No sooner has the old season finished than Europe's clubs
have started to prepare for the new one. Although the weeks ahead
will no doubt provide their fair share of bargains, sound deals and
sensations, quite a few players have already switched employers.
FIFA.com is here to round up all the latest
to-ings and fro-ings in the transfer market.
Accustomed to reinforcing their squad on a regular basis to ensure continued success and stay on top in Germany, Bayern Munich have been forced to change tack this summer. The priority for the Bavarian giants is to erase memories of one of the worst seasons in their history, one that saw the four-time European champions finish ten points adrift of champions VfB Stuttgart and miss out on a UEFA Champions League spot altogether. Hence the urgent need for the club's directors to get the club back on track. The response has not been long in coming, with the first recruits having already made their way to Munich: German international Jan Schlaudraff (Aix-la-Chapelle) and Marcell Jansen (Borussia Monchengladbach) being joined by Turkey's Hamit Haltintop (Schalke 04).
Arguably the most spectacular swoop of all, however, was the signing of FIFA World Cup™ winner Luca Toni. The 30-year-old Italian goal machine has just enjoyed four stunning seasons in Serie A, banging in 101 goals in 158 games for Palermo and then Fiorentina. Joining him in Bayern's all-new front line will be Franck Ribery, the young Olympique Marseille and France star. Courted by some of Europe's biggest suitors, the man who won a runners-up medal at Germany 2006 has decided his future lies in Bavaria, where he will join up with Les Bleus team-mate Willy Sagnol.
Good housekeeping, Leverkusen-style
Bayern are not the only German side to make some early signings. Determined not to rest on their championship laurels, Stuttgart have lured old boy Yildiray Basturk back after a three-season stint with Hertha Berlin. One man who is staying in the capital is the Turkish international's former team-mate, Christian Gimenez. Previously on loan from Olympique Marseille, where he managed just one goal in 21 appearances, the Argentinian striker has rediscovered his goal touch with Hertha, making the move permanent one after netting ten goals this season.
Over in Leverkusen, Bayer are expecting great things of the Bundesliga's top scorer Theofanis Gekas after persuading Bochum to part with the free-scoring Greek. The onerous task of filling the void left by Gekas will fall to the 24-year-old Slovakian Stanislav Sestak, newly arrived from MSK Zilina. Meanwhile, Eintracht Frankfurt have also been getting in on the act, snapping up Japanese international Junichi Inamoto from Galatasaray and reuniting him with fellow countryman Naohiro Takahara on the banks of the Main. Finally, Hamburg SV have secured the services of Egypt's Mohamed Zidan, whose 13 goals in 14 games in the latter part of the season were not enough to save FSV Mainz from the dreaded drop.
Portuguese lessons for Sir Alex
The English transfer market is well known for its ability to grab the headlines, and this time around it has been the reigning champions who have been making the news. In the space of a week Manchester United have finally persuaded Bayern Munich to sell England international Owen Hargreaves, while also snapping up two of the most promising youngsters on the planet.
Following the twinkle-toed Cristiano Ronaldo's sparkling adaptation to English football, the men from Old Trafford have returned to Portugal for a mini shopping spree, splashing out on Sporting Lisbon's 21-year-old Portuguese international Nani, and FC Porto's Brazilian sensation Anderson, two years his junior.
Runners-up to the Red Devils in the Premiership, Chelsea have also turned to Munich to strengthen an already imposing front line. Joining Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Andriy Shevchenko in the Blues' strike force next season is Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, who bids farewell to the Bundesliga after notching 100 goals in eight seasons with Werder Bremen and Bayern. Pizarro will be linking up with Steve Sidwell at Stamford Bridge, the 24-year-old midfielder earning a big-money move after helping the unglamorous Reading secure an outstanding eighth-place finish in their first-ever season in the English top flight.
Intent on keeping their powder dry for the weeks to come, Arsenal and Liverpool have both made relatively low-key starts to their recruitment drives. The only activity from the Gunners so far has been the signing of Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski from Legia Warsaw, while the Reds have secured the signature of Ukrainian forward Andriy Voronin from Bayer Leverkusen. Also heading to Anfield are youngsters Lucas Leiva, the Brazil U-20 captain and Copa Libertadores finalist with Gremio, and Portsmouth midfielder Matthew Taylor, the scorer of eight goals this season, including an amazing strike from fully 45 yards against Everton.
Harry Redknapp's Pompey have sought to offset the loss of Taylor by bringing in the experienced duo of Sylvain Distin (Manchester City) and Hermann Hreidarsson (Charlton) as well as Sulley Muntari, Udinese's enterprising midfielder. Never slow when it comes to getting the cheque book out, Bolton have already brought in the Swiss Blerim Dzemaili (FC Zurich), Frenchman Gerald Cid (Bordeaux) and English defender Jlloyd Samuel, an Aston Villa man since 1998.
