Exclusive: The best loan signings of 2021-22
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Data Insights
Exclusive: The best loan signings of 2021-22
by Jack Hyom

TransferRoom's latest big data dive reveals the players who gained the most playing time and had the biggest increases in transfer value in loan deals last season.

Many use TransferRoom’s Virtual Loan Assistant, which also provides access to the loan rating system, to help pitch players at the right level and identify the best clubs to provide sufficient game time.

After crunching the numbers on the best clubs at signing loanees and sending players out on loan, TransferRoom has now looked at the individual stars who made the biggest impact and had the greatest increase in market value while on loan across all world leagues in the 2021-22 season.


With the Summer Transfer Window opening in more than 60 countries in June (See our Transfer Window Tracker), Loan Managers are busy identifying the best additions to their first-team squads and destinations for fringe players and young talents.


Many use TransferRoom’s Virtual Loan Assistant, which also provides access to the loan rating system, to help pitch players at the right level and identify the best clubs to provide sufficient game time.


Arsenal duo shine


Arsenal found the right destination for William Saliba and Mattéo Guendouzi last season, who racked up more than 10,000 minutes of playing time between them while on loan with Olympique de Marseille.


Centre-back Saliba, 21, and defensive midfielder Guendouzi, 23, were the only players to pass 5,000 minutes in the 2021-22 campaign while on a temporary deal. 


The pair helped Marseille finish second in Ligue 1, securing UEFA Champions League qualification for the French side.

Guendouzi will make the move to the south of France permanent this summer, while Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is relishing the return of Saliba to their first team for the 2022-23 Premier League campaign. 


“He has to come back," Arteta said after Saliba won the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Season.


"He has the experience and the necessary environment to be competitive with us. If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game a week and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the game time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.”


Third in the list was a player from a French parent club, with Andy Pelmard switching to Swiss side FC Basel 1893 from OGC Nice.


Djed Spence, 21, played a starring role from right-back as Nottingham Forest won promotion to the Premier League, playing 4,388 minutes after joining from Middlesbrough at the end of August.


Top-performing loan players in 2021-22
Rank Player Minutes played Loan club Parent club
1 William Saliba 5100 Marseille Arsenal
2 Mattéo Guendouzi 5093 Marseille Arsenal
3 Andy Pelmard 4570 Basel 1893 OGC Nice
4 Djed Spence 4388 Nott'm Forest Middlesbrough 
5 Manuel Lopes 3942 Felgueiras 1932 Gil Vicente
6 Leonardo Loria 3825 Monopoli 1966 Pisa
7 Akin Famewo 3715 Charlton Norwich
8 Bruno Méndez 3680 Internacional Corinthians
9 Niccolò Corrado 3674 Feralpisalò Inter Milan
10 Amar Dedic 3623 Wolfsberger RB Salzburg


Minutes and matches drive up value


Paris Saint-Germain were rewarded for their utilisation of the loan market with the signing of Portuguese left-back Nuno Mendes in 2021-22.


Mendes, still only 19, joined the French giants on a loan deal from Sporting Lisbon with a view to a permanent transfer in September last year. As a result his Expected Transfer Value (xTV) began at €43.4m when he arrived and, after making 40 appearances across all competitions as PSG won the Ligue 1 title, his xTV increased by €15.3m to €58.7m, the biggest rise in value by any loan player last season.


After signing a permanent deal at the end of May, Mendes said of his loan season: "I think that I have grown as a player. That is my objective."


Serie A clubs were involved in three next-best loan deals by xTV increase.


Champions AC Milan saw Tommaso Pobega return from a temporary move to fellow Italian side Torino FC with a €14.9m rise in xTV. 


Merih Demiral impressed in defence for Atalanta in a season-long switch from Juventus, completing a permanent transfer over the weekend for around €23m, a relative bargain considering his xTV of €35m, and Federico Chiesa's stock rose further in the second year of his 24-month move from Fiorentina to Juve.


The Turin-based club also made the move permanent for the playmaker, a star in Italy's UEFA Euro 2020 triumph last year, this summer.


Signing a loan star following a big rise in xTV is a common theme, with permanent switches for André Zambo Anguissa (to Napoli) and Robin Gosens (to Inter Milan) alongside moves for Mendes, Demiral and Chiesa in the top 10 for increase in value.


Saliba, again, makes an appearance in the top 10. The player was deemed not ready for first-team football at Arsenal in 2021-22, but now returns to North London with more minutes under his belt than any central defender in Europe's top five leagues at a similar age.


And from an asset management point of view, the loan deal has worked in Arsenal's favour, with Saliba's xTV rising 50% to €33m over the course of the season.


Likewise, Inter Milan's decision to send Andrea Pinamonti on loan to Empoli is set to bring financial rewards. The 23-year-old striker scored 13 goals in 36 appearances to help Empoli stay up in Serie A, and his performances have alerted other club's in Italy to his potential availability on a permanent transfer.


While Empoli may be priced out of a move for Pinamonti, their handling of Inter's asset for a season has led to the club's discussing a loan for another young Inter striker, Martin Satriano, for the 2022-23 campaign.


Biggest rise in xTV over loan spell in 2021-22
Rank Player Loan club xTV at start of loan xTV at end of loan Rise in xTV
1 Nuno Mendes Paris Saint-Germain €43.4m €58.7m €15.3m
2 Tommaso Pobega Torino €4.5m €19.4m €14.9m
3 Merih Demiral Atalanta €21m €35m €14m
4 Federico Chiesa Juventus €47.8m €61.5m €13.7m
5 William Saliba Marseille €22m €32.9m €11m
6 Andrea Pinamonti Empoli €9.8m €20.3m €10.5m
7 Joshua Zirkzee Anderlecht €6.4m €16.5m €10.1m
8 Jorge Cuenca Getafe €4.6m €14.2m €9.6m
9 André Zambo Anguissa Napoli €18.7m €27.7m €9m
10 Robin Gosens Inter Milan €26.3m €34.6m €8.3m


Defenders make biggest impact


TransferRoom's loan report has also found the types of players who tend to thrive most while on temporary deals.


Centre-backs had a higher share of playing time than any other position, averaging 50.95% of the available minutes played.


Central defenders aged 23 and under averaged 39.46% of minutes played, the second-highest share after wing-backs (40.47%). Wing-backs were the second-most successful in loan deals across all age groups, with 47.06%.


The players who tended to struggle for game time in 2021-22 were typically forwards or goalkeepers. Strikers averaged 40.46% of minutes played across all ages, while Under-23 goalkeepers made the least impact at first-team level, with the challenge of competing for just one spot in the XI leading to an average share of 27.38% of the available playing time.


Minutes played while on loan by position
Rank Position Avg playing time (All ages) Avg playing time (U23)
1 Centre-back 50.95% 39.46%
2 Wing-back 47.06% 40.47%
3 Midfielder 45.84% 36.47%
4 Goalkeeper 41.65% 27.38%
5 Forward 40.65% 31.52%


Revealed: The best destinations for loan stars in 2021-22

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