With the new season fast approaching, clubs across the globe have been busy rebuilding and enhancing their teams in order to face the tough challenges ahead and meet the expectations of demanding fans.
FIFA.com reviews the main moves of the last couple of weeks, during which time a clear trend has emerged: proven strikers and promising youngsters are in high demand.
Having recently attracted the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Radamel Falcao, Ligue 1 had already ensured that watching fans would be entertained by two of the world’s greatest goalscorers.
The membership of that elite club has now been extended to three, as French champions Paris Saint-Germain have persuaded Uruguay and Napoli front man Edinson Cavani – top scorer in Serie A last season – to swap the Stadio San Paolo for the Parc des Princes.
“They laid out their great plans to me, and that’s why I decided to come,” he explained after putting pen to paper in Paris. “I’ve always wanted to test myself. I had an amazing experience with Napoli, but now I’m here to win the Champions League and the French title, because that’ll help me to grow as a player.”
Naples-based supporters can rest assured that their team will continue to find the net, however, as the man brought in to replace the departing Cavani is none other than Argentinian dangerman Gonzalo Higuain, who scored over 120 goals during his time with Real Madrid, and has another 20 to his name when representing La Albiceleste.
Higuain’s compatriot Javier Saviola only netted on five occasions in his difficult spell at Real, but he has more than made up for that at other big-name clubs such as River Plate, Barcelona, Monaco and Benfica. A recent Olympiacos acquisition, the South American will attempt to improve on his nine-goal haul with Malaga last season.
David Trezeguet’s career also included a successful stint at River Plate, but having now turned 35, the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ winner found himself excluded from Los Millonarios’ plans. However, the Frenchman was swiftly snapped up by Newell’s Old Boys, a club that will offer him a new type of challenge.
“Just a month ago, River were telling me that I was no longer needed. And now I’ve just signed for the Argentinian champions and will get the chance to play in the Copa Libertadores,” said the former Juventus star.
This season, Trezeguet may well cross paths with two other newly arrived attackers who enjoyed success in Italy. Six years after leaving for new pastures, the last five of which were spent at Lazio and Inter Milan, Argentinian Mauro Zarate has returned to Velez Sarsfield, his first professional club.
Brazilian Julio Baptista has also come back to his homeland, moving to Cruzeiro from Malaga ten years after rising to prominence at Sao Paulo. The Brazil international pulled on the jersey of Roma between 2008 and 2011.
Also coming full circle is Fabrizio Miccoli, who has rejoined his boyhood heroes, Lecce, a club he had long dreamed of representing – even in Serie C, the league in which they will perform during the upcoming season – during a free-scoring career that saw him enthral supporters at Juventus, Fiorentina, Benfica and Palermo.
Yet another marksman bidding farewell to Serie A is Montenegro’s Stefan Jovetic, one of the first names on the Fiorentina teamsheet since his arrival in 2008, who is now faced with the not insignificant challenge of establishing himself at Manchester City, a task that may have got even trickier following the decision of Spanish international Alvaro Negredo to join the Citizens from Sevilla.
Another notable striker embarking on a new adventure is nomadic Brazilian Vagner Love, who will ply his trade in the Chinese League this term following his transfer from CSKA Moscow to Shandong Luneng. Love first exported his clinical finishing skills to Russia in 2004, but has since enjoyed fruitful spells with Palmeiras and Flamengo as well.
Nicolas Anelka, who left China for Juventus in January but failed to make a substantial impression, will return to more familiar territory this campaign. After defending the colours of English Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea, the Frenchman has committed himself to West Bromwich Albion.
Aside from tried-and-tested forwards, young players have been very much in the transfer market spotlight recently. Midfielder Thiago, 22 years of age and on-form captain of the Spain team that swept to victory in June’s UEFA European U-21 Championship, was involved in one of the more high-profile moves, quitting Barcelona to reunite with former mentor Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
This year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup certainly did not go unnoticed by clubs looking to bolster their squads with youthful talent. PSG’s busy summer continued with the capture of Lille left-back Lucas Digne, a key component in France’s trophy-winning side, while Udinese swooped for Ghana’s Clifford Aboagye, voted third best performer at the tournament, and immediately sent the midfield man on loan to Spanish outfit Granada after his arrival from Inter Allies.
The Zebrette will be able to count on the player that finished one position above Aboagye in the voting at Turkey 2013, attacking prodigy Nicolas Lopez, who has left Roma to join forces with fellow Uruguayan Gonzalo Bueno – a feature for Montevideo-based Nacional since 2011 – at Stadio Friuli.
Elsewhere, their precocious countryman, 18-year-old Jose Gimenez, has departed Danubio to become an Atletico Madrid player.
South American youngsters have been considerably sought after during this pre-season transfer window, none more so than Chilean defender Cristian Cuevas, who has exited O’Higgins in favour of Chelsea, and skilful Colombian Juan Quintero, whose fine performances for Pescara and at the FIFA U-20 World Cup persuaded Porto to add him to their squad.
In addition to penalty-box specialists and unpolished gems, clubs were also active plugging gaps in other areas of the pitch. Napoli lead the way by betting on experience in the shape of Spanish FIFA World Cup stalwarts Pepe Reina and Raul Albiol, signed from Liverpool and Real Madrid respectively.
Roma have strengthened their defence with the recruitment of Brazilian right-back Maicon, who makes a grand return to Italy one year after his transfer from Inter Milan to Manchester City, and Moroccan midfielder Mehdi Benatia, who had previously been at Udinese for three seasons.
City rivals Lazio, meanwhile, have put their faith in Argentinian defensive midfielder Lucas Biglia, acquired from Anderlecht, while Catania have picked up former Lyon defender Fabian Monzon, who spent the last six months on loan at Fluminense, a move which increases the number of Argentinians at the club to an astounding 14.