Best loan transfers in the history of football
Buying new players and signing the best of the best becomes a relatively simple process when you’re managing or guiding one of the world’s most decorated and elite organizations. Other, less well-funded clubs, on the other hand, often lack the financial resources to recruit the players they require, which is why they sign prospective stars on loan to help them develop their skills while also assisting their new club’s success throughout the season.
Of all, even world-class teams prefer loan deals to give their players a chance to prove themselves before investing in new acquisitions, or they may just require a new player for a short amount of time owing to an injury to one of their regular starters.
We have been fortunate to see some of the most effective loan signings in recent history, who have managed to make history as important members of their teams and prove their worth to the rest of the world, thanks to such short-term and occasionally long-term arrangements. If you’re wondering about who these players are, keep reading to learn more about them as well as a brief history of the best loan transactions in football history.
Before we get into individual analysis of each of the greatest loan signings of all time, here’s a quick rundown of all the footballers who have made it to the top.
Monaco’s Fernando Morientes
West Bromwich Albion’s Romelu Lukaku
Manchester United’s Carlos Tevez
Barcelona’s Edgar Davids
Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois
Now that we’ve seen a list of the most influential loan signings in history, let’s look at how they became such outstanding players and had such success on loan.
Real Madrid-Monaco transfer of Fernando Morientes
Fernando Morientes Sanchez, better known by his nickname Fernando Morientes, is a former Spanish football striker who played for clubs like Real Madrid and Marseille. Of course, there is no need to explain Morientes to older football fans because everyone is aware of his accomplishments and feats throughout his career. Morientes helped Los Blancos win three Champions League medals and a slew of other domestic titles during the peak of his career, scoring 100 goals and supplying 31 assists in 272 appearances.
Despite being a devastating striker, Florentino Perez’s Galacticos period had just just begun when the Spaniard was forced to move out on loan. Morientes joined Ligue 1 team Monaco on loan in 2003, and many expected him to have a quiet season in France. They were wrong, as the center-forward improved his game even more and managed to enthral Monaco supporters from the start. He did not win any big championships with the French team, but he did complete one of the best loan deals in football history with them.
Fernando Morientes has a total of 42 appearances for Monaco to his credit. He scored 22 goals and added five assists in the process, and he even helped the Ligue 1 side knock out his parent club Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which was a huge blow to the club, who had just replaced him with Ronaldo Nazario. With nine goals, he finished his one season in Monaco as Europe’s highest striker. He is without a doubt one of the most successful loan signings in recent memory.
Chelsea-West Bromwich Albion transfer of Romelu Lukaku
It’s amazing how many current world-class players were once deemed Chelsea flops. Even Romelu Lukaku, Inter’s prolific center-forward, was once a Chelsea misfit who did not receive the respect and attention he deserved. Chelsea bought the Belgian striker for €15 million from RSC Anderlecht in 2011, but it didn’t take long for them to send him out on loan to polish his skills. He joined West Bromwich Albion in 2012 and quickly established himself as one of the most important loan acquisitions in club history.
While the Belgium international’s first season at Stamford Bridge was a disappointment, he clearly improved his game during his loan period at West Bromwich Albion, where he drew the attention of the media as well as football fans who were beginning to appreciate the young talent’s style of play. The dangerous striker made a total of 38 appearances for The Baggies, scoring 17 goals and giving 7 assists in the process.
Romelu Lukaku’s time with the English club was undoubtedly one of the most successful in his career. But that wasn’t the only time the Belgian forward dazzled with his performance; after returning from a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, he joined Everton on loan from Chelsea. This time, though, his game found its stride, as he scored 16 goals in 33 appearances in his first season at Everton, demonstrating that he had just completed one of the best loan moves in football history.
Everton bought Romelu Lukaku on a permanent contract from Chelsea in 2014, reportedly for a little over €35 million, after seeing his remarkable form and goalscoring abilities. Before joining Manchester United for more than €84 million in 2017, the Belgium international made 166 appearances for the Toffees, scoring 87 goals and assisting on another 29 goals in all competitions.
Carlos Tevez joins Manchester United from West Ham.
