Meet Nottingham Forest’s 21 summer transfers: Awoniyi, Henderson and more

It won’t have escaped your notice that Nottingham Forest have been rather busy on the transfer front this summer as the newly promoted club look to make a splash on their big return to the Premier League.

Indeed, Forest managed to set a new British record with the 21 signings they’ve made in the 2022 summer window. That beats the previous record of 19 by one club in a single transfer window, previously held by Scottish sides Dundee (summer of 2000) and Livingston (2001.)

Back in their glorious pomp, Forest won the European Cup twice consecutively under legendary manager Brian Clough in 1979 and 1980 — that’s two more European Cups than Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have ever managed — and were founder members of the Premier League in 1992-93. But fluctuating fortunes saw them ousted from the top flight in 1998-99. What followed was 23 long years of second and third-tier football — a painful span for one of the most decorated clubs in English football history.

Manager Steve Cooper took over in September 2021 with the team rock bottom of the table and somehow managed to propel the perennial sleeping giants back to the promised land by beating Huddersfield at Wembley in the Championship playoff final.

Yet his promotion-winning squad was quickly disassembled over the ensuing off-season as various loan deals came to an end, contracts expired and several surplus players were released. Important core players such as James Garner, Philip Zinckernagel, Max Lowe, Keinan Davis and Djed Spence returned to their respective parent clubs, while first-choice goalkeeper and playoff penalty hero Brice Samba was reluctantly allowed to return to Lens.

In total, around 20 players left the City Ground over the summer, leaving Cooper and his colleagues with the unenviable task of restocking their decimated squad. But little time was wasted, with Forest embarking on a rolling spree to sign a frankly absurd 21 players between June 25 and Sept. 1 thanks to Evangelos Marinakis, Forest’s majority owner.

To put that in context, that comfortably eclipses the incoming transfers at all of the Premier League’s Big Six clubs — Manchester City (5), Manchester United (6), Liverpool (4), Chelsea (9), Arsenal (5) and Spurs (8), as well as other major European sides like Barcelona (7), Real Madrid (2), Bayern Munich (6) and Paris Saint-Germain (7).

So exactly who makes up Forest’s vast troupe of summer signings? Let’s meet them all (in chronological order) …

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1. Taiwo Awoniyi (£17.5m, Union Berlin)

The first of the summer arrivals to break the club’s transfer record (but not the last), ex-Liverpool striker Awoniyi was plucked from Union Berlin after scoring 20 goals in 43 games for the German club last season.

2. Dean Henderson (season-long loan, Manchester United)

On the books at Manchester United from the age of 14, Henderson progressed through the youth ranks but was regularly sent out on loan in search of experience, eventually cracking the Premier League while on loan with Sheffield United in 2020-21. The goalkeeper went onto make 13 league appearances for United the following season but with David de Gea impossible to shake off the No. 1 spot, the 25-year-old opted for yet another loan at Forest in a bid to advance his chances of making England‘s 2022 World Cup squad.

3. Giulian Biancone (£9m, Troyes)

A 22-year-old full-back who started his career with Monaco before taking in unremarkable stints at Monaco’s Belgian partner club Cercle Brugge and back in France with Ligue 1 side Troyes, for whom he played 33 times last season.

4. Moussa Niakhate (£9m, Mainz 05)

An former under-21 international for France, the tough 26-year-old centre-back was a mainstay for Mainz over the past few years, making well over 120 Bundesliga appearances for the club in his four-year stint in Germany.

5. Omar Richards (£7.7m, Bayern Munich)

Not many players can claim to have transferred directly between Reading and Bayern Munich but that’s exactly the path taken by left-back Richards when he signed for the German giants in the summer of 2021. The former England U21 international made just five league starts for the Bavarians in his debut year and therefore felt the time was right to cut his contract short and return to England.

6. Neco Williams (£18m, Liverpool)

One of Forest’s bigger summer expenditures saw Wales international Williams arrive at the City Ground. The 21-year-old right-back came through the academy ranks at Liverpool but was restricted to just a handful of first-team appearances after finding himself stuck behind the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold in the pecking order.