After only assuring their Premiership status on the last day of the season, Wigan and West Ham have wasted no time in bolstering their squads. While the Latics have acquired the services of Newcastle United's out-of-contract duo Antoine Sibierski and Titus Bramble free of charge, the Hammers have spent £7m pounds (€10,5m) on luring Scott Parker away from the Magpies. Heading into St James' Park is former Manchester City captain Joey Barton, where he will be joined by Australian centre-forward Mark Viduka.
Elsewhere, Tottenham completed the signing of sought-after 17-year-old Welsh starlet Gareth Bale from Southampton, while newly promoted Birmingham City have signed Fabrice Muamba on a permanent basis after a one-year loan from Arsenal. Stuart Parnaby will be linking up with him at St Andrews after seven seasons of loyal service at Middlesbrough.
Celtic-Rangers, the rivalry continues
As usual, the two Glasgow giants have been the biggest wheelers and dealers north of the border. Age-old rivals on the pitch, the duo regularly vie with each other for the league's top players. As if to illustrate the point, Celtic have just snatched Australian striker Scott McDonald (Motherwell) and Scottish prodigy Scott Brown (Hibernian) from under the noses of their old rivals when both looked Ibrox-bound.
The pugnacious Brown will link up at Celtic Park with his former
Hibernian team-mate, the New Zealand international Chris Killen.
Walter Smith's Gers shrugged off their disappointment by
agreeing terms with hard-running hitman Jean-Claude Darcheville,
who has performed with distinction for Rennes, Nottingham Forest,
Lorient and Bordeaux.
In contrast to the frenetic activity in the UK, things are a good deal quieter further south. A case in point is France, where all eyes are on the managerial merry-go-round, relegating whatever transfer activity there is to the inside pages. Six-time champions Lyon arranged the signing of Sedan's Algerian defender Nadir Belhadj back in December, while Ligue 1 runners-up Marseille have begun reshuffling their pack by bringing in Rennes defender Jacques Faty and midfielder Vincent Gragnic, signed from second division outfit Libourne Saint-Seurin.
It is much the same story in Italy. While the managers have been coming and going, only Fiorentina have made any noteworthy moves in the market, building for the future by picking up a trio of 19-year-olds: Belgian Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), and Czech duo Ondrej Mazuch (Brno) and Jan Hable (Hradec Kralove). One man who does not see his future in Italy is Messina's Marc Zoro. After a five-season stint with the Sicilians ended in relegation this season, Zoro has signed on the dotted line for Benfica. For their part, the Lisbon club's arch-rivals FC Porto have landed the promising Brazilian Fernando Francisco Reges, who is busy preparing for FIFA U-20 World Cup duty with the Auriverde.
Turkey beckons for La Liga icon
Across in Spain, clubs are focusing their energies on the impending denouement of the league season, although there has already been a good deal of activity. Real Madrid have started to build for next term by acquiring the reliable defensive skills of Christoph Metzelder, a rock at the heart of the Borussia Dortmund defence since 2000, and a cornerstone of Germany's run to third place at last year's FIFA World Cup on home soil.
City neighbours Atletico Madrid have lined up the signing of Santos midfielder Cleber Santana, while Mallorca will draft in River Plate's German Lux for goalkeeping duties next season. One other piece of news to emerge from Spain is the departure of one of La Liga's mainstays at the end of the season.
After 11 seasons of unstinting dedication at the Bernabeu,
Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos is set to wear the famous white
jersey for the last time. The world champion's destination
after a richly successful career with the Spanish powerhouses that
saw him amass two Intercontinental Cups, three UEFA Champions
Leagues and three league championships (possibly to be followed by
a fourth in the next few days) is Istanbul's Fenerbahce,
currently coached by another Brazilian legend, Zico.
A little further west, over in Greece, yet another legend of the Seleçao is making the headlines. Having graced Olympiacos with his sublime skills for the last three seasons, Rivaldo has just switched allegiances to bitter rivals AEK Athens.
On the other side of the Atlantic, it promises to be a busier-than-usual transfer season following Los Angeles Galaxy's stunning January announcement of David Beckham's forthcoming move stateside. LA-based fans of soccer and unusual haircuts will also have welcomed the news that former Benfica, Everton and AS Roma man Abel Xavier will line up alongside the flamboyant Englishman at the Galaxy. Seemingly inspired by the Californian side's transactions, Chicago Fire have secured the flair and goalscoring nous of Mexico's inimitable Cuauhtemoc Blanco, further proof, if it were needed, that entertainment will not be in short supply in the MLS over the coming months.
And this is only the start. The transfer extravaganza will run all the way through to 31 August, so make sure you keeping logging on to FIFA.com for in-depth news on all the latest deals on Planet Football.