A change of scene
There are just six months to go until the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ begins. And while several players are, injuries permitting, certain to be appearing at the global showpiece, many others on the fringes of selection are hoping that a change of league might help them catch the eye of their respective national coaches. Little wonder, then, that the newly-opened transfer window has already sparked some frenetic activity, as FIFA.com explains.
Reigning world champions Italy will need their strikers to be on top form and full of confidence if they are to defend their crown successfully come June. Yet confidence is the one thing that Azzurri forward Luca Toni has been lacking since the arrival of coach Louis van Gaal at Bayern Munich, a major factor in his decision to return to Serie A with Roma. “I have come to Rome to score a lot of goals and play well,” said the ex-Fiorentina player. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens of course but the national team is an obvious objective.”
Another polished international performer enduring a lean spell of late is Greek goal-getter Theofanis Gekas. Searching for the form that made him top scorer in Greece with Panathinaikos in 2005, and in Germany with Bochum in 2007, Gekas has struggled to earn a regular starting place with Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen and will start the new year with bottom club Hertha Berlin. Joining him there will be the Georgian Levan Kobiashvili, who is on loan from Schalke.
After a spell warming the bench at Atletico Madrid, French forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle has moved to Lisbon giants Sporting in a bid to get his career back on track, while Honduran hitman David Suazo has left Inter Milan for Genoa. The Catrachos striker should be running out for the Central Americans in South Africa later this year and could well come up against experienced Switzerland defender Ludovic Magnin when the two countries meet in Group H. Capped 62 times by his country, the roving left-back has signed for FC Zurich after eight successful seasons in Germany, where he won the league championship with Werder Bremen in 2004 and again with Stuttgart in 2007.
Also making a homecoming is 34-year-old Uruguayan forward Alvaro Recoba, who has not given up hope of making one last trip to the FIFA World Cup. Fifteen years after leaving Danubio, the club where he first came to prominence, the man they call El Chino is going to back to the Montevideo outfit after a two-year stay with Panionios in Greece. Still a mainstay of the national side, compatriot Sebastian Abreu is also leaving the Greek league behind him, switching from Aris after a six-month spell to Brazilian team Botafogo, the 20th club of his eventful career. One Uruguayan heading in the opposite direction, however, is goalkeeper Sebastian Viera, who has signed up for Larissa after losing his first-team slot at Villarreal.
After making only five appearances on loan at Getafe, Sporting custodian Vladimir Stojkovic is hoping his loan move to Wigan Athletic will help him earn him a place in South Africa and resurrect a career that has stalled since he left Crvena Zvezda in 2004. The Premier League is also the destination of choice for USA talisman Landon Donovan, who has made the move from Los Angeles Galaxy to Everton with a view to staying in shape for the world finals, following the example set by club team-mate David Beckham, now back at AC Milan for the second year running. The England midfielder will be able to pass on his know-how to up-and-coming Ghanaian forward Dominic Adiyiah, an exciting acquisition from Norway’s Fredrikstad and one of the architects of the Black Satellites’ stunning triumph at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009.
Inter Milan have bolstered their front line by picking up Macedonian international Goran Pandev on a free transfer from Lazio, while Bayern Munich have offloaded defensive midfielder Andreas Ottl and Brazilian defender Breno to neighbours Nuremberg.
Elsewhere, Congolese marksman Lomana LuaLua has returned to Greek giants Olympiacos after being loaned out to Al Arabi of Qatar last year. Taking his place there is Brazilian international Daniel Carvalho, who has left CSKA Moscow after failing to reclaim a regular berth following 2008's loan spell at Internacional of Porto Alegre. Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda has slotted into the position vacated by Carvalho after two seasons in the Netherlands with VVV Venlo. Another Asian player on the move is FC Seoul’s Ki Sung-Yong, who has signed on the dotted line for Celtic in an effort to make his name in Europe.
Completing our transfer-market round-up are a clutch of thirty-somethings determined to prove there is life in their ageing legs. Leading the way is the incombustible Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos, a FIFA World Cup winner in 2002, who has called time on his stint at Fenerbahce to join Corinthians of Sao Paulo. “I have experienced many exciting moments during my career but this is unique,” he said on signing his contract in front of 6,000 delighted fans. “I’ve come here to win the Copa Libertadores because it’s the one title that’s eluded me so far.”
Peruvian idol Nolberto Solano came close to winning the continental club championship in 1997 with Sporting Cristal. Now 35 and having just helped Universitario to the national title, the former Newcastle United, Aston Villa and West Ham United midfielder has gone back to England to purvey his enduring skills at League One outfit Colchester United. Opting for a slightly more glamorous location for his career swansong, veteran Czech target man Jan Koller has decamped to the Cote d’Azur to link up with Cannes of the French third division.
And finally, the seemingly ageless Mexican duo of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Jared Borgetti have made respective moves to Veracruz and Monarcas Morelia, where they will aim to satisfy their insatiable appetite for goals.