Big moves, shrewd deals

With the start of the 2007/2008 season nearing fast, players across the continent are back in training, closely watched by their eagle-eyed coaches, a good few of them new to their posts. And, as reports, the summer has already seen Europe's finest engage in some frenetic transfer activity.

When it comes to major reinforcements, one club that is never slow to move is big-spending Chelsea. While perhaps not as active as in previous close seasons, the London aristocrats have certainly recruited wisely, picking up Claudio Pizarro, Tal Ben Haim and Steve Sidwell on free transfers, and only getting the chequebook out to secure the services of French FIFA World Cup™ runner-up Florent Malouda.

Voted player of the season in Ligue 1 last season, the left-sided Olympique Lyonnais midfielder was a target for the continent's big spenders. Jose Mourinho's persuasive pitch proved irresistible for the France international, however, as did the prospect of teaming up once more with his former Guingamp team-mate Didier Drogba.

Liverpool, the side that ousted the Stamford Bridge outfit from last year's UEFA Champions League, have been busy putting together a powerful front line in an effort to bring the league title back to Anfield for the first time since 1990. Joining Spain's Fernando Torres and Ukrainian Andriy Voronin in Rafael Benitez's new-look strike force is Ajax Amsterdam youth product Ryan Babel.

Two Swedes hungry for silverware
The Reds' midfield mainstays Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard will be ably assisted by the Israeli Yossi Benayoun, a highly competent performer on the European stage following successful spells with Maccabi Haifa (55 goals in 130 games), Spanish club Racing Santander and, latterly, West Ham United.

One man moving in the opposite direction is striker Craig Bellamy. His options reduced by Benitez latest spending spree, the Welshman has decided to try his luck at Upton Park, the seventh stopping point in a career that has also taken him to Norwich, Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn and Liverpool. Hammers fans will be hoping for big things from his partnership with Sweden's Fredrik Ljungberg, who decided the time was right for a new challenge in the East End of London after a glittering nine-year association with Arsenal.

Another Swede hoping to get back on the trophy trail is former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, who has eased himself back into club management with Manchester City. Eriksson wasted little time in returning to his old Serie A stomping ground to bolster City's attacking options, snapping up last season's 18-goal revelation Rolando Bianchi from Reggina. He did not stop there though, persuading FC Sion's Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes and former Barcelona, Benfica and Cruzeiro forward Geovanni to sign on the dotted line as well.

All go in Spain and Ligue 1
While some big names have joined the exodus to England, more than a few have made the reverse trip back across the Channel. After Thierry Henry and Luis Garcia had opted for the sunnier climes of Spain, Chelsea's versatile Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz put an end to a somewhat troubled stint with the Londoners by joining two-time UEFA Cup winners Seville, who came home third in La Liga last time out.

Close to a transfer to Olympique Marseille last term, Liverpool loanee Djibril Cisse has decided to make his switch to the French giants a permanent one. Another ex-Anfield star checking in at the Stade Velodrome is Netherlands international Boudewijn Zenden, whose considerable experience will come in useful in a season that sees the 1993 European champions return to the continent's biggest club stage for the first time in four years.

Among the other eyecatching moves in Ligue 1 is six-time league winners Lyon's decision to replace France defender Eric Abidal with Fabio Grosso, one of the men who pipped him to glory at Germany 2006. The Italy left-back heads to the Rhone after a not entirely successful stay with Serie A champions Inter Milan.

Keepers on the move
Another trend to emerge over the summer so far has been the widespread search for a safe pair of hands between the posts. Portuguese big guns Benfica, for example, offloaded Brazilian shotstopper Moretto to AEK Athens while drafting in Bayer Leverkusen's 33-year-old keeper-cum-striker Hans-Jorg Butt, the scorer of 26 goals in his Bundesliga career.

For their part, city rivals Sporting Lisbon rescued Serbian Vladimir Stojkovic from a nightmarish sojourn with FC Nantes, which ended with relegation to the French second division. The one-time Red Star Belgrade custodian will have a hard task matching the exploits of Portuguese international Ricardo, who will be pulling on his gloves at Real Betis when the season gets under way.

Still in Spain, Atletico Madrid have also decided to bring in another experienced performer in the shape of Christian Abbiati, a Serie A champion with AC Milan in 1999 and 2004. Over at the Bernabeu meanwhile, Diego Lopez has given up the thankless job of being Iker Casillas' understudy to join Villarreal, with Polish international Jerzy Dudek coming in to replace him.

Italy has not been immune to goalkeeping fever either, with the veteran Antonio Chimenti joining Udinese after two seasons between the sticks at Cagliari. Following the decision of 2006 FIFA World Cup-winner Angelo Peruzzi to call time on a magnificent 20-year career, Lazio have been on the prowl for a worthy successor, finally settling for River Plate No1 Juan Pablo Carrizo, who will have his work cut out filling in for the Azzurri legend.

A limitless supply
As usual, Europe's powerhouses have been casting their beady eyes over the endless conveyor belt of talent that is South America in a bid to unearth the latest stars. One club attracting more attention than most is Argentinian Clausura champions San Lorenzo. Having lifted the title for the first time since 2001, El Ciclón is now reaping the whirlwind of domestic success as the European elite scrambles to snap up its most gifted performers.

Midfielder Cristian Ledesma and striker Ezequiel Lavezzi have already departed to Olympiacos and Napoli respectively, further swelling the Argentinian contingent on the other side of the Atlantic. Another two to have crossed the ocean are River Plate's Ernesto Farias, who has joined FC Porto, and fellow Millonario, Colombian defender Nelson Rivas, now with Inter Milan.

Bitter adversaries Boca Juniors have had to bid farewell for a second time to Clemente Rodriguez, an idol at the Bombonera after helping the Xeneizes to Copa Libertadores success in 2001, 2003 and 2007. After returning to Argentina following two seasons with Spartak Moscow, Rodriguez has hit the European trail once more to bolster the Espanyol back line.

The Brazilian championship has also been powerless to resist the lure of Europe. Werder Bremen pulled off a major coup in recruiting Corinthians' attacking midfielder Carlos Alberto. Capped five times by his country already, the Brazilian playmaker knows what it takes to succeed on the Old Continent having helped Porto land the UEFA Champions League in 2004. When he takes to the European stage next season there is every chance he could come across ex- Timão team-mate Marcelo Mattos, a high-profile reinforcement in the Panathinaikos midfield.

There are sure to be plenty more comings and goings in the weeks leading up to the closure of the transfer window on 31 August. No matter who goes where though, will be here to round up all the news.