Who were the 5 best loan transfers of the 2023/24 season?
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Who were the 5 best loan transfers of the 2023/24 season?

11/05/24 19:25

The loan market can prove to be a huge success for players and clubs alike.

Young players, like Lukaku at West Bromwich Albion, can spark their careers with a loan move. Moving away from Chelsea on a part-time basis had a huge impact on the trajectory of his career, something which may have not transpired without the time to develop handed to him at West Brom.

Not only that, but players who are stagnating at their current club can increase their value and demand by performing on loans. For example, Jesse Lingard taking the opportunity to move to West Ham United. The Englishman thrived in East London and, despite the way his career has gone since, he was a highly sought after asset for a while and eventually earned himself a lucrative contract at Nottingham Forest.

So, with the summer transfer window round the corner, I’m having a look at some of the most successful loans across Europe this season.

Josip Stanisic

What a season Bayer Leverkusen are having. Unbeaten in all competitions and are looking well set to complete a treble of the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, and Europa League. It might seem that these successes have come out of the blue for Leverkusen, but shrewd dealings in the transfer market set this super-team up for their successes.

The loan of Stanisic was no exception. In his first move away from Bayern Munich since he joined their youth teams, Stanisic has thrived. He looks completely ready to play at the level of a Bundesliga winning side, even grabbing the opening goal against his parent club in a 3-0 dismantling.

A versatile and determined defender, he finds his opportunities to play across the pitch and always has an impact no matter where he finds himself.

It’s in the Europa League that Stanisic has really thrived. Ever present in the competition, the Croatian has been vital to their run. He has four assists to his name and grabbed a stoppage time equaliser in the semi-final against Roma to extend Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and secure the clubs place in the final.

Bayern Munich, on the other hand, are having a rare season devoid of silverware. What they do have, is a valuable asset returning to them in summer. Stanisic could come back and become a mainstay in their side - or they could sell on for profit. Either way, Stanisic’ time at Leverkusen has been a great example of a successful loan.

Denis Undav

Continuing with my picks from the Bundesliga, Denis Undav’s move to Stuttgart has reinvigorated his career.

Undav joined Brighton from Union SG for around €7 Million, before spending another season on loan back in Belgium. In his first season in England last year, despite his excellent poaching skills, Undav never really found himself a mainstay in the Seagulls XI. He just wasn’t the sort of striker De Zerbi wanted to lead his team.

So, as he headed to Stuttgart on loan with a €15 Million buy option, there was no real expectation for Undav to tear up the Bundesliga. Stuttgart had stayed up last year via the relegation play-offs, so what they have achieved is nothing short of incredible.

Undav has found the net an impressive 18 times this campaign, as well as providing 10 assists for teammates. In a team where he is not as required in build up play, Undav can thrive off his poaching instincts. Stuttgart sit second, and have already confirmed their place in next season's Champions League, with many thanks to Undav’s contribution spearheading their attack.

In terms of furthering his own career, Undav has earned himself his first call up for the German national team and might be an option considered for Euro 2024.

This is genuinely the definition of a great loan move, Brighton will now make profit on Undav, despite his failure in England. Undav has already expressed his desire to make his move to Stuttgart permanent, which I think would be a smart move given the reasonable price of his buy option.

Omari Hutchinson

Next stop on my list is the Championship, Ipswich just confirmed their second successive promotion with a major contribution from Omari Hutchinson.

After his move across London from Arsenal to Chelsea, came Chelsea’s insane spending spree. Cole Palmer came in from Manchester City this year and has had an incredible impact on Chelsea’s team, unfortunately for Hutchinson who shares a position with the young star.

The Jamaican international has played a huge role in a fairytale season for the Tractor Boys, bagging 16 G/A at just 20 years of age. He earned the Sky Bet Championship player of the month award for February, as well as Ipswich Town’s young player of the year award.

Hutchinson has had a lot of hype surrounding him from a young age, and sometimes players in his position find it difficult to showcase their talents, but not Hutchinson.

Given his presence in Ipswich’s XI this year, and the sheer numbers he has put up, it would be impossible not to include Hutchinson in this list. He looks exactly like the player the media speculated he would be, and could well develop into a future star at a continental level.

Given the cash-flow involved in gaining promotion to the Premier League; Ipswich may well look to re-sign Hutchinson on a permanent basis, which is something that Hutchinson himself has flirted with the idea of. Given the potential Hutchinson has, Chelsea won’t let him go for cheap, but I think he’ll warrant any price tag Chelsea slap on him.

Ian Maatsen

Just like that, my list takes me back to the Bundesliga once more.

Ian Maatsen is the definition of a loan star. Smashed it at Charlton and Coventry, won the league with Burnley and is now proving his talent at Borussia Dortmund. The left-sided player is living proof that loans are a perfect platform for young players to shine.

After signing on loan in January, Maatsen has helped Dortmund reach the Champions League final at Wembley. He’s been a mainstay in their team and popped up with goals and assists too when needed.

Yet at Chelsea, who quite frankly struggle in the left-back position, Maatsen’s minutes were limited. He’d proven himself at Championship level, and judging by his Dortmund form, he was clearly ready for the step up to first team football at Chelsea. In all fairness, Chelsea’s hierarchy are not exactly known for their clever decision making.

Despite it being a mistake in my opinion, shipping off Maatsen for another season has proved to be a very good decision for Dortmund’s sake. The yellow wall have taken to the flying Dutchman and he’s playing the best football of his career at a Champions League level.

No matter where Maatsen’s future lies, this loan can only be seen as a positive when it comes to Maatsen’s career and development.

Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho is a seriously good footballer.

Shocker. We’re not only back in Germany, but we’re back at Borussia Dortmund He tore it up at Dortmund after signing from Manchester City in 2017. In 2019/20 the Englishman managed to rack up 17 goals and 17 assists, he was every club’s dream signing. It seemed to everyone that he would always end at Manchester United, and after a lengthy saga he arrived at the Red Devils in 2021.

Things didn’t exactly go to plan though, Sancho’s output wasn’t good enough and he was the constant target of abuse from ‘fans’ of the club.

So, when Sancho returned to Dortmund on loan this winter, I wasn’t sure if he would ever return to his previous form. I wouldn’t say he’s quite reached those levels, with 4 G/A in the league so far. However, what we have seen is the confidence and swagger the winger once played with returned to his game.

I cannot imagine how good this loan has been for the technically blessed player, returning to a club where he is beloved, where the fans know just how good he is, and a club where he can play his game without fear of abuse. Sancho is back playing week in week out and putting up consistently good performances.

Without a doubt, this loan is exactly what Sancho needed and is one of my favourite examples of a loan transfer reinvigorating a player's career. Dortmund are looking to keep him on a permanent basis and it looks like this successful loan means Sancho’s nightmare stint at the Theatre of Dreams might be coming to an end.

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