As the European domestic season enters its critical phase and South America readies itself for the return of league football, clubs on both sides of the Atlantic have been busy reinforcing their squads for the challenges ahead. FIFA.com rounds up all the latest big-name moves in the January transfer window.
Argentinian midfielder Maxi Rodriguez has switched from one famous club enduring a lean spell to another, making the move from Atletico Madrid to Liverpool. Like the struggling Reds, Los Colchoneros exited the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and have long since dropped out of contention for the league title.
In a bid to salvage something from their season and compensate for Rodriguez’s departure, the men from Madrid have drafted in his 19-year-old compatriot Eduardo Salvio, whose goals helped Lanus to an unexpected 2007 Apertura success. Joining him at the Vicente Calderon will be experienced Portuguese international Tiago Mendes, who is anxious to put a disappointing spell at Juventus behind him.
Liga strugglers Real Zaragoza have snapped up Chilean sharpshooter Humberto Suazo in a bid to bolster their front line. El Chupete should be able to do just that, having scored more goals than anyone else in the CONMEBOL qualifying competition for South Africa 2010 and top scored in both the Chilean and Mexican leagues with Colo Colo and Monterrey respectively.
Further swelling the South American ranks in Spain are Argentinian striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who joins Espanyol on loan from Bologna, and Ecuadorian forward Felipe Caicedo, now with Malaga after a stint with Sporting Lisbon.
Suazo’s successor at Colo-Colo, Chilean front man Juan Lorca, has also made the move to Europe, swapping regular title challenges with El Cacique for a relegation dogfight in France with Boulogne. Helping him in his task there will be French midfielder Olivier Kapo, who returns home after stays at Juventus, Levante, Birmingham City and Wigan.
Nice are another side battling against the drop and have turned to two Ligue 1 veterans in an effort to maintain their place in the elite, with Argentinian defender Renato Civelli, formerly of Marseille, joining on loan from San Lorenzo, and one-time PSG midfielder Didier Digard, jetting in from Middlesbrough. Another new arrival with Premier League experience is Turkey’s international striker Colin Kazim-Richards, also known as Kazim Kazim, who has left Fenerbahce for Toulouse. And Lyon will be hoping young Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, a new acquisition from Dinamo Zagreb, can help them sort out their problems at the back.
Argentinian players have accounted for much of the recent transfer activity in Italy, with Fiorentina persuading Porto to part with midfielder Mario Bolatti, a hero in his home country after scoring the goal that sealed La Albiceleste's place in South Africa. Club captain Dario Dainelli has bid farewell to La Viola to sign for Genoa, the most recent port of call for former international striker Luciano Figueroa, who has returned to Argentina to play for Rosario Central. Finally Maxi Lopez, a Champions League winner with Barcelona in 2006, has signed for Catania from Brazilian outfit Gremio.
Arsenal, the side beaten by Catalans on that occasion, have welcomed back former England international Sol Campbell. Following spells at Portsmouth and fourth-tier Notts County, the centre-half has penned a short-term contract that will keep him in north London until the end of the season. Also returning to the Premier League is Egyptian striker Amr Zaki. The scorer of 11 goals for Wigan last term, Zaki joins Hull City on loan from Zamalek. The Latics have been busy in the market as well, loaning out Dutch midfielder Daniel de Ridder to Hapoel Tel Aviv and bringing in Scottish central defender Gary Caldwell from Celtic. Replacing Caldwell at Celtic Park will be Dutchman Joos Hooiveld and the young Norwegian Thomas Rogne,.
Elsewhere, Australian defender Lucas Neill has left Everton for Turkish heavyweights Galatasaray, with South African midfielder Elrio van Heerden joining Turkish outfit Sivasspor from Blackburn Rovers and Ukrainian forward Andriy Voronin swapping the red of Liverpool for the blue and white of Dynamo Moscow. Voronin’s task there will be to replace Russian international Aleksandr Kerzhakov, now back at Zenit St Petersburg. A prolific scorer with CSKA Moscow in the past, Vagner Love has extended his loan stay in Brazil by moving to Flamengo after six months with Palmeiras.
In a bid to relaunch his career after a fruitless move to Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine, Mexican forward Nery Castillo has returned to Olympiakos, the club where he made his name. The Greek giants have also brought in Argentinian midfield man Jesus Datolo on loan from Napoli.
Leandro Gracian, a former team-mate of Datolo’s at Boca Juniors, has left Greece and Aris Salonika to run out for Independiente in the Argentinian first division. The attacking midfielder will be crossing swords there with defender Jonathan Maidana, who has called time on his Ukrainian adventure with Metalist Kharkiv to sign on the dotted line for 2009 Apertura champions Banfield. Staying in Argentina, River Plate will be hoping Uruguayan left-back Juan Manuel Diaz and centre-half Alexis Ferrero, newly acquired from Estudiantes and Colon respectively, can remedy their defensive woes.
We end our latest transfer round-up with news of Messi’s transfer to Angolan side Inter Luanda. Barcelona fans have no cause for concern, however. The Messi in question is not their beloved Lionel, but Cameroonian midfielder Georges Parfait Mbida Messi, previously with Portuguese first division outfit Olhanense.