Written by Jon Clarke
You can’t make a first impression twice. A phrase as true to fashion as it is to football. And while you might be a little jaded by all of the Mo Salah hype, we thought it was worth ranking his amazing debut season alongside others in the Premier League. Where does he fit into our top five?
5. Jens Lehmann
Sometimes good goalkeepers can be taken for granted can’t they? They go under the radar more than a star striker. But every now and again a goalkeeper comes along that is universally appreciated. We’re talking about that lovably ponytailed, moustache wearing David Seaman.
Following in his footsteps at Arsenal was no small task, and when Jens Lehmann arrived from Borussia Dortmund, he might have felt a little daunted. If he did, it didn’t show.
In his first season at the club, Lehmann tallied a colossal 54 games, and helped Arsenal to achieve a sensational unbeaten campaign. He conceded just 26 goals.
He may not have won as many titles or FA Cups as Seaman, but the maverick German - who earned the nickname ‘Mad Jens’ for acts like this - stole the hearts of many Gunners fans across the world. We think his amazing debut season played a big part in doing so.
4. Fernando Torres
What’s a real shame is that Torres will be remembered by many people for his massively disappointing stint at Chelsea. But before this, he spent four glorious years at Liverpool - and none of those years were perhaps as glorious as his debut in 2007.
With 24 goals in 29 games, Torres smashed Nistelrooy’s most prolific foreign player debut season record. Torres was the first player since Robbie Fowler to score 20 league goals in a season. Oh and, for a bonus stat - he was the first player in over 60 years to score consecutive home hattricks in the league. He finished third in the Ballon d’Or in 2008 because of such form, and won Euro 2008 with Spain.
The memories Liverpool fans will have of Torres will be very different from the ones Chelsea fans have, but we think his exploits at the Merseyside club are worthy of a place in this list.
3. Mohamed Salah
The man of the moment. What a debut season Mo Salah has had. 43 goals in 50 games. They’re the kind of stats we’ve only seen the likes of Messi and Ronaldo hit in recent years. Come to think of it, if Liverpool manage to conquer Real Madrid in the Champions League final later this month, Salah is in prime position to swipe the Ballon d’Or from their stronghold - becoming the first player to win it (other than Messi and Ronaldo) since Kaka back in 2007. Anyway, that’s all hypothetical, let’s talk about what has happened.
Salah joined Liverpool from Roma for a club record fee of £37 million. He came with a big reputation, but nobody could have quite foreseen what has unfolded since. Even the Roma president has said Liverpool got an ‘unbelievable bargain’ in hindsight.
He’s made scoring look effortless and has been clocked at 34.93km/h at full speed (that’s 22mph). The Egyptian is a force to be reckoned with and all eyes will be on him in the Champions League final and indeed the World Cup later this summer. However, from a debut season perspective, he just misses out on the runners-up spot...
2. Sergio Aguero
Easily one of the most iconic moments in Premier League history… AGUEROOOOO! Whether you’re a City fan or not, the way in which they won the 2012 Premier League was nothing short of breath taking. For that goal alone, Sergio Aguero deserves to be in this list.
It was his debut season after all, and his goal in the 94th minute against QPR clinched Manchester City’s first title in 44 years. He scored 30 goals in 48 appearances in his debut season, and was subsequently named Manchester City’s Player of the Year.
He has since gone on to score more than 140 goals in 206 appearances for the club and, though he’s acquired a significant injury which could put him out of this year’s World Cup, Aguero has already sealed his status as a City legend.
1. N’Golo Kante
Just when you thought you’d seen it all after the Aguero magic in 2012, up step Leicester City in 2016 and win the Premier League, in what is definitely one of Football’s biggest upsets of all time. At the heart of this season-long romance was a player pulling the strings every bit as good as a Pirlo or Iniesta. Unlike other players on this list, Kante didn’t have a particularly big reputation. He joined Leicester from Ligue 2 side Caen for just £5.6 million, and what a bargain he turned out to be.
His selfless play, endless endurance and impeccable vision single handedly orchestrated Leicester’s famous title victory. He averages just shy of 12km per game, making him one of the hardest working players in the league. This has earned him all kinds of esteemed admirers, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Thierry Henry and Frank Lampard
It’s for his sheer impact on the team, the fact he came with no reputation or expectation, and the feat which was achieved, that Kante has to take our number one spot.
And the Kante effect was obvious when he left for the lure of Chelsea’s millions the following season, as Leicester slumped to a finish. Guess where the Kante-driven Chelsea finished? See below.
Twice in two years: Kante lifting the Premier League trophy yet again, this time with Chelsea in 2017.