Best loan deals in football history

Mon 22 March 2021 | 8:30

Who are the best loan stars in football history? Who has managed to become one of the most impactful loan signings ever? Follow us below as we take a look at the greatest loan signings of all time.

When you’re one managing or directing one of the most decorated and elite clubs in the world, buying new players and signing the best of the best gets to be quite an easy task. But other less financially-backed clubs do not usually have the means to sign the players they need, which is why they opt to sign future stars on loan to help them develop their skills while also using their talents to further help their new club’s progress through the season.

Of course even world-class teams prefer loan deals to try-out their players before actually splashing the cash on new signings, or maybe they only need a new player for a short period of time due to their regular starters being injured.

Thanks to such short-term and sometimes long-term deals, we have been blessed to witness some of the

most effective loan signings in recent history

, who managed to create history as an integral part of their clubs and prove their worth to the world. If you too are curious to know who these players are, then read on as we provide you with details and a short history about the best loan deals in football history.

Best loan stars in football history

Before we go on to analyze each of

the greatest loan signings of all time

individually, here is a shortlist of all the footballers that have made it to the top.

  • Fernando Morientes - Monaco

  • Romelu Lukaku - West Bromwich Albion

  • Carlos Tevez - Manchester United

  • Edgar Davids - Barcelona

  • Thibaut Courtois - Atletico Madrid

Now that we have had an overview of

the most impactful loan signings ever

, let us see how they came to be such great players and reach such a success on loan.

Fernando Morientes

  • Transfer: Real Madrid-Monaco

Fernando Morientes Sanchez, shortly known as Fernando Morientes, is a former Spanish football player who played as a striker for world-class clubs such as Real Madrid and


. Of course there is no need to introduce Morientes to older fans of football, as everybody knows of his feats and achievements throughout his career. At the pinnacle of his career, Morientes helped Los Blancos to three Champions League trophies and many other domestic titles as well, scoring a massive 100 goals and providing 31 assists in 272 appearances.

Even though the Spaniard was quite a lethal striker, he was forced to move out on loan as Florentino Perez’s Galacticos era had just begun. He joined Ligue 1 side Monaco on loan in 2003, with many expecting Morientes to have a quiet season at the French club. But boy were they wrong, as the center-forward upped his game even further and managed to excite


fans from the very beginning. Although he did not get to win any major trophies with the French side, he did get to complete one of the

best loan deals in football history


Fernando Morientes racked up a total of 42 appearances for Monaco under his belt. He managed to score 22 goals and provide 5 assists in the process and even helped the Ligue 1 side knock out his parent club Real Madrid out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals, which was truly a hard blow to the club who had just replaced him with Ronaldo Nazario. He ended his single season at Monaco as the top goalscorer in Europe with nine goals. It is safe to say that he is one of the most effective loan signings in recent history.

Romelu Lukaku

  • Transfer: Chelsea-West Bromwich Albion

It is strange how many of the current world-class players used to be considered as Chelsea flops. Even Inter’s prolific center-forward Romelu Lukaku was once a Chelsea outcast and did not get the attention and appreciation he deserved. Chelsea signed the Belgian striker from

RSC Anderlecht

for €15 million in 2011, but it did not take them long to send him out on loan to hone his skills. He joined West Bromwich Albion back in 2012, where he managed to prove himself to be one of the most impactful loan signings ever.

While the Belgium international’s first season at Stamford Bridge was quite a forgettable one, he undoubtedly upped his game during his loan spell at

West Bromwich

, where he caught the attention of both the media and football fans who were starting to enjoy the young talent’s style of play. The lethal striker got to make a total of 38 appearances for The Baggies, scoring an impressive 17 goals and providing 7 assists in the process.

Romelu Lukaku’s stint at the English club was surely one of the best spells one could hope for. But it was not the only time the Belgian forward managed to impress everyone with his gameplay, as he later joined Everton on loan from Chelsea after returning from his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion. This time, however, his football had finally its right rhythm, as he managed to score 16 goals in 33 appearances in his first season at Everton, which further proved that he had just completed one of the

best loan deals in football history


Seeing his impressive form and goalscoring feats,


signed Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea on a permanent deal for reportedly a little over €35 million back in 2014. The Belgium international went on to make 166 appearances for the Toffees, scoring a total of 87 goals and providing a further 29 goals in the process across all competitions, before moving Manchester United for more than €84 million in 2017.

