Transfer market reopens
These days football fans barely have time to pause for breath. No sooner have they taken stock of the recently concluded season than they have to look ahead to the next campaign as teams start to rebuild for the challenges ahead. The current close season is a case in point. Although only a few days old, it has already produced some frenetic transfer activity, causing a headache or two for fans trying to keep track of who is coming and going at their favourite clubs.
FIFA.com lends a helping hand by rounding up all the latest moves of what promises to be a busy summer in the transfer market.
True to form, Bayern Munich started planning ahead some time ago, swooping in January for Hamburg's Croatian striker Ivica Olic, Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Anatoly Timoschuk and rising Borussia Moenchengladbach star Alexander Baumjohann. And just hours after relinquishing their Bundesliga title to Wolfsburg, the Bavarian giants had the cheque book out again, announcing the arrival of seasoned sharpshooter Mario Gomez, the scorer of 63 goals in 121 appearances for Stuttgart. The coveted Gomez was signed to replace international team-mate Lukas Podolski, who announced his return to Cologne, the club where he started his career, several months ago.
Meanwhile, the new German champions have stayed loyal to their policy of making low-key yet shrewd acquisitions, bringing in Danish international midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg, who impressed in his four years at Auxerre, as their first reinforcement of the summer.
German Cup runners-up Bayer Leverkusen have sold Tunisian defender Karim Haggui to Hanover and welcomed Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok from Basle, while the side who beat them in the final, Werder Bremen, have reluctantly parted with Juventus-bound Brazilian star Diego. The man drafted in to replace him is the Bolivian Marcelo Martins, previously with Shakhtar Donetsk.
While Juve will be looking to Diego to orchestrate their attack, the job of marshalling the defence will fall to Italy's FIFA World Cup™ captain Fabio Cannavaro, who returns to Turin after three seasons with Real Madrid. After concluding the deal Cannavaro had a message for fans who have refused to forgive him for leaving the club following its demotion to Serie B. "I'm delighted to be back and to be wearing the black and white jersey once more," he said. "I am sure that even my fiercest detractors will be won over again by my workrate and passion."
Another Italian player going back to his roots is Fabio Quagliarella. Courted by the biggest clubs in the land thanks to some spectacular goals for Sampdoria and Udinese, the Italy international surprised everyone by opting to move back to the region where he was born and join Napoli, who finished a modest 12th last season.
Serie A revelations Genoa will have to make do without their two prime assets next term. Argentinian goal-getter Diego Milito and Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta have both decamped to reigning champions Inter Milan, with veteran goalscorer Hernan Crespo making the opposite journey.
While England's Big Four are sure to be making their moves in the weeks ahead, Manchester City have stolen a march with the first big signing of the close season, snapping up England midfielder Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, where he made over 400 appearances.
Blackburn Rovers have also been busy, acquiring the services of South African midfielder Elrio van Heerden from Bruges. The new boy will not be joining up with his international team-mate and captain Aaron Mokoena, who has left the Lancashire club to join Portsmouth, where he will hope to revive his career after being relegated to the bench following Sam Allardyce's arrival at Ewood Park.
The English coach had no part to play in Andre Ooijer's decision to call time on his Blackburn career. The 34-year-old defender cited homesickness as the reason for his decision to leave the north of England after three years and rejoin PSV Eindhoven. "It's been a difficult decision because I've had three great seasons here. It's time to go home though," he said.
Also heading to the Eredivisie is Iraq international Nashat Akram, who has moved to Twente Enschede from Al Gharafa of the Qatari league. A veteran of 75 matches for his country, Akram is the second Iraqi to make the switch to European football, following in the footsteps of Hawar Zeebari of Anorthosis Famagusta. "Playing in Europe is a dream come true for me and Twente are a good club with a great coach," he said in reference to the Dutch side's English manager Steve McClaren.
There have been plenty of comings and goings in France too, with Tunisia goalkeeper Hamdi Kasraoui joining newly promoted Lens just a few days after winning the Tunisian league and the Arab Champions League with Esperance Sportive de Tunis. Les Sang et Or, have also lured former Grasshopper Zurich striker Eduardo Dos Santos. The Brazilian has recently been plying his trade with Ligue 2 side Guingamp and hit the headlines by scoring both goals in their French Cup final win.
Northern neighbours Lille have reinforced their line-up with the loan signing of Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from AC Milan. The Gabonese frontman is fully acquainted with French football, having just completed a loan spell with second-division Dijon. One African player departing Ligue 1, however, is Mali's Cedric Kante, who has left Nice for a new adventure at Panathinaikos.
Our look at the latest transfer activity ends with undoubtedly the most surprising move of all in recent weeks. A FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002, Denilson has added another chapter in a globetrotting career that has taken in Brazil, Spain, France, Saudi Arabia and USA by signing on the dotted line for Vietnamese side Hai Phong.