New boys and prodigal sons
© AFP

For many footballers January is a time when suitcases are packed and transfer deals signed. Anxious for a new challenge or surplus to requirements, a host of players have been on the move in the first few days of 2013, returning to places they once called home or checking into pastures new. FIFA.com rounds up who has gone where at the start of the latest transfer window.

The host nation of the FIFA Confederations Cup this year and the FIFA World Cup™ 12 months later, Brazil has welcomed home three of its European exiles. Central defender Cris has swapped Galatasaray for Gremio, and while it might be too late for him to resume his international career, fellow returnees Alexandre Pato and Renato Augusto are both hoping to be back in the yellow and green of Brazil at some point.

Having both spent five years in Europe, with AC Milan and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, the front-man and the attacking midfielder have teamed up at 2012 Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup champions Corinthians.

England’s Joe Cole has made a much shorter journey in returning to his roots, departing Liverpool for West Ham United, the club that discovered him and which he left in 2003 to play for Chelsea, the Reds and Lille.

Without a club after leaving Portsmouth last August, former Hammers man Tal Ben Haim has been given an opportunity to relaunch his career at the age of 30 by Queens Park Rangers. The West Londoners will be the Israeli defender’s seventh English Premier League side, Ben Haim having enjoyed previous spells with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.

One man leaving England is Portuguese forward Bebe, who has made just two appearances for Manchester United since joining them in 2010. Farmed out to Besiktas last year, he has now joined Rio Ave in his native country on loan.

Italy forward Giuseppe Rossi has also headed home following six years in the yellow of Villarreal. After suffering a long-term injury and relegation to the Spanish second tier last season, Rossi is hoping to regain his form and his international place by signing for the ambitious Fiorentina. Impressive during a loan spell in 2011/12, Antonio Floro Flores is back in Serie A too, returning to Genoa after ten La Liga outings for Grenada, where he arrived last summer.

Born in Martigues and starring latterly with Valenciennes, Algerian international Foued Kadir needed little persuading to return to his native Provence and fulfil a childhood dream by signing for Olympique Marseille. Fellow local Florian Raspentino is leaving l’OM on loan for Brest, having failed to impress in a striking role since moving from Nantes to the Stade Velodrome at the start of the season.

Former Ghana captain John Mensah is also Brittany-bound, linking up once more with Rennes, the club where he burst on to the scene between 2006 and 2008 before enjoying stints with Lyon and Sunderland.

The experienced Pablo Guinazu is retreading old ground too. Following an illustrious five-year stay with Brazil’s Internacional, the Argentinian midfielder has rejoined Libertad, with whom he won the Paraguayan title in 2006.

In contrast a clutch of players have decided to make fresh starts, though a few of them will at least have some familiar faces for company. A case in point is Colombian midfielder Pablo Armero, who has left Udinese for Napoli, home to six other South Americans, among them his compatriot Juan Camilo Zuniga.

In a similar vein, attacking midfielder Ivan Perisic, a Bundesliga winner with Borussia Dortmund, has been reunited with Croatia team-mate Ivica Olic at Wolfsburg, while Switzerland’s Abidjan-born defender Johan Djourou should have no trouble settling in at Hannover alongside Ivorian forward Didier Ya Konan and former national team colleague Mario Eggiman.

Over in France the exciting Lucas Moura can count on fellow Brazilians Thiago Silva, Maxwell and Alex to help him find his feet at Paris Saint-Germain after completing his move from Sao Paulo, announced last summer. And Newcastle United’s latest purchase from Lille, full-back Mathieu Debuchy, will be sharing a dressing room with five compatriots, including fellow France internationals Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Senegalese striker Demba Ba has cut his ties with the Magpies and left for Chelsea, where he has already made an impression by scoring twice on his debut against Southampton. Daniel Sturridge exited Stamford Bridge on the eve of Ba’s arrival and has enjoyed a similarly productive start with new employers Liverpool, taking just seven minutes to open his Reds' account in last week’s FA Cup tie at Mansfield Town.

Arsenal’s Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh will be hoping to make an instant impact of his own when he begins a loan spell at West Ham, as will young Chilean loanee Angelo Henriquez at Wigan, the 18-year-old goalgetter having played nothing but reserve-team football since moving to Manchester United from Universidad de Chile last September.

A winner at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1997, 32-year-old Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem has decided to extend his stay in Serie A, where he has spent nine years in all throughout his long career. A Lazio man since 2008, the veteran will now be helping Genoa in their fight against relegation. Ex-Biancocelesti team-mate Tommaso Rocchi is anxious to keep his career going at the age of 35 and has made the switch to Inter Milan in a bid for more first-team football, the striker having played just three times this season.

One place off the bottom in Italy, Palermo are banking on the seasoned ex-Napoli duo of Salvatore Aronica and Andrea Dossena, 34 and 31 respectively, to shore up their leaky defence. At the other end of the table, meanwhile, Juventus have spirited international defender Federico Peluso away from Atalanta to fill in for the injured Giorgio Chiellini.

One of several players opting for a complete change of scene is Guillaume Hoarau. Sidelined at Paris Saint-Germain by a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the French forward has upped and left for Chinese club Dalian Aerbin. Also China-bound is Bosnian playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic, formerly with Wolfsburg and Galatasaray, who has cut his ties with Dynamo Moscow to join Guizhou Renhe, while Boca Juniors legend Rolando Schiavi has decided to put his retirement plans on hold and sign on the dotted line for Shanghai Shenhua.

There is a big change in store for Portuguese wide man Ricardo Quaresma, who has ended his two-year association with Besiktas to join Al Ahli of Dubai, where he will come up against Japanese forward Takayuki Morimoto, now with Al Nasr after spending six years in Italy with Catania and Novara.

The final destination in our whistle-stop transfer round-up is Korea Republic, where Korea DPR international Jong Tae-Se has proved there are no boundaries on Planet Football by joining Suwon Bluewings. Born in Japan to a North Korean father and a South Korean mother, the 28-year-old forward has made the move from Cologne, the Bundesliga outfit he joined last year, and is the fourth player from north of the Korean border to play in the south.