7. Wayne Hennessey (free, Burnley)

Brought in as experienced back-up for Henderson, the 35-year-old Wales goalkeeper has played 183 times in the Premier League over the years for Wolves, Crystal Palace and Burnley.

8. Brandon Aguilera (£855k, LD Alajuelense)

The young Costa Rica international midfielder was signed by Forest as an U23 player and immediately sent back out on loan to former side Guanacasteca, where he previously spent the 2021-22 campaign on loan from Alajuelense.

9. Lewis O’Brien (£8.5m, Huddersfield Town)

Despite being part of the Huddersfield team that lost against Forest in the Championship playoff final, central defender O’Brien still managed to squeeze his way up into the Premier League by simply signing for the winning team.

10. Harry Toffolo (£2.2m, Huddersfield Town)

The second Terrier to sign for Forest after losing out at Wembley, full-back Toffolo completed his move to the City Ground on the same day as teammate O’Brien in a £10m double swoop.

11. Jesse Lingard (free, Manchester United)

After being deemed surplus to Erik ten Hag’s requirements, Lingard was allowed to leave Manchester United on a free transfer. Despite former club West Ham making their interest known, the 29-year-old England international opted to join Forest on a one-year deal.

12. Orel Mangala (£11.7m, Stuttgart)

Mangala has represented Belgium all the way up from under-15s to full senior level. After beginning his career with Anderlecht, the combative defensive midfielder joined Stuttgart in 2017 and went onto make over 100 appearances for the German club.

13. Emmanuel Dennis (£20m, Watford)

Forest made a song and dance about their signing of Dennis from Watford after the striker scored 10 goals in the Premier League last season. Unfortunately the 24-year-old’s impressive output wasn’t enough to prevent the Hornets from being relegated.

14. Cheikhou Kouyate (free, Crystal Palace)

Able to play in midfield or defence, the versatile 32-year-old Senegal international is well seasoned when it comes to the rigours of the Premier League, having played 261 times in the top flight with West Ham and Crystal Palace.

15. Remo Freuler (£7.6m, Atalanta BC)

Freuler spent his early career in his native Switzerland before joining Italian side Atalanta in 2016. The midfielder made over 200 appearances for the Serie A outfit before making the switch to Forest this summer, also winning 46 caps for his national side in the process.

16. Morgan Gibbs-White (£27m, Wolverhampton Wanderers)

The second deal to break Forest’s club transfer record over the course of the summer saw Gibbs-White reunited with Cooper, having previously played under the Welshman as part of England’s 2017 Under-17 World Cup-winning team. The 22-year-old forward, whose fee could rise to £42.5m with add-ons, spent the 2021-22 season on loan with Sheffield United in the Championship, scoring 11 goals in 35 games.

17. Hwang Ui-Jo (£3.6m, Bordeaux)

The 30-year-old South Korea international striker was signed on a permanent deal and loaned to Olympiakos for the 2022-23 season. The Greek club are also owned by Marinakis, Forest’s majority owner.

18. Renan Lodi (loan, Atletico Madrid)

Brazilian left-back Lodi joined Atletico Madrid in 2019 and played over 80 times for the Spanish club, even scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16 last season. He joins Forest on loan for the season.

19. Willy Boly (£2.3m, Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Experienced centre-back Boly was the first new face to show up at Forest on deadline day as the 31-year-old defender signed a two-year deal after making it clear he wanted to move from Wolves.

20. Josh Bowler (£2.1m, Blackpool)

The signing that broke the British record for number of signings, 23-year-old winger Bowler was brought in from Blackpool on transfer deadline and immediately loaned out to Olympiakos for the remainder of the season.

21. Loic Bade (loan, Rennes)

The final, record-extending signing of a hectic summer window for Forest saw right-back Bade join on a season-long loan from Ligue 1 side Rennes.

22. ??

There were reports circulating late in the day that Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi might sneak through as signing No. 22. but a delay in negotiations saw a deal for the Belgium striker fall through just as the window closed. However, former Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier is a free agent and could yet arrive.

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