Eye-catching returns and deals
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While the festive period enabled many footballers to get some much-needed rest, agents and club officials have been busy scouring the markets for the latest bargains and star signings. From short-term loans to big-money deals, including a growing trend pertaining to United States-based players, FIFA.com rounds up all the early comings and goings in the January transfer window.

Over the last few years, certain MLS players have taken to joining European clubs during their off-season so as to maintain their levels of fitness. Landon Donovan was one of the pioneers of this phenomenon, and following his successful loan spell at Everton in 2010, the LA Galaxy forward has returned to the Toffees under similar terms this month.

It may well have been that move that encouraged New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry to make a much-anticipated return to Arsenal, the club he left in 2007 after having been voted by fans as the best player ever to represent their side. The former French international wasted no time in reminding his adoring public of that status, scoring the winning goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup ten minutes after coming off the substitutes’ bench in his first game back.

Another former Premier League stalwart set to make a temporary move across the Atlantic is striker Robbie Keane, who, fresh from earning a championship medal with LA Galaxy in the USA, should provide Aston Villa with further options up front. The much-travelled Irish man has previously worn the colours of Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United and Liverpool in the English top flight.

Officials at Paris Saint-Germain had hoped David Beckham would join the club in a similar deal, but they were unable to persuade the high-profile Englishman to sign on the dotted line. The Ligue 1 leaders were still active in the market, however, with Carlo Ancelotti making Brazilian defender Maxwell, who recently lifted the FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona, his first official signing.

One of the Italian’s former charges at Chelsea, French U-21 international Gael Kakuta, will also soon be gracing the stadiums of Ligue 1 after agreeing a loan move to Dijon, his third such spell following stints at Fulham and Bolton Wanderers. Still in France, attacking midfielder Ludovic Obraniak has left Lille for Bordeaux, the Pole having found playing time hard to come by in the north despite winning the double last season.  

For much the same reason, Dane Thomas Kahlenberg, a regular on the Wolfsburg bench of late, has joined up with compatriots Daniel Wass, Stephan Andersen and Christian Poulsen at Evian.

In fact, die Wolfe have been very active in the transfer market so far, signing in-demand defender Ricardo Rodriguez from FC Zurich, Brazilian centre-back Felipe Lopes from Nacional, and Ivoirian midfielder Ibrahim Sissoko from Academica Coimbra, as well as forwards Vieirinha and Giovanni Sio, from PAOK Salonika and Sion respectively.

Departing Germany, meanwhile, are Greek marksman and former Bundesliga topscorer Theofanis Gekas, who has left Eintracht Frankfurt for Samsunspor in Turkey, and Belgian goalkeeper Logan Bailly. The latter has been loaned out to Genk, the club where he started his career, by Borussia Monchengladbach, following on from a similar arrangement with Swiss outfit Neuchatel Xamax last season.

Another returning to his alma mater is former Sevilla prodigy Jose Antonio Reyes, who has bidden farewell to Atletico Madrid and rejoined the Andalusian club where he made his name. The 28-year-old had previously enjoyed star turns with Arsenal, Real Madrid and Benfica.

Staying in the south of Spain, promoted side Granada have acquired the services of Czech left winger Daniel Pudil, who tasted UEFA Champions League football with Genk earlier in the season, while  Malaga have further strengthened their squad by bringing in Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who had previously spent seven years with Espanyol.

In Italy, most the market activity has focused on areas further up the pitch. Juventus have secured Roma squad player Marco Boriello on loan, while Palermo and Napoli have continued their policy of looking to South America for new recruits, respectively picking up Belgrano attacking midfielder Franco Vazquez and in-form Universidad de Chile attacker Eduardo Vargas.

In contrast, promoted outfit Novara have placed their Serie A survival in the hands of a trio of experienced front men: Giuseppe Mascara and Leandro Rinaudo, both prised from Napoli, and Andrea Caracciolo, from Genoa.

Pablo Ledesma, Catania’s Argentinian midfielder, has crossed the Atlantic in the opposite direction, rejoining a Boca Juniors side that he left behind in 2008 to initially embark on his Italian adventure. He is one of a host of Argentinians to return to their homeland, including Leonardo Ponzio, who has put pen to paper with River Plate, after three seasons at Zaragoza.

The midfield man will be hopeful that his arrival, along with that of FIFA World Cup™ medal-winner David Trezeguet, back in the country in which he spent his formative years, can help Los Millonarios to make an instant return to the top flight.

As some Argentinians head home, others found themselves targets of Brazilian clubs, enticed by the recent successes of players such as Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Andres d’Alessandro and Dario Conca.

In this category are midfielder Matias Abelairas, who joins Vasco da Gama after seven years at River Plate, and Paraguayan Adalberto Roman, who has also departed El Monumental, in his case for Palmeiras. Atletico-MG, meanwhile, have signed former Velez Sarsfield and Gremio midfielder Damian Escudero on loan from Boca Juniors.

We end the first installment of our roundup back in the MLS, where the principal signings have been from Latin America. These include the Uruguayan Federico Puppo (Danubio) and the Colombian Rafael Robayo (Millonarios), who have both moved to Chicago Fire, and the Ecuadorian Miller Bolanos (LDU Quito), who joins the ranks of Chivas USA.

Colombians Fernando Cardenas and John Jairo Lozano have departed America Cali for New England Revolution, while Costa Rican Olman Vargas has joined Colombus Crew from Herediano. Last but by no means least, Panamanian Blas Perez has swapped the colours of Mexican club Indios for that of FC Dallas, where he will join up with Colombian Hernan Pertuz, acquired from Independiente Medellin.