Early action in transfer window
© AFP

As we enter 2008, the big stores are all being overrun by shoppers seeking to rejuvenate their wardrobe at bargain prices, and the same goes for most football clubs. Whether keen to ring the changes in an underachieving squad or to build on a successful first half-season, each outfit is likely to spend the next month seeking to unearth that rare pearl. And even though the window remains open until midnight on 31 January, many have wasted no time utilising their chequebooks.

A particularly brisk start to trading was seen in Germany, where the transfer merry-go-round eased into motion as early as December. Having been highly active in the summer market, Bayern Munich made a further investment ahead of the Bundesliga's lengthy winter break in the shape of young Brazilian prodigy Breno. Despite having only just turned eighteen, the Sao Paulo defender playing a leading role in the Tricolor Paulista's recent Brazilian Championship conquest and is eager to form an all-Brazilian central rearguard alongside Lucio.

One defender's arrival has signalled another's departure. Having slipped down the pecking order behind the two Brazilians, Daniel van Buyten and also Martin Demichelis, the Frenchman Valerien Ismael has opted to join Hanover. Previously plagued by injury, the former Lens and Strasbourg man hopes to rediscover the form that helped him lift the league and cup double with Werder Bremen in 2004 and with Bayern in 2006.

"I was determined to stay in the Bundesliga and Hanover is a club with European ambitions that I can really identify with," he declared when putting pen to paper. "The coach, directors and chairman want to achieve things and that's what convinced me to come here."

Stuttgart, meanwhile, have chosen to bolster their attacking options by signing the Romanian Sergiu Radu on loan from Wolfsburg. Recruited as cover for the injured Mario Gomez and Cacau, Radu links up with his compatriot Ciprian Marica in the reigning champion's forward line.

As for last season's runners-up Schalke 04, it is hoped that the arrival of the German midfielder Albert Streit from Eintracht Frankfurt will help them to do at least as well this year. Streit's former club have themselves moved swiftly to acquire the services of the diminutive Czech wunderkind Martin Fenin. Spearhead of the Czech side that finished second at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, the lad from FK Teplice had been on the shopping list of the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus and Werder Bremen.

Other noteworthy acquisitions by German clubs include the Bosnian Ivan Radeljic, and the Serbs Branko Jelic and Dusan Vasiljevic. Having joined Energie Cottbus, this trio will have their work cut out keeping the Brandenburg region side in the top flight. Elsewhere, German cup-holders Nuremberg have brought on board the dependable French defender Jacques Abardonado. After starting out with Marseille, Pancho became one of the symbols of Nice, making 173 appearances for them since 2002.

Disruption in Ligue 1
With Nigerian Taye Taiwo ready to serve his country in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Marseille have reacted by drafting in Boca Juniors' 28-year-old defender Juan Angel Krupoviesa. enowned as a great competitor, the left wingback was on the verge of the Argentina national team before suffering a knee injury in November 2006.

Fit again, he has lost none of his ambition and is bent on helping OM recover from a substandard start to the season. "It's a big club and I want to do my bit to help them get back where they belong in the upper reaches of the table and in doing so, maybe get back in the national team frame," he announced.

Alongside him at OM will be a couple of other fresh faces; the Ivorian striker Kanga Akale, on loan from Lens, and Burkina Faso defensive midfielder Charles Kabore, picked up from second division side Libourne Saint-Seurin. Heading the other way through the revolving door, meanwhile, is the Algerian attacking midfielder Salim Arrache, who is being loaned to Toulouse.

Lens are another side considerably weakened by the absence of their African internationals. Up front, new recruit Toifilou Maoulida will be out to fill the void left by Aruna Dindane. Out of favour at Auxerre, the former Marseille man has only found the target once so far this season and will be desperate to erase the memory of his double penalty miss nightmare against Bordeaux at the start of the season. Another misfiring striker, PSG's Pierre-Alain Frau, has opted for a move to Lille to try to get his season - and career - back on track.

The calm before the storm?
Normally the scene of feverish activity, the transfer market in England is, for now at least, uncharacteristically sluggish. One of few noteworthy additions to the Premier League ranks is the Mexican Nery Castillo, who has joined Manchester City from Shakhtar Donetsk. One of the revelations of the last Copa America, the talented international will endeavour to aid the Citizens' drive to disrupt the hegemony of the big four; Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, have snapped up the Israeli international midfielder Tamir Cohen from Maccabi Netanya. Aged 23, the son of former Liverpool defender Avi Cohen boasts three caps for his national side.

