Transfer pace picks up
When it comes to the transfer window, no two clubs have quite the same strategy. Some plan far ahead, like Bayern Munich, who recruit players early in the year for the following season, while others like to do their business as soon as the window is officially open, as with Real Madrid and the purchase of their new Galacticos. Once the opening flurry has subsided, most clubs begin to make their moves, so with this in mind, FIFA.com takes a look back at some of the comings and goings of the past fortnight.
In allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to leave for Madrid, Manchester United may have lost their prized asset, but they also received a hefty sum to strengthen their squad. And Alex Ferguson has wasted no time in doing just that, replacing one Ballon d'Or winner with another in 29-year-old Michael Owen, who despite his patchy form at Newcastle is out to prove that he still has what it takes. "His experience is vital," says Ferguson. "He's still as sharp as ever in the final third, he'll score a lot of goals."
Playing alongside Owen, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs will surely be a great learning experience for Frenchman Gabriel Obertan, who has moved to United from Bordeaux. The versatile frontman could get his chance to impress sooner rather than later after the departure of Argentinian Carlos Tevez to rivals Manchester City. Speaking about his latest acquisition, City manager Mark Hughes said: "He's a very classy player who has all the qualities necessary to bring this club forward. Technically he's exceptional and adds another dimension to our attack."
Staying in the Premier League, Chelsea have made their first major signing of the summer in winger Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow, one of the stars of Russia's UEFA EURO 2008 campaign. Meanwhile, Sunderland have snapped up forward Fraizer Campbell, a product of the Manchester United Academy who failed to shine last season at Tottenham, as well as Paraguayan international defender Paulo da Silva, who parted company with Mexican side Toluca after a six-year spell.
Da Silva's countryman Edgar Barreto has been in Europe since 2004 and, after three seasons with NAC Breda and two with Reggina, will next season line up for Atalanta. Other South Americans who have taken the plunge into Serie A include Mariano Andujar and Javier Pastore. Goalkeeper Andujar, fresh from Copa Libertadores glory with Estudiantes, will next season be Catania's last line of defence, while former Huracan midfielder Pastore heads for Palermo.
Brazilians on the move
In Italy, meanwhile, it is the big three that are grabbing the headlines. Just hours after left-sided Brazilian Maxwell had moved to Barcelona, Inter signed none other than Seleção captain and 2002 FIFA World Cup™-winner Lucio, who leaves Germany for the reigning Italian champions after four seasons at Leverkusen and five at Bayern Munich. In this year's FIFA Confederations Cup final, Lucio and his team-mates had to fight hard to break down a stubborn USA defence, a fact Lucio, Maicon and Julio Cesar will be reminded of in next season's Milan derbies after Stars and Stripes defender Oguchi Onyewu's moved to AC Milan from Standard Liege.
Another Brazilian on the move is 26-year-old midfielder Felipe Melo, whose impressive form at the recent FIFA Confederations Cup may have convinced Juventus to stump up the 25 million euros they paid to prise him away from Fiorentina. Italian international Marco Marchionni went in the opposite direction and will ply his trade next season with La Viola.
In Spain, after Real Madrid's world record signings, subsequent transfers have paled somewhat in comparison, but they remain every bit as interesting. Having won back their place in the Primera Division after the previous season's relegation, Real Zaragoza hope to finish in the right half of the table this time round and are spending accordingly. In addition to Argentinian international goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo signed from Lazio, Los Maños have secured the services of ex-Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant. Meanwhile Sevilla, impressed by the performances of Romaric in recent seasons, have placed their trust in another Ivorian international, Didier Zokora, whose form for Tottenham had been inconsistent since his arrival from Saint-Etienne in 2006.
Staying with Saint-Etienne, Les Verts will be hoping that new Swiss recruit Gelson Fernandes' passing play will remain as sublime as it has been for Manchester City for the past two seasons. In derbies against Lyon, the Swiss will no doubt come up against Brazilian Michel Bastos, formerly of Lille, who in turn will have to build an understanding with the most expensive player in the history of Ligue 1, Argentina's Lisandro Lopez, who was signed from FC Porto for 24 million euros. Les Gones will be hoping that this big-money acquisition will help them reclaim the league title after losing out to Bordeaux last season, who themselves have recruited Czech international Jaroslav Plasil from Osasuna in Spain.
However, it is perhaps Marseille that should be seen as next season's main title contenders as, having secured the signatures of Lucho Gonzalez and Souleymane Diawara, Didier Deschamps has now convinced powerful Cameroonian midfielder Stephane Mbia to make the switch to OM from Rennes. For their part, Monaco have enticed defender Sebastien Puygrenier back home from Zenit St. Petersburg, although the Frenchman spent last season on loan to Bolton, while Sochaux have swooped for American attacker Charlie Davies on the back of his performances at this year's FIFA Confederations Cup.
Algerians Rafik Saifi and Karim Ziani are both leaving Ligue 1, but with different objectives. The 34-year-old former Lorient forward is heading to Qatari club Al Khor to finish out his career, while Marseille playmaker Ziani joins reigning German champions Wolfsburg. And just as one African is arriving in the Bundesliga, another is making his exit, with the Cameroonian Timothee Atouba deciding to follow former coach Martin Jol from Hamburg to Ajax.
Veterans seek new challenges
After losing their prolific Argentinian duo of Lopez and Gonzalez to the French league, Porto have wasted no time finding replacements, bringing in Albiceleste midfielder Fernando Belluschi and Colombian attacker Radamel Falcao from Olympiakos and River Plate respectively. Brazilian Ibson Barreto, on the other hand, is leaving Portugal to try his luck at Spartak Moscow.
Transfers have not been limited to the younger stars either, with several old pros proving they are still up for new challenges. A case in point is the Argentinian Santiago Solari, previously of Inter and Madrid, who is leaving Buenos Aires outfit San Lorenzo for Atlante in Mexico, while former Arsenal and Valencia star Edu returns home to play for Corinthians in Brazil. Elsewhere, former Standard, Schalke and Hamburg forward Emile Mpenza will try to revive his career at FC Sion in Switzerland.
We finish our round-up with some famously-named albeit little-known players who have some very big shoes to fill: Italian third-division outfit Monza can boast about having Chedric and Stefano Seedorf (brother and cousin respectively of Clarence) in their ranks, while a division below at Celano FC, striker Jacopo Zenga has opted to try to score goals for a living rather than keep them out like his famous father Walter.