Carlos Tevez

  • Transfer: West Ham-Manchester United

Next on our list of best loan deals in football history is one that sparked so much controversy, not in the beginning, but after it had ended. Carlos Tevez is without a doubt one of the greatest strikers of his generation, who has acted as a lethal goalscorer in front of the goal for clubs such as

West Ham

, Manchester City, Juventus, Boca Juniors and many more.

But it is his loan move to Manchester United from West Ham in 2007 that became one of the

best loan deals in football history

thanks to the Argentine striker being one of the best loan stars in football history. Carlos Tevez, who currently plays for Argentine side Boca Juniors, joined

Manchester United

more than thirteen years ago, planning to take the world by storm as no one expected him to have such an impact for the Red Devils.

In total, the Argentine talent, who was usually deployed as either a center-forward or a second striker, went on to make 99 appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, during which he managed to score 34 goals and provide 14 assists. His goalscoring stats alone prove why his move to United is one of the best loan deals in football history. He helped his side win two back-to-back Premier League titles in 2008 and 2009, while also winning the Chapions League, the English League Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and two Community Shields.

Having helped United to such achievements during the time that he spent with them, many expected Tevez to stay with the Red Devils after signing a permanent deal by proving himself to be one of the greatest loan signings of all time. This is where the controversies started, as the Argentine left Manchester United to join their city rivals

Manchester City

for €29 million in 2009, which was considered as one of the worst betrayals in football history.

Edgar Davids

  • Transfer: Juventus-Barcelona

There is always talk of valuing quality over quantity in many things, and football players are no exception to this rule, as even football newbies would rather have a high-quality player than two low-quality footballers without any chemistry. Talking about quality and the most effective loan signings in recent history, one player would certainly come to the minds of those who used to watch football in the early 2000s, and that player is the Suriname-born Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids.

The immensely versatile midfielder was capable of playing anywhere in the middle of the park, and was most comfortable as a central or defensive midfielder, holding onto the ball and keeping possession for his team. He went on to make a total of 235 appearances for Juventus, throughout which he managed to score 10 goals and provide 10 assists. But it wasn’t his spell at


that earned him a place on the list of best loan deals in football history, it was his disappointingly short spell at Barcelona that had everyone wanting more.

The only disappointing aspect of Edgar Davids’ loan spell at the Catalan club was that it only lasted half a season. He joined the Blaugrana on a short-term loan, when the club were just seeing their days go by as they couldn’t wait any longer for the season to end, since they were struggling mid-table when Davids arrived at



After his arrival however, Barcelona managed to get back up on their feet and finish the season as runners-up, only behind winners Valencia. It is not easy at all to have such an astronomical effect on such a club after arriving on a short-term loan deal, but that is exactly what the Dutchman did by turning the tides in Barcelona’s favor, which makes his spell in Spain one of the best loan deals in football history.

Thibaut Courtois

  • Transfer: Chelsea-Atletico Madrid

Chelsea have always had some of the best talents in the world on their roster. Of course many of the talents went on to become world-class players at other clubs, or needed to leave for some time on loan before becoming the best in the business, as younger footballers do not usually get many minutes at a team such as


. That was the case with Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois as well, who was sent out on loan to get more minutes and hone his skills further.

Of course many thought that Chelsea had just gotten rid of the young goalkeeper as they had no plans of keeping him. Even if that was the case, Courtois put everyone to shame with his phenomenal displays week in week out at Atletico Madrid. It did not take long for him to be considered as one of the best loan deals in football history, as with his arrival and Diego Simeone taking charge of the Madrid-based club, Atletico were rejuvenated and finally managed to achieve a breakthrough to become one of the best clubs in Spain.

With Courtois’ help, Atletico were crowned Spanish champions after winning the La Liga in the 2013-14 season. But that is not the only reason why the Belgium international’s spell at Atletico is considered to be one of the best loan deals in football history, as he also helped his former club reach the

Champions League

final, in which they lost to his current club Real Madrid, as the bigger side won the long-awaited La Decima under Carlo Ancelotti.

Courtois did eventually return home to Chelsea and helped them win the Premier League on two occasions in 2015 and 2017, while also winning the FA Cup and the English League Cup with the Blues. But his time at

Atletico Madrid

will forever be a memorable one, as he helped a mediocre club in Spain become one of the most respected and formidable sides in Europe.

Unfortunately for the 28-year-old goalkeeper, Atletico fans are not so much fond of him, despite his spell at the club being one of the best loan deals in football history. The reason for this hatred is quite obvious, as the Belgian ditched his former side to join the royals at

Real Madrid

, whom he has been with since 2018, after he completed a bargain move for €35 million.




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