Among the big guns, Manchester United's solitary new recruit contrasts sharply with their stellar list of summer acquisitions. After splashing out millions on Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez, the Red Devils are for the moment contenting themselves with the acquisition of a player unknown in Europe, the Angolan international Manucho. The scorer of two goals in ten appearances for the Palencas Negras, the 24-year-old striker has twice finished top scorer in his domestic championship with Luanda-based Petro Atletico.

This New Year, the accent in England appears to be on investment in the future. Tottenham Hotspur, for example, have secured the services of the 18-year-old Welshman Chris Gunter, while Liverpool and Everton have respectively recruited 16-year-old Scot Alex Cooper and 17-year-old Englishman Dan Gosling. Current league leaders Arsenal, meanwhile, have restricted themselves to recalling the young Swiss defender Johan Djourou, loaned to Birmingham City at the start of the season but now required by Arsene Wenger to stand in for Ivorian rock Kolo Toure while he is on international duty.

Banega boost for Valencia
The situation is pretty much the same in Spain, where the summer's lively wheeling and dealing has given way to a period of winter calm. Among La Liga's big hitters, Sevilla have seen their German defender Andreas Hinkel depart for Celtic in Scotland after losing his right-sided defensive berth in the Andalusian side to Daniel Alves.

As for Valencia, in relative crisis after early elimination from the UEFA Champions League and an ignominious seventh place in La Liga, 15 points behind Real Madrid, the feel-good factor may have been restored by having secured the great bargain of this transfer window. The deal in question done by LosChes concerns Boca Juniors' Ever Banega, 19, the latest jewel to emerge from the Argentine league's rich seam of talent.

Elsewhere in Europe, the coup of the New Year appears to have been pulled off by Greece's Olympiacos, who have beaten the continent's big guns in the race to sign Fernando Belluschi, the River Plate playmaker. In Belgium, meanwhile, the 31-year-old Czech international striker Stanislav Vlcek, has joined Anderlecht from Slavia Prague, while the former Auxerre and Inter Milan midfielder, Senegal's Khalilou Fadiga, is now on the books of Gent.

From Europe to South America
While transfer traffic from South America to Europe is habitually heavy, the reverse route is generally much less travelled. But this year is proving an exception to the rule, with most notably the return of the Argentine Juan Roman Riquelme to the Boca Juniors fold. In dispute with his coach at Villarreal, he had already been on loan to the Buenos Aires giants for the first half of 2007, a spell which culminated in a Copa Libertadores triumph. Brought back to Spain last summer, he is yet to feature in La Liga, but that has not prevented him from being called up - and starring - for his country.

Another South American supremo homeward bound is Brazilian hitman Adriano, who will be hoping that a loan spell with Sao Paulo will bring to an end the persistent lack of form that has dogged him at Inter Milan for over a year. The former Flamengo man is hoping that if he can impress for the reigning Brazilian champions in the Copa Libertadores, he will win back his place among the ranks of the Seleção, for whom he plundered 27 goals in 41 outings.

"I predict 2008 will be a good year for me and I'm determined to make up for lost time," he said. In the Brazilian top flight, he will encounter the Colombian international Edixon Perea, another who has said goodbye to Europe, in his case Bordeaux, after agreeing terms with Gremio.

This early tour of planet football ends with a look at the chief transfers in Africa. A few days after finishing fourth in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007, Tunisians Etoile du Sahel signed the young Zambian Tembo Fwayo, top scorer at the last Junior CAN. Another of Tunisia's top clubs, CS Sfaxien, have put their faith in DR Congo international Guy Lusadisu Basisila.

Esperance, meanwhile, have added useful firepower to their side by signing experienced Brazilian striker Carlos Eduardo Ferrari, who had spells at Rangers, Birmingham City and Salamanca before joining Cerro Porteno in Paraguay.

The developments in the transfer market are sure to come thick and fast right up to 31 January, as all the clubs try to bag a bargain or two. Stay connected to FIFA.com to keep up to date with all the key moves.