won’t go away.
Honourable mention: Fernando Forestieri
West Ham: Marlon Harewood (Nottingham Forest, £500k, 2003)
Before Harewood eventually became something of a journeyman – he played for 11 different clubs in the last decade of his career – the striker was a West Ham hero and regular goal-getter in both the Championship and Premier League after signing in November 2003.
He scored 22 times in 2004/05 as the Hammers won promotion back to England’s top flight, and bagged an impressive 16 the season after as Alan Pardew’s side finished ninth and were runners-up in the FA Cup. Not bad for half a million.
Honourable mentions: Nigel Reo-Coker, Demba Ba, Dean Ashton
Wolves: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Plymouth, £1.5m, 2008)
Now plying his trade with Southern League Premier Central side Barwell, Ebanks-Blake was once one of the Championship’s most prolific scorers during his early days with Wolves.
Signed from fellow second-tier rivals Plymouth in January 2008, the former Manchester United youngster bagged 37 goals in his first season-and-a-half as Wolves returned to the Premier League for only the second time in their history.
He wasn’t quite as prolific in the top flight – just 12 goals in 87 appearances – but played regularly as the West Midlanders retained their top-flight status for two seasons running and then joined Ipswich in 2013.
Honourable mention: Helder Costa