Next on our list of the top loan transactions in football history is one that created so much debate after it ended, rather than during it. Carlos Tevez is without a doubt one of the finest strikers of his generation, having scored goals for West Ham United, Manchester City, Juventus, Boca Juniors, and a slew of other clubs.
But it was his loan move from West Ham to Manchester United in 2007 that became one of the best loan transactions in football history, thanks to the Argentine striker’s status as one of the top loan stars in the game. Carlos Tevez, who presently plays for Boca Juniors in Argentina, joined Manchester United more than thirteen years ago with the intention of taking the world by storm, as no one anticipated him having such an impact on the Red Devils.
In total, the Argentine forward, who was usually used as a center-forward or a second striker, made 99 appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, scoring 34 goals and providing 14 assists in the process. His goal-scoring statistics alone demonstrate why his loan to United is one of the best in football history. In 2008 and 2009, he helped his team win two Premier League titles in a row, as well as the Champions League, the English League Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and two Community Shields.
Many anticipated Tevez to stay with United after signing a permanent deal after establishing himself to be one of the best loan signings of all time during his time with the Red Devils. The Argentine left Manchester United for city rivals Manchester City for €29 million in 2009, which was widely regarded as one of the worst betrayals in sports history.
Juventus-Barcelona transfer of Edgar Davids
In many things, there is always talk of favoring quality over number, and football players are no exception, with even newcomers preferring a high-quality player over two low-quality footballers with no synergy. When it comes to the best and most productive loan signings in recent memory, one name immediately comes to mind for everyone who grew up watching football in the early 2000s: Suriname-born Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids.
The incredibly versatile midfielder could play anywhere in the middle of the field, but he was most at ease as a central or defensive midfielder, where he could keep possession of the ball for his team. He went on to make a total of 235 appearances for Juventus, scoring 10 goals and providing 10 assists in the process. But it was his frustratingly short tenure at Barcelona that earned him a position on the list of top loan agreements in football history, not his time at Juventus.
The sole negative part of Edgar Davids’ loan stay at the Catalan club was that it was just for six months. He joined the Blaugrana on a short-term loan when the club was just passing the time as they couldn’t wait for the season to conclude, as they were struggling in the middle of the standings when Davids came.
Barcelona, on the other hand, was able to get back on their feet after his arrival and end the season as runners-up, just behind winners Valencia. It’s not easy to have such a massive impact on a club after entering on a short-term loan, but the Dutchman achieved just that by turning the tides in Barcelona’s favor, making his time in Spain one of the best loan agreements in football history.
Chelsea-Atletico Madrid transfer of Thibaut Courtois
Chelsea has always had a roster full of some of the top players in the world. Many of the youthful stars went on to become world-class players at other clubs, or required to go on loan before becoming the greatest in the business, as younger footballers rarely get many minutes at a team like Chelsea. That was also the situation with Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was sent out to gain more playing time and develop his talents.
Many assumed Chelsea had simply dumped the young goalie since they had no intention of keeping him. Even if that were the case, Courtois put everyone else to shame with his incredible performances at Atletico Madrid week after week. It didn’t take long for him to be regarded as one of the best loan transactions in football history, since his arrival and Diego Simeone’s appointment as manager of the Madrid-based club revived Atletico, allowing them to eventually break through to become one of Spain’s top clubs.
Atletico Madrid were declared Spanish champions after winning La Liga in the 2013-14 season, thanks to Courtois’ assistance. But that isn’t the only reason why the Belgian international’s loan spell at Atletico is regarded as one of the best in football history, as he also helped his former club reach the Champions League final, where they were defeated by his current club Real Madrid, who won the long-awaited La Decima under Carlo Ancelotti.
Courtois did eventually return to Chelsea, where he helped the Blues win the Premier League twice in 2015 and 2017, as well as the FA Cup and the English League Cup. But his tenure at Atletico Madrid will be remembered for the rest of his life, as he helped transform a poor Spanish team into one of Europe’s most recognized and formidable sides.
Despite being one of the best loan transactions in football history, the 28-year-old goalkeeper’s time at Atletico is not well-liked by the club’s supporters. The reason for this animosity is clear: the Belgian left his former club to join the royals at Real Madrid, where he has been since 2018, after completing a €35 million bargain transfer.