The winter transfer period has confirmed the growing draw of Brazil and the Gulf nations, and witnessed a further influx of Japanese talent to Europe. Join FIFA.com as we look at the key trends and round up the major transfers completed over the past fortnight.
Brazil, currently gearing up to host the FIFA World Cup™ in 2014, is increasingly attracting players from around the world – not least from neighbouring Argentina. International left-back Fabian Monzon has recently joined Fluminense from Lyon, with his defensive colleague Emiliano Insua also linked with a move to Gremio from Portuguese side Sporting.
Another new face at Gremio is Chile’s Eduardo Vargas. Vargas, a revelation in South America in 2011, joined Napoli in early 2012 and was part of the squad that won last season’s Coppa Italia, but failed to settle and is already heading back across the Atlantic. And Brazilian defender Gil, who spent last season in France with Ligue 1 side Valenciennes, has returned to his homeland to join Corinthians, a year after leaving Cruzeiro.
In the other direction, Vagner Love has returned to CSKA Moscow, for whom he first played from 2004 to 2011. During that first spell, Love played on loan at Palmeiras and Flamengo, before joining the latter permanently. Also heading to Europe is the defensive midfielder Welington Franca, who joins Hannover from Criciuma for his first taste of football on the Old Continent. Sebastian Abreu is another to have recently left the Brazilian league. The Uruguay international returns to his homeland for a third spell with Nacional, in what is the 21st transfer of his career. Turkey’s Nuri Sahin has only made four moves since his emergence at Borussia Dortmund, but two of those have been in the past six months. The youngster, who spent the first half of this season on loan at Liverpool from Real Madrid, has now been loaned back to Dortmund, his formative club and the back-to-back German champions.
Germany has been a popular destination for Japanese players for several years now. Kosuke Kinoshita is the latest to follow the lead of Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiotake, Atsuto Uchida, Makoto Hasebe and Takashi Inui, the young forward touching down on German soil to join Freiburg from Yokohama FC. The Japanese contingent in Europe is further bolstered by the arrivals of Yuji Ono and Kensuke Nagai, who join Standard Liege from Yokohama F Marinos and Nagoya Grampus respectively.
If Japanese is the emerging trend in the Liege dressing room, then French is most definitely en vogue at Newcastle. The Newcastle squad, which already contained nine French speakers, is further swelled by the arrivals of defender Mapou Yanga-M Biwa, a Ligue 1 champion in 2012 with Montpellier; striker Yoan Gouffran, who won the French title with Bordeaux in 2009; international midfielder Moussa Sissoko, formerly of Toulouse; and Nancy defender Massadio Haidara. Forward Loic Remy had been on the verge of joining the Magpies from Marseille but chose instead to sign for Queens Park Rangers, making an immediate impact with a goal on his debut.
Remy joins the west Londoners in place of another former Marseille striker, Djibril Cisse, who has signed for Qatari side Al Gharafa. There he will team up with Brazil forward Nene, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain, as Qatar continues to draw big names ahead of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Meanwhile Nene’s compatriot, the twice-capped attacking midfielder Bruno Cesar, has joined Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia after two seasons with Benfica. Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar, another Benfica alumnus, could also be heading to Al Alhi – albeit the club of the same name based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Malaga, major movers in recent transfer windows and the surprise package of this season’s UEFA Champions League, have been busy again in recent days. Los Boquerones have gambled on youth by taking Lucas Piazon on loan from Chelsea, the Brazil U-17 international having made just one first-team appearance for the Blues. But they have also acquired experience in the shape of Uruguay captain Diego Lugano, a 2010 FIFA World Cup runner-up and Copa America 2011 champion, who struggled to hold down a place at PSG. Also moving to La Liga is the Bulgarian Martin Petrov, who joins Espanyol after six seasons in England with Manchester City and, most recently, Bolton Wanderers.
Elsewhere, Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder has ended his four-year stay in Italy and joined Turkish side Galatasaray. Sneijder’s achievements include winning the Eredivisie title with Ajax, La Liga with Real Madrid and Serie A with his most recent club, Inter Milan, with whom he also lifted the Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Italian Super Cup. France international midfielder Yann M’Vila heads to Russia with a much lighter suitcase, but will be hoping to fill it with trophies at his new club, Rubin Kazan.
Another trend in the winter transfer period has been that of veterans extending their careers. Brazil legend Rivaldo, 41 in April, has joined Sao Caetano, while his 34-year-old compatriot, the former Real Madrid, Olympiacos and Benfica defender Julio Cesar, has signed for Toronto FC having spent the 2011/12 season at Sporting Kansas City. The latest transfer in Eidur Gudjohnsen’s long career, meanwhile, also involves the least travel. The 34-year-old former PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Barcelona and Monaco star has switched from Cercle Brugge to their city rivals, Club Brugge.